A social media page is only as engaging as the content it shares. To be successful, your veterinary clinic’s social media profiles need a regular stream of high-quality, share-worthy content. Successful marketing on most social networks requires at least one good post every day, and more than one is usually better. (See How Often Should You Post on Social Media? for more detail.) Finding good content to sustain your pages over time can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many sources veterinarians can turn to for content that will be valuable to clients and potential clients.
Original vs. curated content
First, it helps to remember that you can either create your own original content – videos, pictures, blog posts, etc. – or pass along content created by others. Some of the content you pass along from others can come in the form of re-sharing good social media posts that you see in your own social newsfeeds. Ideally, what you want is a good mix of original and non-original (or curated) posts.
Sources of curated content
An easy way to find content is to set up Google alerts on topics that interest your audience: animal health, veterinary, the species of animals you treat, or pet care, for example. You can create these for free – all you need is a Google account (or an email address you can use to set one up) – and you can choose to have them emailed to you or delivered in an RSS feed. To set up a Google alert, visit http://www.google.com/alerts, and type in a search term you want to receive an alert for. You can specify whether and how often you’d like the alert emailed to you, what sources you’d like included, and other details. You can set up as many alerts as you’d like, and you can always change the frequency of the emails, or unsubscribe altogether. At a minimum, you should definitely set up Google alerts for your clinic’s name and the names of the veterinarians on staff, so you can monitor what’s being said about you.
AVMA.org’s client resource pages and AVMA Animal Health SmartBrief newsletter are also chock-full of shareable news for veterinary clients. Similarly, you can look to the other email newsletters you receive for possible links to pass along on your social feeds. See the full list of newsletter options available from the AVMA in our Email Subscription Center.
What are you looking for? Links to interesting pet health-related news stories, information about pet health awareness events, good information about animal wellness and health, stories about microchip reunions or animal heroism, … in short, anything that will interest your audience and help you deliver the important messages that you want to convey via social media.
Another good way to find content is by following other veterinary clinics and professional organizations on social media. You can share or retweet their posts, giving credit to the original page. You also can build relationships with the page owners by replying to or “liking” their posts. The AVMA’s social media feeds can be a great source of ready-made content to pass along on your own feeds; we write many of our posts with you and your clients in mind.
If you find something on another page that you think would be valuable to your followers (and that includes cute pictures and memes!), share it. But focus also on finding content through Google alerts, newsletters and other sources, as well as creating some of your own. People are following you and coming to your page for your content, not only someone else’s.
If you designate staff members to maintain your social media presence, it’s just as important to inform them of sources that are ‘off limits’ as it is to inform them of good sources. For example, social media feeds from groups or businesses that consistently berate veterinarians or question their ethics should never be shared on your social media feeds. Whether intended or not, any content you post or share on your social media feeds can be considered a potential endorsement of not only that post, but also its source.
Easy ways to create original content for social media
How can you find and create original content? Possible sources include articles and pages on your own website, especially if you maintain a blog. But even if you don’t blog, you have a wealth of content sources walking in your door every day. You can highlight the animals you treat, your clinic staff, animal health tips, and the work you do in the community. If you or any of your clinic staff have smartphones, you already have tools to take great pictures and video, which can be shared easily on social media.
Here are just a few ideas for original content that you can create easily in your veterinary clinic:
- Photos of employees at work, with their own pets at home, or even taking part in leisure activities (this can help you showcase their individual personalities; make sure you have their permission to post their photos)
- Funny or heart-warming stories about things that happen in the clinic
- “Thank you” to a client who did something nice on any given day – whether that was bringing in cupcakes for the staff or contributing to the care of another patient in need (Remember: Thanks can be anonymous if you don’t have the client’s permission to identify them.)
- Pictures of patients (with the client’s permission)
- Pictures of events at your clinic or events you participate in elsewhere
- Videos of happy, healthy-looking pets coming into the clinic or being picked up by their families after boarding or surgical procedures (again, with client permission)
- Simple how-to videos – for example, how to clip your cat’s nails or brush your dog’s teeth, or the best way to hold a rabbit.
- Pictures of any pets you treat for local animal shelters, highlighting your role in making them healthy (and letting your followers know when they become available for adoption)
- Questions for your fans/followers – for example, where they’re planning to go on vacation, what they think about a particular article, or why they decided to microchip their pets. This is a good way to get people interacting with your page and with each other.
