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Mobile apps: The future of social media
Geographic-specific apps mean the future is now for your veterinary practice


FIRSTLINE

Note: This is the 11th in a 12-article series.

Ten years ago, most social media venues didn’t even exist. Now they seem to be exploding everywhere on the Web! Today it’s Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, but what will tomorrow bring? Tomorrow may actually be here already and may pass your veterinary practice by if you blink.

The future of social media and marketing in general is mobility. People are no longer tethered to their laptops, dependent on Wi-Fi access. Cell phones are much more than phones and they—along with iPads and other small, portable devices—will soon replace computers in terms of mobility, allowing Web accessibility anytime, anywhere. More than 4 billion people use cell phones in the world today. If the United States follows the trends in China and Japan, you can expect that number to double within three years.

Mobile apps are making it easier and easier for people to share where they are, what they’re doing, and what they think—all from their phones. Imagine you spot a “mention” of your practice on Twitter and when you look closer, you see it’s actually a Foursquare check-in that has been cross-posted to Twitter and there’s a photo attached. Click on the photo and you see the picture of a dog in one of your exam rooms wearing a new bandana. Look closer and you might see that it was posted minutes ago and that the same client is still sitting in that exam room. Think it won’t happen? Think again! It’s already happened more than once in our practice.

With Google reporting a 500 percent growth rate in search queries from mobile devices between 2008 and 2010, it’s time to ask what your practice is doing to keep up. You should look at this as an opportunity to “own your location” through these mobile search portals. Hopefully, your presence on Facebook and Twitter is fairly strong by now. If so, you already have a toehold in the mobile world simply through these established venues. Your next step is to explore geographic-specific apps such as Foursquare, Yelp, Loopt, Whorl, and Gowalla. Find out which ones seem to be the predominant apps in your community and start being a part of them rather than trying to be in every forum. Check out Localytics for a free look at analytics specific to your area.

Once you identify which apps people in your community are using, you can reward your biggest fans by offering app-only discounts with check-ins. Get creative! Who wouldn’t love a free nail trim when they check in at your practice on Foursquare? Social media and mobile apps are the equivalent of word-of-mouth on steroids. Is it worth a free nail trim for potentially hundreds of people to know where that client takes his pet for veterinary care? I think so!

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?

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