Facebook and other social media sites can be great customer service tools to delight your veterinary clients in between visits. However, veterinary hospitals can also manage to really tick customers off with some seemingly harmless posts.
Here are a few moves I’d avoid to keep pet owners coming back to your social media accounts (and your practice!)
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll recall feeling a new level of awkward as Cersei walked through King’s Landing – *ehem* – totally exposed.
That level of uncomfortable shame is N-O-T what you want to make your veterinary clients feel with your social media posts.
It can be super tempting to bash a pet owner that you perceive to be irresponsible on your page, but it’s not a smart move.
- Your other veterinary clients might be scared off, thinking they’ll be shamed if they ever come to you with an issue.
- That client you shamed is never coming back, and they’re going to tell their friends – some of whom might be super responsible pet owners – all about why.
So the next time you have a heartworm positive dog, think before you post his pic to Facebook with the caption, “MY IDIOT OWNERS FORGOT MY HEARTWORM PREVENTATIVE!”
Teachable moments can be great to share on social media, but only when the client involved in is on board. You have to navigate these types of posts very cautiously. My tips? Just remember to be empathetic and positive… instead of making your client walk through the Facebook version of King’s Landing without their clothes on!
Just like clients don’t like to be surprised to find out their pet’s bill is twice what they expected, they don’t want to come across a picture of their pet on social media that they didn’t authorize. We have enough surprises in vet med without adding in the ones that could be avoided!
Getting consent to share a patient’s photo and story is super easy. I recommend adding a little blurb about sharing a patient’s photo/story onto your check-in sheets. This just makes it “part of the norm” for clients, and it also ensures it actually gets done. Alternatively, you can just ask verbally! My experience is that ZERO clients have ever said no when asked verbally, and maybe only 10% decline sharing when asked on a form.
Veterinary clients generally like making their pets “Facebook famous.” Just have a little consideration, ask permission, and keep your patient posts upbeat.
If a pet owner asks a question online, be timely in your response. Smartphone apps like Facebook’s Pages app makes this easy to stay on top of. (You can get 5 other social media tools I love here!)
And if you’re reading this and thinking I’m a total crazy person for keeping up on social media, just know it is pretty minimal for me, even with 5-6,000 active clients. If you STILL think I’m a lunatic, we just might have different customer service points of views.
Then there are the pet owners that like to share on social. When a veterinary client posts a photo of Pomeranian in a costume to your Facebook timeline, be excited. Even if it’s the 100th hot dog, Batman or lion costume you’ve seen Lola in, her owner is excited to show you.
Don’t stomp on that connection. Though it might not seem critical, I think it means a lot for these clients to share their pets with you outside of the exam room. Act excited, or at least like the post. It only takes a second, but it can mean a bunch to the bond you share!
Social media is a great way to educate pet parents between visits. However, social media is also a place pet owners are going to have fun. It’s our job as businesses to provide entertainment and relevant information. Don’t bore your average pet owner with the latest JAVMA article on pathology.
Instead, share practical, simple pet health tips they can relate to. I especially suggest blogging on your practice’s website. That way, the content gets you web traffic. Additionally, it establishes you as the resource for pet info online, not that Dr. Google guy. (Which should be avoided until we can at least establish which veterinary school that guy went to…)
In a perfect world, we’d all have those nice cages and runs with the clear fronts. I dream about these ideal scenarios. However, the reality for many practices – including my own – is that cages look like…. Cages. Pets in lock up don’t look like pets having a positive experience.
If you want to take a photo of an admitted patient, don’t do it behind bars. Get the pet out of the cage and into the arms of a staff member, or simply – wait for it – open the front of the cage!
If I’m taking a photo alone, I usually manage to get my iPhone lens close enough to the cage to peek through the bars. This way the pet doesn’t look like a character on Orange Is The New Black, but I don’t risk them leaping out. (I can’t fix the pets, so I try not to break them). You get a cute pic, but no one thinks his or her Golden Retriever finally got locked up for the time he jumped on the counter and ate the whole coffee cake.
Avoiding these social media missteps will undeniably strengthen the bond you have with your clients. Want to take that connection to the next level? Make social media posts that pet owners will LOVE using my 5 favorite social media tools for veterinary hospitals, available here.
Danielle is a veterinary practice manager and the founder of SnoutSchool.com, a website dedicated to teaching veterinary hospitals to use social media effectively. You can get her 5 favorite social media tools here, or follow her on social media to see excessive photos of her Brussels Griffon. She’s @DanielleSnout on Twitter & Instagram!