Sunday, November 24, 2013

1207. Social Media in veterinary practice - draft

An increasing number of clients and prospective clients of the veterinary practices in the UK adopt social media and they know how to use them for social networking and social commerce. They expect a modern veterinary practice to use social media.(1).
In social commerce, people buy products and services based on recommendations from others. Positive word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Many people no longer read the papers or news online but rely on friends' recommendations via social media (6).

Several million dollars are needed to be the best as technology to execute the use of social media is not cheap for the average veterinary practice.  For example, Singapore's fashion start up, Clozette is like a Facebook for fashion. It helps women and others to shop for more than 3,500 brands of local an international retailers, has around 300,000 members and receives more than 8 million monthly page views from around South East Asia. In November 2013, it has raised US$ million funding to evolve online shopping beyond the click-and-buy model into an entertaining experience (2).
However, the average veterinary practice cannot afford to do what Clozette is doing to get international clients. It can still use online networking to market its services and promotions of products and services  to pet owners via the practice's Facebook or Twitter. Online networking is also an excellent way to provide better client service and even patient care.

To stay in friends and followers' good graces, Tassava B. advises that the vets stick to these five social-media codes.
* Listen: Members of your community are talking. Be sure you hear them.
* Respond: Let members know that you hear them by participating in conversations.
* Engage: Create content that attracts and entertains members of your community.
* Use restraint: Don't bore your connections by being self-centered. Make the information you provide relevant and useful to them rather than being simply promotional.
* Personalize: Don't spam your network with mass, generic messages, such as sending identical "thank you" messages to every person who joins your network. (3).

A lot of money spent in advertising in the Yellow Pages can be saved as social media does build better rapport and relationships with your clients. However traditional print advertisements should not be discarded (3).

Most vets don't know how to set up properly a practice's Facebook page. Tassava (4) shares the most common social media problems she sees - and explains how to properly promote your practice.
Mistake 1: Accepting friend requests on your practice's Facebook page. If you're receiving friend requests, then you've set up your practice's page as a personal profile rather than a business page. This can lead to major problems - namely the potential to get kicked off Facebook. Your clients should only be able to "like" your page. No worries, though; switching is an easy fix. Once you sign into Facebook, click on the "Account" button in the top righthand corner, then click on the "Help Center" to find instructions.

Mistake 2: Believing social media will take up all your time. While it's easy to spend hours looking at pictures on Facebook and stalking celebrities on Twitter, this doesn't mean you have to be sucked into social media oblivion. Take time every Monday to plan out your posts and tweets for the week. Make a calendar strictly for social media so everyone knows the plan. Also, be sure you're receiving e-mail notifications when people comment or post to your social media sites. This will eliminate the need to log on frequently.

Mistake 3: Rejecting social media opportunities if you're older than 24. Don't confuse maturity and professionalism with being hip and cool. Social media doesn't require a lot of technological know-how and is user-friendly. If you're in charge of posting for the practice, make sure you know what's going on at the practice at all times so your posts are useful and relevant to your clients.

Mistake 4: USING ALL CAPS IN YOUR POSTS. This is the equivalent of yelling at clients. You don't want to offend loyal pet owners when speaking with the practice's voice, so check out other business sites to pick up on proper online etiquette.

Veterinary Economics. Every veterinary practice suffers from a large number of clients not coming for the annual health screening or treatment. Clients can purchase veterinary products from pet shops or online for de-ticking and de-fleaing, skin disease and anti-diarrhoea products. More convenient and much cheaper. Steve (5) believes that social media can be used to build a rapport and education for the client via email and social media and linking the educational information to the traditional vaccination reminder cards or handouts on diseases posted to clients. When the veterinary team members take the time to explain the importance of these exams, most clients see the value in them because they want what's best for their pets.

Younger generation is a big source of prospective clients. Vets who leverage on social media to engage Singaporeans will be able to better communicate with this generation. In Singapore, almost every ministry and Member of Parliament has a Facebook account. The Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong also has a Twitter and Instagram account as Facebook is for the older generation (20-30 years old). He finds them effective channels of communication to engage Singaporeans directly and quickly (6). His recent Facebook post about a barn owl which flew into the Presidential Office garnered 500,000 views within a day.

1. It is easier to share information, connect with one another, keep abreast of the latest trends, organise themselves for common causes e.g. animal welfare activism.

1. Hacking is a serious threat e.g. crashing the veterinary hospital management system. It is difficult and costly for the average vet practitioner to prevent serious hacking. Keeping copies of your files in an organised manner may be the only solution to rebuild the website.

2. Trolling (6) - the discussion and debate degenerating into abuse and hate-mongering. Trolls deter constructive participation. Trolling is possible because of online anonymity. It increases unethical behaviour and contempt as they feel that no one will know who they are and hence do whatever they want.  Some websites like You Tube, New York Times require log-ins for posting comments. requires readers to log in using their Facebook accounts before posting comments, raising the quality of discussion.

(1). Lambert, A. (2013). Face it, facebook is it: Why your practice needs social media. Veterinary Nursing, 28(3), 110-111.

(2) The Straits Times, November 23, 2013, Money, C13

(3)  Tassava, B. (2010, 06). Making social media worth the time and effort. Firstline, 6, 38-38,40

(4)  Tassava, B. (2011, 08). Your social media status. Firstline, 7, 10.

(5) Dale, Steve. (2013.03). The incredible vanishing veterinary visit.  Firstline, 9, 3, 16-19.

(6) The Sunday Times, Taking advantage of changing media landscape.  Nov 24, 2013. Think. 37.

Title: The incredible vanishing veterinary visit
Author: Dale, Steve

Firstline vol. 9, no. 3 (Mar 2013), p. 16-19

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