5 basic rules of social media

5 basic rules of social media

If you don't follow the social-media code, you'll drive pet owners away. Here's what to do.
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Mar 26, 2010

Editor's note: This is the second article in a 12-article series.

1. Listen to the members of your community

2. Create content that interests or entertains the members of your community

3. Don’t bore your connections by being self-centered; you are not the center of attention

4. Don’t spam your network with mass, impersonal messages or do anything that might be perceived as spamming the members of your community, such as sending identical “thank you” messages to every person who joins your network. This is a big no-no in networks such as Facebook—it’s been known to get businesses permanently removed from Facebook.

5. Keep listening. Then make sure you are participating in the conversation

Why these rules? Here’s the background: Social media marketing is the buzz phrase of 2010. The ruckus has ensued because social media has so many business implications, including how you market your veterinary practice now and in the future. To get a grip on these implications, it’s important to start with the basics. Let’s begin by deconstructing social media marketing:

    Social: Interactions between individuals belonging to a group or         community.

    Media: Means of communication including radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and anything that is used to reach a large audience.

    Marketing: Use of tactics and strategies to identify, create, and maintain relationships with current and prospective clients.

When you put these ideas together, you get an online community of networks that allows you to communicate and build relationships with current and prospective clients. Through this, hopefully you’ll be able to help your practice grow by maintaining lasting relationships with people and their pets.

The definition of social media marketing matters because it reflects the dramatic ways communication has changed with the rise of new technologies. With these shifts, our perspectives have also shifted. We are no longer passive recipients of news and media. We choose what we want to view and when we want to view it. We can block or ignore everything else thanks to the power of technology.

This has caused a switch from interruption-based marketing to permission-based marketing. (Stay with me here, because this is the crux of social media marketing and making it work for your practice.) Here are some examples of interruption-based marketing: television commercials, radio advertising, telemarketing, and direct mail. These modes of marketing interrupt our lives, many times in unwelcome ways. Permission-based marketing is different because we request or give permission to receive media communications from others. Examples include e-mail newsletters, pet portals, text messaging, Web sites, and social networks.

Of course, we’re emphasizing social networks. Many who haven’t used these networks think they inhibit social interactions because people withdraw to their computers. In reality, people are turning to these networks to reconnect and become more socially active. Social networks empower people to choose who they want to interact with on their own terms. They allow people to give individuals—and businesses—permission to enter their lives and connect with them. In order to successfully use social media as a marketing tool you must always keep in mind that you are an invited guest in someone else’s social network.

With this—and the five basic rules at the beginning of this article—in mind, undertake this assignment: Go to Twitter and set-up an account. Start following others in the veterinary community like @FirstlineMag, @dvm360, and me at @bktassava. You can check out who they’re following and follow those Tweeters too. For now, simply listen and observe.

Once you’re comfortable with the way social interactions successfully happen on these networks, you’ll be ready for the next article: Developing a social media strategy for your practice

Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and author of "Social Media for Veterinary Professionals." She's been a social media enthusiast since her teenage daughter introduced her to Facebook in late 2008. Tassava quickly saw the enormous potential and began learning all she could about the social media world. Today, she manages multiple Twitter and Facebook fan pages, including those for Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center, Bark Tutor School for Dogs, and Canine Colors. She also volunteers her time to assist in managing the VHMA and CVPM Facebook Fan pages. She will present on social media at the 2011 CVC in San Diego.

Also in this series
Article 1:
Making social media worth the time and effort
Article 2: 5 basic rules of social media
Article 3: Creating a social media strategy: Step 1—set goals
Article 4: Hush up to cut through the social-media chatter
Article 5: Join the conversation, start with Twitter and Facebook
Article 6: Converse with clients through Twitter
Article 7: 6 tips for blogging to clients
Article 8: 4 keys to Facebook for veterinary practices
Article 9: Want Facebook success? Use data to know your fans
Article 10: Put your practice on YouTube. Here's why—and how
Article 11: Mobile apps—the future is now for your practice
Article 12: Social media: You're doing it, but are you managing it?