Approach social media strategically to benefit veterinary practice goals
HALIFAX, CANADA — Two to four hours per week on a social networking site can have a positive impact on your business, according to a new study by Dr. Michael Warren, a practicing veterinarian and owner of DVMelite, a web development company for veterinary practices.
The study gauged the social media practices of 44 veterinary practices that are leading the way. Most of the practices surveyed are companion-animal practices that have been using social media for six months or less. But the feedback those practices gave in regard to the return on their investment speaks volumes, Warren says.
"The most interesting comment from the practices was to encourage their colleagues to just get started," he says. "That's what I saw with practices with an initial roadblock—get started. Once they do, it snowballs, and they find their voice."The practices surveyed report greater client engagement, more client referrals and higher search-engine rankings as some of the benefits of using social media.
Social media offers veterinary practices a free marketing tool that costs nothing but time. Almost half of the survey participants reported spending two to six hours per week on social media. Warren concludes that, considering the return-on-investment, that is about right, and any further time spent would have diminishing returns.
More than 34 percent of the practices put a staff member in charge of the practice's social media program, with practice owners and associate veterinarians next in line. Practice managers were the least active, according to the survey results.
"Often the veterinarians do not have the personal interest to engage in social media, while staff members are already active participants on these platforms, personally," Warren notes in the survey. Staff members who take the role seriously find it empowering, he adds. "Their pride in having a voice in representing their clinic will result in a creative online presence benefitting all."
A good way to measure the productivity of a social media program is to calculate the time spent by a designated staff member in charge of the program. Practices should use some type of intake form to track how new clients come to the clinic, and compare the value of those new clients to the cost of the staffers' time.
"We can start to measure if we get two new clients a month from social media, then we can develop a more coherent strategy to how much we should invest," Warren says.
Facebook is the most popular platform to use when embarking on a social media program, because people are familiar and comfortable with it. In fact, 75 percent of survey respondents reported using Facebook, Warren says. Another 50 percent maintain Twitter accounts, while 40 percent use YouTube. Blogging is underused, Warren says, but could generate a lot of traffic to a practice's website by using key search-engine words that pet owners in the area are looking for.