One of the reasons why I am such an advocate of social media is because it gives the veterinary community the tools to educate our clients on the value of veterinary services. There are so many challenges to our profession from lay practitioners, internet pharmacies and the economy in general but social media allows us to interact with clients on an even footing. Amongst the cacophony of information on the web the opportunities to engage and educate our clients are limited only by how much we want to use the tools available to vets. If there was ever evidence that clients want and value information that vets can give the current EHV-1 crisis affecting the western states and provinces of North America is exhibit A. I monitor several Facebook pages & Twitter feeds of equine vet clinics so that I can know what vets are doing with social media. I have been amazed at the growth of new “likes” on Facebook pages the past 2 weeks. Some have grown by 50 plus new “likes” over night and these are on clinic pages that are not very active. They might have a post once a week or so and certainly there is not a concerted effort to engage people on a daily or every second day basis. It takes this kind of effort to grow the numbers of a vet clinic Facebook page yet with a simple post on EHV-1 in an area there is an influx of new ‘Likes”. At the same time it seems like the only thing people were discussing on Twitter the first week of the outbreak was EHV-1. Someone I follow jokingly asked her followers “what were people tweeting about before EHV-1, it is so pervasive now?”.
If this doesn’t demonstrate that horse owners and trainers want excellent information than I fear nothing can. Many of our veterinary colleagues have already figured this out and are engaging on Facebook or Twitter and Youtube growing their local communities. They are authorities in their area on equine health care. Most vet clinics though start posting on Facebook every day, then once a week then once every two weeks then maybe once a month. This is the norm compared to the frequent updaters. I don’t know if these less engaged practices are expecting a sudden huge increase in business or 1000s of followers after a month but for whatever reason the enthusiasm they initially showed about social media wanes quickly. This new influx of Facebook followers and Twitter chatter should give any vet practice the confidence that their clients want these social interactions. The knowledge that a veterinarian can give far surpasses what is available from a non-licensed lay practitioner or an online pharmacy.
Now that the EHV-1 crisis is diminishing what can your practice do to maintain their Facebook, Twitter or YouTube presence? What information will be of interest to your clients? I am throwing out a challenge to all the practices that have not been able to keep their initial enthusiasm about social media to post something on their clinic or hospital Facebook Page twice a week. Show your followers that you are the source for anything related to equine health. Your practice should be who they call for medical care or medicine.
What hold you back from fully committing to social media? Has the recent interest in your vet practice’s Facebook Page given you confidence that social media offers value to your practice and your clients?