Happy pitchfork-wielding hordes are your friends
This is where most veterinarians who avoid Facebook pages panic. Now I've given disgruntled people a megaphone! Why would
I put myself out there when people are just waiting to take me down in a post that Google will archive forever and ever?
Here's why: Because a good page filled with fans is the virtual version of that exam room experience I described earlier.
Valid complaints are easy to acknowledge, demonstrating you care. And if the complaint is over-the-top and off-base, you won't
need to defend yourself. Your clients who know you-and who know how hard-working and loving your staff is-will do it for you.
The old assumption that only angry people write about businesses is no longer true. Your Facebook page is your online real
estate-a virtual waiting room where you can talk at your leisure with friendly faces. A page populated with good content,
one that establishes your staff as the pet lovers they are, will attract just the kind of person you want around you. So let
the hit-and-run types go to Yelp. Invest your energy in giving people like you the chance to build a relationship with you.
Social media is about belonging. Interacting with a business on a one-on-one level gets people emotionally invested in that
business. Those fans, once they have cemented that additional little bond with you through your Facebook page, will fight
for you. It happens over and over online. Take, for example, the person who goes to the Lululemon page to complain about a
new top. The brand's hardcore fans rally with an almost frightening passion and force to its defense. Lululemon doesn't even
have to say a word. You can't pay for that kind of loyalty.
And that's just yoga clothing we're talking about. We're actually dealing with people's beloved pets-talk about emotional
investment! I started a blog and a Facebook page back in 2009, the Neanderthal years of social media. My bosses took a "don't
ask, don't tell" approach to my online writing; they never once checked what I was saying, which fortunately for them was
nothing bad. When I told people what I did, other veterinarians in particular, their reaction was much like what
http://Match.com/ subscribers experienced in the early days of online dating-a vague sense that they were embarrassed for me and scared for
When did that all start to change? Right about the time people started e-mailing and messaging me wanting to know where I
practiced. Although they knew nothing about my clinic or my background, the way I presented myself in that space was enough
for people to trust me with their pets. In less than five years, social media morphed from something to hide to something
to tolerate to something to shout about from the hills.
I was nervous too at first. As one of the first veterinarians out there online, I braced myself to be put on the defensive
every time someone had a bad experience or read the latest accusatory article in The Wall Street Journal about the cost of care, asking me to defend my profession in the face of their complaints.
You'd be shocked at what a once-in-a-blue-moon experience that has been. I don't create an online environment conducive for
complaining, so they go elsewhere, where people are more receptive to their vents. (Even complainers want to belong.)
On the rare occasion that someone does complain about my profession, an amazing thing happens. Those people I have built a
relationship with over the years come roaring in, defending not only me but all of you. They tell their stories about the
veterinarians they love so much, about how wonderful and compassionate they are. They express indignation that someone would
extrapolate one bad experience to me, their online veterinarian-writer friend, and to their own clinic they love so much.
For every negative person out there griping, there are legions of pet lovers who care about us and our success. But we're
so frightened of being beat down by the negative folks that we neglect to cultivate the happy hordes who love us and will
stick up for us.
And that's a shame, because when these people seek me out to talk about the veterinarian they adore, they may very well be
talking about you. And who doesn't want the whole world to see that?
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, known as Dr. V. among her readers, is a regular contributing author for a number of well-known publications.
Visit her award-winning blog at