Step-by-step strategies: Making social media worth the time and effort

Does social media really pay off? This article series will explain everything you need to know to successfully use online networking.
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Mar 11, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the first in a 12-article series.

Six years. Did you know that’s the approximate age of online social networking? In this relatively short time, media and marketing as we know it have been revolutionized. This will significantly impact the way you market your veterinary practice and communicate with your clients in the not-so-distant future. As a matter of fact, if you haven’t started “thinking” about social media and the direction of your marketing and communications platform, you’re already behind the game.

Behind? Really? Prove it, you say. Well, just take a look at the statistics in the following short media history lesson:

• It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners.
• It took television 13 years to reach 50 million viewers.
• It took the Internet four years to reach 50 million users.
• It took the iPod three years to reach 50 million users.
• It took Facebook less than nine months to reach 100 million users.
• It took less than nine months for 1 billion iPod apps to be downloaded.

As you can see, the speed of the digital communications revolution is staggering. And the changes with social media only stand to get faster. Consider this: There are more than 100 million active users on YouTube. More video is uploaded to YouTube every two months than if ABC, NBC, and CBS combined aired video 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year—wait for it—since 1948. There’s more: In 2009, social media overtook pornography as the most popular activity on the Internet.

So what does this all mean for your veterinary practice? It shows that you’ll soon need to make a significant shift in the way you market and communicate with your current and potential clients. Think about the future of your practice when today’s teen sends an average of 2,272 text messages each month. You need to be prepared to communicate with this upcoming generation of clients by adapting and laying the groundwork today.

I’m not suggesting you should abandon your traditional advertising and marketing efforts and run over to Facebook to create a Fan page for your practice. But I am saying that creating a social media strategy and working at it over the next year could save your practice thousands of dollars in yellow pages advertising. From personal experience, I know that social media will not only save you money, but it will also help you build better rapport and relationships with your clients. After all, online networking is more than just a way to market to pet owners. It’s also an excellent way to provide better client service and even patient care.

But how do you make it work for you and your practice? In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of articles for dvm360.com that will educate you on the ins and outs of social media in veterinary practices. In this series, you’ll learn how to create a social media strategy that allows you to manage the time and return of your efforts. You’ll also learn basic strategies for setting up your platforms, properly using them, and following the etiquette of the social media world.Why this slow, step-by-step approach? Because social media isn’t something you can do overnight. It must be fostered and grown in order to show real results. Spend some time with dvm360.com and me in the coming weeks and you’ll take your practice’s marketing, client communications, and client service to the next level—and you’ll be able to make social media really work for you.

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?