- Ask your fans/followers to share pictures of their pets.
Why photos and videos matter
Some social networks – including Facebook – decide what to show in people’s news feeds based partly on how engaging posts are to other viewers. If people like, share and comment on a post, it gets more prominence in other people’s news feeds. Additionally, if someone interacts with your page on a consistent basis, leaving comments, sharing or liking posts, your content will show up more regularly in their own news feed. It’s in your interest to share content that attracts “likes” and comments, and gets re-shared by your followers.
You can increase the chances that your content will make it into your audience’s news feeds by sharing images and videos, which generally receive more likes, comments, and shares than text-only posts. Posts that ask questions also tend to receive a bigger response. If you’re looking for good videos to share and don’t have time to create your own, the AVMA YouTube channel is a great source of video content on topics ranging from dog bite prevention, to pet health care, to disaster planning for animals.
Important Note: Remember that you and your staff probably have a higher tolerance for blood, organs, bodily discharges, and other biological processes associated with veterinary medicine, and use caution when posting images or comments about them because they may be disturbing for current or prospective clients. Put yourself in the perspective of a client (or potential client) when considering any photos taken during or after procedures.
What’s most important – shares, likes or comments? On Facebook, shares get the most weight, followed by comments, then likes. This makes sense because “liking” a post takes the least amount of effort. When someone comments on a post or shares it, they’re doing something that requires more involvement.
Thinking about a contest?
If you decide to hold a contest on your social media page, be aware that special rules often apply to contests. On Facebook, for example, pages previously had to use a special app to hold a contest. The rules have changed, and contests or promotions can now be administered through an app, or by asking followers to post on the page, comment/like a post or send a private message to the page; likes also can be used as a voting mechanism. But you’re not allowed to use shares as a means of entry to a contest or promotion; and it’s not okay to ask people to “tag” themselves in a picture in exchange for a prize. If you’re thinking about using any social network in connection with a contest, be sure to read through the network’s complete terms and rules for administering contests/promotions. Here are Facebook’s rules for administering contests.
A few other considerations
Finding content and managing what to post on your social media page can be a balancing act. Here are some additional tips that may help:
- Don’t over-promote. You don’t want too many promotional posts on your page, but rather a mix of posts that provide value and entertain.
- Balance cute posts – pet memes, silly cat videos, etc. – with more substantive content. A humorless page might make you seem dull or impersonal, but if your page becomes nothing but cute pictures, it waters down the serious content of your page.
- Similarly, aim for a mix of original content, links that you find and curate, and sharing of relevant and interesting posts from others.
- Don’t cross-post all of your posts from one social network onto another. While some cross-pollination can be appropriate and healthy, your different social feeds should deliver different content. Otherwise, there’s little or no incentive for someone to follow you in more than one place. This infographic does a good job of describing the differences among some of the most popular social networks and what types of content tend to work best on each.
How AVMA can help
AVMA’s Social Media Feeds – We create and curate rich content that you can pass along directly to your followers on social media. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.
AVMA Newsletters – The daily AVMA Animal Health SmartBrief newsletter is full of great articles and links that you can turn into shareable social media posts. We also have a wide array of other newsletters that can help you find rich social media content, whether your target audience is clients or your professional colleagues.
AVMA Alerts on Animal Food and Product Recalls – We maintain current lists of animal and veterinary product and food recalls on our website, which you can pass along to clients as appropriate for your practice. To be notified of new recalls as soon as we confirm them, follow our @AVMARecallWatch feed on Twitter.
Client Resources – The Public Resources section of AVMA.org is written with your clients in mind. That makes it a great resource for pages you can share with clients on your social media feeds.
Ready-to-Use Content – Our member toolkits for key pet health observances include ready-to-use social media images and posts that you can copy and paste to use on your social media pages. These include toolkits for:
Pet Health Awareness Events calendar – Month-by-month listings of pet-related observances that can offer great opportunities for related social media posts.
Partners for Healthy Pets – Supported by AVMA, AVMF and AAHA, the Partners for Healthy Pets’ toolbox for practitioners includes internet marketing and social media resources.