We are at a crossroads in vet medicine: either we adapt to the technologies of the new economic order or we die a slow, lingering death with no one to blame but ourselves. This harsh reality becomes evident when confronted with the dug in heels, shaking head, and rolling eyes of the older vet who doesn’t want to learn about social media. I see the frustration of younger vets when I give presentations that highlight the benefits of online marketing for veterinary practices. The younger vets start off nodding their heads, excited to create a practice Facebook Page, but then they think of the practice owner and their shoulders sag. They know the owner and senior vets won’t want anything to do with social media. How can they convince their reluctant leaders that digital marketing is as essential as the stethoscope to their veterinary practice? One listens to the heart of the patient and the other ensures the viability of the vet practice.
The easy answer would be to tell them that the world is a different place: Accept it, welcome it, or die. You could also tell them that the future will have even more of these ever-changing communication platforms. These scare tactics might work on a few but it isn’t enough to convince the vast majority of those who are resistant to our arguments. In my experience there are three tactics I have found to be successful when working with the stubborn vet and their resistance to social media.
Prove that it works
Vets are cautious people in general and are unlikely to be the first person to jump into an unknown situation, but when they know that success is likely and there is little risk, they can be the biggest advocates of that new procedure or therapy. This happens all the time with new skills we learn at CE events. At first we dabble with them until a client comes back raving about how it helped their horse. The next time we are confronted with a similar presenting complaint you can be sure that the new technique or therapy will be one of the first things we think of.
Here are a few successes we have had with social media that you can share with the skeptic in your practice. Prior to 2010, our practices revenues were all flat or declining as the recession took hold. Since then, in spite of the continuing recession, we have had increases in revenue in the practices that have engaged in social media. In 2010 we had 5 equine clinics and we featured 3 prominently through facebook, twitter, and youtube. Those practices grew. The other 2 had flat or declining revenue for that year. In 2011 we had to close one of the struggling practices for an unrelated reason, while the 3 that were featured in social media again had revenue growth. The non-social practice was still flat. Guess what? We started a social media campaign for that practice in December of 2011.
I am part of an equine benchmarking group that anonymously compares key data between practices. McKee-Pownall had significantly more new clients than the rest of the benchmarking practices in 2011. In Ontario, the average small animal practice saw a decrease of approximately 10% in new customers last year, and while I don’t have data for equine veterinary businesses I don’t think it is a stretch to assume that they had at least similar if not greater declines. The only thing we are doing differently from 2 years ago is the addition of social media.
In June of 2011 we tracked how many people called our 4 equine practices. The total number was in the area of 3000 calls. Contrast that with the number of people who looked at our web page or saw one of our facebook posts – 36,000!!! This doesn’t take into account the views on our YouTube channel or interactions on Twitter. Add at least another 4000 if we count just those two other platforms. What this tells us is that more people are getting to know your practice online much more than with personal one-on-one interactions. Social media works to increase sales and attract new clients. It is as simple as that.
Make it easy for them
Like most people, vets don’t like doing things that will make them look stupid. To those standing on the outside, social media can look like the happening party that they haven’t been invited too. All the cool people are there, doing the cool things that only cool people do. Who wants to walk into that party uninvited? If we continue on with this analogy, if I’m on the outside looking in, I would love to be invited to go to this party with someone who knows everyone there, can make introductions, and tell me what and who I need to know. In the social media world perhaps you could offer to teach the skeptical vet about Facebook or YouTube. If you can walk them through the basics then it isn’t so intimidating. They may even find that in the social media party that there are people there they may know and want to interact with. Before you know it you have converted them.
Engage their emotions
People like to be liked. Flattery can open a lot of doors. People also have a competitive spirit and vets are no exception. Part of the reason they got As trying to get into vet school was the need to get better grades than the other students trying to get into vet school. If your practice has a Facebook page and someone posts something complimentary about the practice, show that to the skeptic. If they see that social media offers the opportunity to be liked then their resistance to it will lessen. To spur the competitive spirit, show them the Facebook page or YouTube channel of a competing practice. This will be particularly effective if they have more fans than your practice’s Facebook page. If stoking the competitive juices is what it takes to get them engaged then use it.
Online interaction has become ubiquitous. People are searching the web for recommendations on products and services. In other words, our current and future clients are online looking for solutions. The voice of your veterinary practice should be part of the conversation. If you’re not there, you can be sure that someone else is. What does that mean for the person looking for a new veterinarian or wanting to vent after a bad experience with your business? Social media is the obvious way to be part of the conversation. By showing the naysayer(s) in your practice that it works, it’s easy to do, and that others are succeeding at it to your business’s expense, they should be more willing to dive into the social media pool.
How have you been successful converting a naysayer to a convert to social media? Please sure your experiences in the comments section or on our Facebook page.