More than 60% of all American adults use Facebook, and growing numbers use other social media platforms as well. Social media usage cuts across all demographic groups, be they generational, racial, gender-based or other. The simple answer to why you should be on social media is that it’s where your clients, future clients, and future employers are.
But nothing is ever quite that simple. Veterinarians are busy people, and veterinary practices are busy places. The decision whether to launch a professional social media presence for yourself or your business has to be an individual one, based on your unique situation. You need to weigh the pros and cons of social media usage and decide whether – and to what extent – it fits into your practice.
Pros and cons
Social media is a free or low-cost way to increase your exposure, whether among your professional colleagues or current and potential clients. It lets you find and interact with people at their convenience – on a website they already use, at a time they choose. It can give you a voice in conversations that otherwise are happening without you and can be a powerful tool in getting important information and messages out to people who matter to your business. Even if you don’t have time to manage a professional social media presence, it can provide a good listening tool to help you monitor conversations occurring in your community, among your clients, or around issues that concern you.
Social media links also are a key factor influencing search engine results. If you have good content on your website that you want to appear in search engines, sharing it through links on social networks can be an important strategy to make that happen.
On the other hand, it’s not always a great thing to allow people to have the kind of access to you that social media provides. It’s a 24/7 conversation, and it’s one that has more than its share of complainers. You might find negative comments about your practice, and you can expect to get requests for online medical advice at all hours of the day. Social media also can be time-consuming, especially if you have a small staff.
Consider both the pros and cons of being on social media. Is it something you have time for? Do you know how you’d deal with an unhappy client on social media? Think carefully; don’t go on social media just because someone told you that you need to be there.
|Find clients where they are. No need for them to seek you out.
||Users may expect you to be available at all times. Timely responses are needed to questions/comments, and you’ll need to plan for responding to inappropriate requests for free advice.
|Free or low-cost.
||Can require a significant investment of time. Some consulting groups recommend higher spending on advertisements and sponsored content; be cautious when making this decision.
||Interactions with existing contacts/clients can be seen by others who don’t yet know you. Your comments/posts may be seen by people who disagree with you.
|Allows you to overhear and take part in conversations happening outside your business.
||Provides a platform for criticism of you and/or your practice.
|Place for clients to contact you about concerns regarding their animals’ health.
||People may expect online diagnostics/treatment advice, or may expect you to be available online 24/7/365 in response to their needs.
|Multiple administrators can share workload.
||Consistency in tone and messaging can be difficult to maintain with multiple administrators.
If you decide that social media is right for your practice, the resources in our Social Media for Veterinarians guide can help get you started and show you how to make a success of your social media efforts. The best starting point is Defining Your Social Media Strategy, where you will lay the foundation for a social media program that strategically supports your individual business goals.
How AVMA Can Help
Defining Your Social Media Strategy
Getting Started on Social Media
Rules and Policies for Social Media
Creating & Curating Content for Social Media Sharing
Marketing Your Social Media
Measuring Success: Social Media Metrics for Veterinarians
Managing Your Online Reputation – A primer to help veterinary practice owners and other AVMA members safeguard their professional reputation and guard against – or respond to – cyberbullying.
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.