Teach me how to TikTok

Short-form videos are a way for veterinary professionals to easily educate and connect with clients on the trendy social media platform

TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform, is known as an app for filming viral dances. However, according to Dr. Jeremy Coleman, it can also be an impactful tool for veterinary professionals and business owners to communicate with clients.

Dr. Coleman, a comparative medicine resident at Tulane University in New Orleans, says the app can help establish a bond with first-time and future pet owners. He discussed the power of TikTok to grow businesses during the session, “TikTok, Doc, and Unconventional Methods of Veterinary Education” this summer at AVMA Convention 2023 in Denver.

With more than 1.7 billion users and 66% of them under the age of 30, using TikTok showcases a variety of short-form user videos and recommends a feed of videos to users based on their activity on the app.

TikTok Doc
TikTok provides opportunities for veterinarians to establish their personal brand and engage with clients in a fun and engaging way.

Already the #VetMed hashtag on TikTok has 6.8 billion views, indicating there’s a community of users seeking out content from veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

During the presentation, Dr. Coleman explained the structure of creating a successful post—referred to as “a TikTok”—and reviewed how to make “unconventional” social media work for veterinary professionals.

“Your personal brand matters,” Dr. Coleman said. “Your brand is your reputation.”

Making TikTok work for you

Dr. Coleman encouraged veterinarians to use social media to continue interacting with clients outside the clinic and further gain their trust rather than relying solely on annual or routine appointments for communication with clients.

Reaching clients and a broader audience, however, takes some planning.

Dr. Coleman explained that the key elements of a TikTok include the actual video and sound. Captions, hashtags, and keywords also play integral roles. The caption gives the audience a sneak peek at the topic of the video while hashtags allow other users to find the content. Keywords help to add the video to the ongoing conversation and could mean the difference between one or one thousand views, he said.

Dr. Coleman suggested that videos abide by the acronym BAR:

  • Bright: Use natural lighting and keep videos bright. People are more likely to watch videos that are easy to see and well lit.
  • Alert: Have energy, exude confidence, and look alive. Reel viewers in by being a relatable person. Avoid relying on technical or pharmacological terms because the audience is hoping to see you as someone they would want to spend time with, Dr. Coleman added.
  • Responsive: Creators should aim to start a trend or contribute to an existing discussion. Engaging with other TikTok creators and taking part in relevant conversations adds credibility.

When deciding between recording an original video or creating a version of something already trending, Dr. Coleman said that an original video may be more unique but could garner less attention. A video based on a trend will trigger the algorithm to show the post to more users.

Dr. Coleman pointed to Drs. Kristopher Vine and Jessica Edmeier as examples of veterinarians making great content on TikTok and following the BAR method.

Building a brand

A veterinarian, veterinary technician, or other veterinary staff member can use the TikTok platform to post original content and then share it via other social media channels, such as Facebook or Instagram, where they may already have dedicated followers.

"Your brand on social media becomes your reputation in real life," Dr. Coleman said. For that reason, a creator's brand should reflect their true self and be transparent.
Relatable videos may attract new clients, and existing clients want to feel like they’re part of the conversation, too.

“Performing a physical exam is one point in time,” Dr. Coleman said. “Give clients the opportunity to learn from you.”

Not sure where to start? Dr. Coleman suggested making simple tutorials such as “How to trim your pet’s nails,” and “How to count your pet’s heart rate,” and then working up to more complicated topics.

He warned against making videos complaining about coworker or client behavior.

Creating videos is a great bonding opportunity among staff and can help build morale, plus it gives users the chance to engage with their audience and forge meaningful connections, Dr. Coleman explained.

“Going viral isn’t always the goal, but building your brand and your practice is,” Dr. Coleman said.