Guest post by Lorie Huston, DVM
By now, you’ve probably heard about BlogPaws “Bring Your Vet to BlogPaws“ promotion but you may be wondering what kinds of questions your veterinarian might ask and how you could answer them. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions veterinarians have about social media and blogging.
Why Should I Pursue Social Media and/or Blogging for my Practice?
According to a Pew Internet Research survey done in December of 2010, 77% of adult Americans use the internet and 78% of them use the internet to look for information about a product or service.
What that means for your veterinarian is that her clients are already online looking for her. But her competitors are online also and if her clients can’t find her, they may very well find one of her competitors instead, resulting in lost clients and maybe even a decline in her business.
I Market My Practice Offline. Why Should I Market It Online?
You need to market your business where your clients are looking for you. And your clients are looking online. The Yellow Pages and similar offline marketing are no longer totally effective. (After all, how many people do you know that actually use a phone book nowadays?)
I Have a Website Already, Isn’t That Enough?
A static website is a good start but if it’s not helping you to connect and communicate with your clients and prospective clients, then it’s not enough. Social media can help you form relationships that are simply not possible with a static website, even if you have pet portals available.
People prefer to do business with others they like and trust. Social media can help you build bonds with your clients that will tie them to your practice and also help attract new business.
What Can Social Media and Blogging Do for My Vet Practice?
Utilizing social media and blogging can help you attract new clients to your hospital. It can help you build client loyalty in existing clientele. It can also help educate your clients.
Involving your staff in promoting your practice through your social media networks can also foster a sense of pride and good morale in your office.
I’m Concerned About Negative Comments and Bad Reviews Online
That is a legitimate concern. However, not having a presence online will not keep unhappy or unreasonable clients from posting negative comments or bad reviews about you or your practice. In fact, the best defense is a good offense and having a strong online presence can shield you from some of those bad comments and reviews. If you’ve done a good job bonding with your clients and have a loyal client base, you’ll be surprised how quickly they will rise to your defense if the situation calls for it.
What About Potential Liabilities With Online Activities?
Liability is another legitimate worry. Fortunately, BlogPaws Vet Track will have Douglas Jack, an attorney “dedicated to the law as it relates to the practice of veterinary medicine,” on hand as a speaker to address those legal issues that affect veterinary bloggers and social media users.
Great post, Lorie. I wanted to add something about the comments issue – most blogging platforms have ways to moderate comments. This might be a good way for newbies to start – you can review the comments before publishing, when you moderate. After a time, when you’re comfortable with comments, you can close moderation. Or not.
Thank you, Yvonne. You’re absolutely right, comments on your own site can easily be moderated. Thank you for pointing that out – it is an important point. I still moderate comments on my own sites 🙂
But there are lots of other places where people can post negative comments online, like Yelp and similar sites, where we don’t have the option of moderating the comments. Having a strong positive presence online with lots of positive buzz about your practice can help offset those types of negative comments when/if they do occur. I think that’s another great reason to connect with your clients through social media.
While business development should be a strong motivation for using social media, I think there could be a lot more discussion around “cultivating customer loyalty.” The relationship a pet owner builds with its vet is a very important one. I know I don’t trust just anyone with my little Liberty. I, personally, chose my vet based on numerous word-of-mouth recommendations. He’s great, but I feel like I would feel even more confident in his abilities if I could interact with him more by asking him (or his staff) questions and hearing his opinion on certain pet care issues without having to make an appointment.
Yes, I agree with you, Sarah. Social media can be a wonderful way to stay in touch with clients and “cultivate customer loyalty”. Thanks for making that point.
I don’t think the veterinarian who cares for our family dog has a clue about social media. My ‘gut instinct’ tells me he wants to retire; he’s probably in his late 60s. The office needs an extreme makeover, and I wasn’t thrilled when a vet tech told me about the ‘new way’ cats are declawed. There’s no way I’d take my cats to this veterinarian. I think they’re behind the times.
The comments issue on one’s own site should not be a worry because there are ways of preventing negativity from every getting published and therefore will never be made public.
But those who want to use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter or other online forums to air grievances cannot be stopped. So, gaining a strong following by providing a great website that contains valuable information and useful resources can and will counteract any negativity.
All companies in today’s world, including veterinary services, should consider Internet presence. It’s really no long a mere option but a true necessity for growing business, increasing client basis, gaining trust and obtaining credibility.