I have presented to 2 groups of veterinarians this summer on social media and it appears that the inherent transparency of it is spooking vets about involving themselves in social media. Some of their apprehensions are valid and some are based on ungrounded fears. Yes, we are more exposed to online criticism but no, not all comments, about a veterinary practice will be negative. I believe as society becomes more social we will see this transparency force some of our practices to evolve. Before we talk about that lets discuss the concerns some vets face on a day-to-day basis.
Our group of vet clinics have been using social media for 2 years now and in that time there has not been one negative comment about us on our Facebook Page or Twitter feed, ever. I don’t think we are exceptional I just think most people who “like” a vet practice’s Facebook Page are supporters of the practice and want it to succeed. If a situation arises in their dealing with the practice that might warrant a negative exchange then I think we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask if the complaint was valid. If so, dealing with the issue straight on in a logical manner is the way to go. People will trust a company more that will stand up and admit when they are at fault and then follows up with actions to rectify the situation. We need to keep in mind that when a negative issue is brought to light that we are not only dealing with the person bringing the situation to your attention but that there are hundreds if not thousands of people on the sidelines watching to see how you will respond. Consider how much more confidence these bystanders will have for your practice if you can own up to a problem. Now, if the accusation is baseless and the person is directing hysterical barbs at you then I will often give a heartfelt and simple defence once. There is often no winning one of these exchanges. It they continue to rail away the bystanders will recognize this person for the bully they are and will just ignore the rest of their rants. Again, human nature. We all walk around with our heads down when somebody on a busy street is ranting and raving about something. I have never seen someone stop and engage the person.
Social media transparency has the power to change the way we run our practices, eventually. If a practice treats their vets or staff poorly, practices poor quality medicine or overcharges for the value given there is a good chance they will be exposed. On the other hand a practice that excels at all of these will have clients gushing about them on their Facebook Page, Twitter feed or some other social media platform. This is the great leveler that social media can bring to the market. I am sure all vets at some time have banged their heads against the wall wondering why some people use certain vets in a practice area. Don’t these people know that this person hasn’t been to a CE course in 10 years and if they do go they spend all their time in the bar? Don’t people know that their diagnostic equipment is sub par? Don’t they wonder why they have a new receptionist every 3 months? As professionals we would never voice these frustrations out loud, but now disgruntled clients and staff have the forum to do so. If WikiLeaks can expose the secrets of governments and the military a veterinary practice is fair game.
In my mind this is a good thing because dodgy veterinary practices will have to smarten up to survive. The rest of us will be fine because we have nothing to hide. We practice high quality, up to date medicine. We treat our staff and vets well and our prices are fair. If a complaint arises it is likely based on an innocent mistake and now you have an opportunity to learn from it and correct the situation. Everyone is happy.
Social media transparency is a fact of life. It will not go away and as more people use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube it will become more prevalent. It will change how we run our practices, how we hire staff and vets and how we treat our patients. If you can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience on how you operate in your professional life then you do not have one worry about social media transparency.
Do you have any stories on how social media exposed something in your vet practice please let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.