Veterinary professionals: Make friends and influence tweeters
Recently I dined with three veterinary professionals who've had tremendous success using social media to promote their practices. And I'm talking about the kind of success that makes accountants smile. For example, wiping $20,000 in advertising expenses off the books and replacing it with free, effective social media marketing; increasing the advertising reach to potential clients by three and a half times; and being singled out by Philadelphia's Direct Marketing Association as having the best social media campaign over seasoned companies throughout the busy Northeast. A novice at social media myself, I stopped the conversation to make sure I was hearing right: "You believe a social media marketing plan for all practices is essential?"
The three enthusiastically replied yes. Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ, author of Social Media for Veterinary Professionals (Lulu, 2011); Phillip Barnes, marketing director of NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville, N.J.; and Brie Messier, MBA, who served as an administrator of NorthStar VETS for seven years, shared their advice, including why social media is important for team members—and what practices need to do now to stay in the game.
Social media is a surround-sound of noise that's zeroing in on you with louder and louder resonance. The radio announcer says, "And don't forget to visit us on Facebook." The TV anchor says, "For more on this topic and others like it, go to our blog." An email in your inbox says, "Follow us on Twitter to learn how to win a new iPad." Let's look at how these three veterinary social media experts view the importance of social media—and your role.Q: Why are companies pursuing social media so aggressively?
"They're growing their businesses," Tassava says. "They're trying to increase their bottom line." Brie adds that social media is a more intimate way of reaching customers—an approach that allows you to craft a personal image for clients.
Barnes agrees. "Social media is an extended friendship. It's advice and commentary that's already had the stamp of approval by your friends," he says. "Reaching new clients by way of their existing connections is an excellent way to get people to pay attention and listen to your message more intently."
The key, Tassava says, is to make your social media plan organic. "It must foment out of your practice culture—be an extension of that culture," she says. "It's the virtual personification of your practice."
These experts agree that a successful approach to social media for veterinary practices is more than a pitch. It creates a dialogue between the practice and its clients.