5 hands-on tips to using social media today in your veterinary practice

Practical advice and resources to jumpstart your journey into the new world of social media
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Jul 01, 2010

If you're like most veterinary professionals, you're probably struggling to figure out what you need to do about social media: Will you get hopelessly behind if you don't jump into social media? Will you waste countless hours of precious time for nothing if you do?

Social media websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter provide new communication channels that can be useful for veterinary practices. Social media is also a rapidly evolving and fluid medium. That makes it tricky to navigate for most people. Nevertheless, social media is here to stay, and it's something that all practices should be looking into. Why? Because that's where your clients are interacting.

Think about the evolution of websites. Fifteen years ago, few companies had sites. And those that did didn't know what to do with them. That's exactly the situation we're in today with social media. The difference is that social media is evolving at an unprecedented speed. Clearly, as practitioners we must learn to use social media or risk falling behind. New developments, new options and new risks seem to crop up almost daily. Jumping in helter-skelter is not the answer. Rather, a cautious, considered approach works best. Here are some helpful tips, guidelines and recommendations to get you started:

1. Protect your reputation,

Clients are most likely to vent online about you if they feel you've dismissed their grievances, muddying your practice's good name in the process. Avoid this by taking care of clients' complaints before they leave your practice. Never let a client go home angry if you can help it.

If you spot a bad review online, contact the reviewer and offer an apology. If the review is anonymous, contact the site and see if it'll forward a message to the reviewer letting him or her know that you'd like the chance to set things right. Don't assume that you'll have to refund the client's money; often, a simple, sincere apology is all that's needed to restore the relationship. Once that's happened, ask if the client would be willing to take down the negative post. Most posters will be happy to oblige, but it may not occur to them to do it without your request.

2. Monitor the online buzz about your practice.

Social media is the largest database in the world and a free market research tool that you can tap into any time. It's also a great way to find out what your clients are talking about and what they're saying about you.

At minimum, every practice should Google the clinic's name at least weekly to see what people are saying. Alternatively, you can sign up to receive free online alerts whenever a site mentions your hospital's name. Popular alert services include Google Alerts, http://google.com/alerts/, and Social Mention, http://socialmention.com/alerts/.

Be prepared for some surprises. Online reviews are uncensored opinions, and you'll hear the good with the bad. Use the tips above to respond to the negatives, and don't forget to thank favorable reviewers for their comments. Finally, bring the online comments to staff meetings. Brainstorm ideas with your team about how to avoid problems in the future. Go beyond just fixing the negatives and identify ways to delight clients so they say wonderful things about you online.