Editor's note: This is the sixth article in a 12-article series.
When you first explore the world of social media, you might begin with Twitter. Twitter was huge during the last presidential election, and it has continued to be widely used by news outlets and celebrities worldwide.
So what is Twitter, really? It’s technically a form of micro-blogging in a short format, using 140 or fewer characters to answer the question, “What’s happening?” A lot of people wonder why anyone uses Twitter—who cares what’s happening in someone else’s world? Well, Twitter is much more than just a bunch of random answers to that single question. Twitter is actually a conversation. In fact, Twitter is made up of millions of conversations streaming through a single online portal.
Once you start following “tweeps,” you’ll begin to piece those conversations together. Why is that important? Follow this real conversation, started by one of our clients on a Saturday afternoon. By clicking the link, I was able to go and look at the client’s photo of his new dog. I could then reply:
rlsims: Our new family member is home from @IndyHumane! http://tweetphoto.com/9392466
BRACpet: @rlsims How cute!!! Little boy or girl…and what’s the name?
By using the @ symbol in front of my client’s Twitter handle, he was able to quickly see that I was speaking directly to him. He responded several minutes later with this response:
rlsims: Girl and her name is Kaia. @BRACpet: @rlsims How cute!!! Little boy or girl…and what’s the name?
The client reposted my question and answered it. This let others know what question he was answering. It also did something very special: It showed all of his followers that his veterinary clinic was having a conversation with him and was interested in his new dog.
BRACpet: @rlsims Bring Kaia in real soon….we’d love to meet her. Have a fun weekend with her!
The client posted a few more cute photos and we continued our conversation. Once you realize people are actually talking to one another, the conversations are fairly easy to follow.
When I showed this thread to our team members in our weekly staff meeting, one client service representative exclaimed, “You mean you talk to our clients through Twitter?” Yes, I do. And when I do, hundreds—or even thousands—of others can see that conversation and will hopefully think to themselves, “Wow, there’s a veterinary practice that really cares about its clients and patients. That’s what I’m looking for!”
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?