How to Get Started in the World of Social Media

Creating an online presence can be scary, confusing, and time-consuming. What channels should you be using? What information should you be sharing? In this article, learn from Brand Marketing Specialist Molly Laird, about getting started in the online world of social media.

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Social media is a powerful tool to use in your clinic. There are about 3.4 billion active social media users worldwide. With this many people on social media, it is your best opportunity to reach new clients while also building trust with your current client base as well.

By establishing a social media presence, your practice can build relationships with pet owners in your community like never before. Well-thought-out social posts can enhance relationships, build trust, and create a dialogue with audiences in your community that you may not typically reach with other forms of media.

But let’s start at the beginning. Simply starting different social media accounts and posting on a frequent (or infrequent) basis does not help in the growth and sustainability of your clinic. Social media should be backed by a marketing strategy that aligns with your business goals. But your practice is focused on caring for animals, right? We understand it’s hard to make marketing a top priority, but it has become essential in today’s online world. That’s why I am here to help break this down into more manageable steps.

 

Get To Know The Social Media Platforms

If this is new to you or you want a chance to step back and look over your social media performance, let’s get familiar with the social media platform options. There is no all-encompassing answer to which platforms are the best so taking the time to see which makes the most sense for your practice is important. There are many platforms out there and you may be using them already, but the goal is to provide some intel on the ones most frequently used by veterinarians and pet owners.

Facebook

Not sure where to start? Facebook is a great platform to be your “home base”. More American adults use Facebook than any other social media platform. This provides you with the opportunity to stay front-of-mind with your current clients and reach prospective clients in the area.

Instagram

Instagram is a platform that continues to grow, with more users joining the platform every month. Plus, it’s millennials’ top choice for a social media platform. According to Forbes, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the biggest pet-owning generation and are willing to spend more money caring for them.

Twitter

With about 300 million active users, Twitter is a great platform to communicate directly with your clients in real-time and allows you to react quickly to clients' questions and needs. It also helps provide users with instant updates on promotions, new initiatives, blog entries, and other news straight from your clinic floor.

YouTube

For those looking to engage your audiences with video, YouTube has about 2 billion monthly logged-in users. This very popular platform helps personalize content by interacting with clients through instructional videos, tutorials, and a video tour of your team or practice. Not only do you demonstrate pet care tips through video, but this platform also allows you to educate your clients on pet care topics more authentically by putting the people behind the clinic in front of the camera which clients love to see.

 

Social Media Planning & Content

Once you have a better idea of which platforms work best for your clinic, it’s time to start planning. What are the overall goals of your clinic this year? It can start as simple as increasing revenue or being more open and transparent or even improving your clinic’s touchpoints with clients to keep you top-of-mind for pet care. Knowing what your goals are for the year can help determine the types of content you want to share. For instance, you can:

  • Educate pet owners regarding pet health care tips, seasonal risks or region-specific issues
  • Establish and maintain relationships with prospective and existing clients by sharing patient experiences, clinic events, and staff features
  • Drive more pet owners to your website through sharing the veterinary care and services you provide

You also have to think about the busyness of a clinic setting and how hard it can be managing your clinic’s social media accounts. The last thing you want is to be scrambling for content each week that then comes across disjointed to your audiences. One easy way to develop a content plan is by looking at industry-related events such as National Heartworm Awareness Month in April or National Puppy Day on March 23. These events are perfect opportunities to engage clients, such as addressing seasonal concerns like flea and tick prevention, sharing your veterinary care with a related patient story, posting client appreciation events, and more.

Building a content calendar can even start at the basic high-level topics like these:

  • Sharing patients and staff on social media (with photo consent, of course)
  • Posting about a recent pet health blog or clinic event

  • Celebrating an industry-related event or pet health day

  • Publishing an Instagram story or Facebook Live broadcast for a behind-the-scenes look at your clinic

 

Starting with basic overarching ideas can then help you navigate the specific posts that will be going out that week or month. This will help grow your presence on a more consistent basis and lay the foundation of a posting schedule for each platform (for example, posting on Facebook 2 to 4 times a week). Overall, this planning will help create relevant content for followers and build your client relationships by becoming first in mind for people in your community when they need care for their pets.

Alongside planning is creating the content to support it. Visual content is key. One resource for you is signing up with Canva – a free design tool that lets you create posts for all your social media channels easily. Canva offers hundreds of free layouts, fonts, icons, and graphics to help you create eye-catching posts. Easily upload images or logos, to help really personalize your posts. Alongside the visual elements, it is important to think about the tone and message of your post. Social media users are constantly bombarded with content on these platforms so being genuine is vital. Be honest and humanize your brand as much as you can. People want to know the people behind their pet’s care and the treatments or services you are providing to help their animals.

Tip: Direct sales pitches rarely work, so keep in mind that a social media user is looking for authenticity from a brand. Think about it as a chance to open the door to your practice for your community to see the care you provide while also sharing relevant content that recognizes the needs and concerns of pet owners.

 

Scheduling Content & Reporting

If you have to stop what you’re doing every day or so to update your various social media pages, it is definitely not a productive use of your time. Luckily, there are several social media management tools to create, save, and schedule posts all in advance! One of these tools is Hootsuite. Hootsuite lets you manage up to three social media channels for free. These management tools allow you to view a calendar by day, week or month. For instance, I like a monthly calendar view so I can then easily draft and schedule at least two weeks of posts at a time.

 

My advice is to schedule as much ahead of time as you can. With less scrambling to post and getting everything scheduled well before their post dates, it frees up the chance to be more spontaneous. If an adorable patient walks in the door, take a snapshot (again, with permission first) and post it along with a caption like, “Guess my name!” or “What’s my breed!” These types of posts are great for boosting engagement and gives you a chance to share what’s happening at your clinic in real-time. It also helps you have more time to engage with your audiences’ comments and promote an open dialogue with pet owners in your community.

Once you have a more consistent posting schedule, you can also focus on user engagement and adjust your posting frequency accordingly. To start, try posting two to four times a week on your platforms to see how it goes. Social media management tools like Hootsuite offer analytics to help monitor traffic and engagement to see the success of your marketing initiatives. These reports are a great resource to see what does well and what doesn’t so you can tailor your content to exactly what your following wants to see and how often they want to see it.

 

With all of this in mind, start small. This month, you might want to simply focus on building and scheduling content regularly on one platform and manage your engagement there. Next month, you might want to add another platform to the mix. Build your social media presence at your own pace. Ask for help with social media savvy co-workers or research other clinics to see what they do that garners a lot of engagement. Start slow, be consistent, and see what works best for you. This will give you time to be thoughtful in how you approach your audiences and help build genuine relationships with pet owners in your community.

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