Editor's note: This is the fifth article in a 12-article series.
Hopefully you’ve been “listening” in the world of social media for a while now. You’ve seen examples of topics to discuss and posts that are appropriate and friendly. Now it’s time to join the conversation. The two easiest venues to start with are Twitter and Facebook. Both platforms are free and they integrate with one another.
Let’s begin with Twitter:
• If you haven’t already joined, go to twitter.com and sign up for your account.
• Your handle or username should be something that makes sense and is easy to remember, such as the name of your clinic or your full name (for veterinarians) without spaces. A few examples include: BRACpet (that’s my clinic), FirstlineMag, dvm360, HolisticPetDr, AVMAvets, DrMartyBecker.
• Then fill out as much information as possible, including your location, your website address, and a brief description or tagline that describes your practice or yourself.
• Make sure you upload a photo. These photos are sometimes called avatars, and the one you choose should be a photo of your practice, your practice’s logo, or a professional-looking personal photo. Don’t use photos of animals unless you intend to “tweet” on behalf of the pet’s personality.
• Now start following other people. The simplest way to do this is to visit localtweets.com and search by zip code. This allows you to find local “tweeple.” As a veterinary practice, it should be your goal to follow people in your area who hopefully will reciprocate and follow you. Then you can begin talking. These conversations can then lead to relationships, which in turn can result in new clients.
Now head over to Facebook to start your business page:
• You must join Facebook, facebook.com, as an individual before you can create a business page. Don’t worry, your personal page doesn’t have to be public or even appear to be associated with your business page.
• Be sure to create a business page for your practice rather than a personal page. Facebook doesn’t like businesses with personal pages, and making this faux pas is a quick way to get banned from Facebook. With a business page, people will “like” you rather than becoming your “friend.” A sidenote: Up until a few weeks ago, people became “fans” of business and celebrity pages rather than “liking” them. (If you’re active on Facebook for any length of time, you’ll see the site constantly makes changes.) Facebook’s reasoning for the change is that people are more likely to say they “like” something rather than committing to becoming a “fan” of it.
• Personalize your practice’s business page as much as possible. For your profile picture, upload a photo of your practice or the practice’s logo. Fill in your practice’s hours, address, phone number, and website address.
• When selecting your “wall settings,” allow others to post to your wall and let their posts be seen by others. This is important in building a community.
• Use Twitter application on Facebook to enable your Facebook wall posts to automatically post to your Twitter account. This time-saver allows you to post simultaneously to both sites, plus it drives potential clients from Twitter to Facebook and, ultimately, to your practice.
Now that you’ve joined the conversation, don’t stop listening. Remember that social media is about being social, and conversations are a two-way street. Don’t auto-post then kid yourself into thinking you’re part of a conversation. Instead, answer questions. Ask questions. Spark ideas. Start conversations. The more “real” you are, the more people will want to build relationships with your practice.
Watch for the next article about magical Twitter conversations with clients.
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?