Elephant PaintingWe have worked with several veterinary practices with our consulting business, Digital Pulse Consulting, over the past 4 years on social media and we have come to realize that the main obstacles to the successful implementation of a veterinary social media presence are……..veterinarians.

Time and time again when we look at veterinary businesses that can’t seem to get it online the underlying factor are the veterinarians that either own the hospital or those working for it. There are 3 reasons why veterinarians can fail at social media. One of the 3 is easy to deal with but when 2 or 3 are at play it is a significant challenge.

Veterinarians are too old

Not all vets are too old, but recent AVMA figures tell us that 32% of the veterinary workforce is over the age of 55. When we look at practice owners in North America the majority are middle age or older and they are men. The simple truth is that older guys don’t get social media. I should know because I am one of them. When Facebook first came entered the mainstream I had to force myself to use it since I could see it was going to be a significant communication channel. I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know why that is but there is a lot of surveys that show that woman are more likely to use social media than men, and that older men are less likely to use it.

The challenge then is if an older male veterinary practice owner doesn’t sees the value of social media in their life it is harder for them to advocate the use of it in their business. It is getting easier to get buy in now from these older vets, since like it or not, social media is here to stay and they are starting to use it.

Veterinarians are too busy

Veterinarians are busy. True.  And the longer they are in practice the busier they are. I don’t understand this argument from vets because they often have support staff that answers the phone or assists with procedures so why should social media be any different. One of my favorite veterinary groups to present to are technicians since they see how they can be part of the process.

This doesn’t mean that a practice owner should hand over all social media responsibilities to the youngest person on staff. This person running the social media efforts for a business is the one responsible for presenting and managing it’s image and reputation. The practice owner has to make sure what is posted on Facebook or Twitter is in line with the goals of the business. More on this next week.

Veterinarians are scientists, not artists.

Social media scares many vets because there is so much uncertainty involved with it. Vets rarely improvise during a procedure. You won’t see them try a new anesthetic protocol on a whim, yet so much of the fun and success we see with social media is trying new things. Lets also not forget the uncertainty that is inherent in interacting with people on line. Bad things rarely happen, but if your frame of reference is the consequences of a procedure or operation gone wrong you tend to be a little shy about jumping into the unknown.

All is not lost for veterinarians though. As I mentioned, they are starting to use it more and more, and those who want a successful client list will learn to love it. I am seeing less and less of the cross-armed bored, sometimes hostile face of the older vet looking at me as if I’m from Mars. When I see this my inner voice wants to say “how do you like being a dinosaur?’ or “do you still use a rotary dial phone?”, but I realize change is hard for some people and my job is to get these resistors to get on board. Nothing is more satisfying than meeting up with a vet who was dead set against Facebook telling me that they are now having a blast with it.

What kind of pushback are you getting in your veterinary business about social media?

Is it just from vets or are others digging in their heels?

What do you do to get them on board?

Let us know in the comment section. Thanks

Photo courtesy of http://www.ramonaspainting.com

Elephant Painting

  1. Mike, you are spot-on as usual! I also get a huge sense of fulfillment when I see the stubbornness fade away and excitement set in. We need to re-think the way we are staffing our practices, and begin incorporating these tools in our day-to-day communications while making sure we are hiring the right people to use these new communication tools on our business’ behalf. That way, veterinarians can continue to do what they love to do. DVMs aren’t afraid to let receptionists answer their phones so they shouldn’t be afraid to allow trained, responsible team members to manage their social media.

    1. Hi Brenda, You are spot on about re-thinking the way we staff our practices. That is a whole other subject. Would you want to join me in a podcast to discuss this? I am sure with your experience you would have some excellent insight into this.

      1. I’d love to! Just email me directly and we’ll get something scheduled.

  2. Great write up Mike! I am having trouble getting the 50+ guys on line let alone talking about social media. Still want to meet with you. Just got real busy leading up to Christmas the got really sick with the flu. Bob

    1. Hi Bob, sorry to hear. I am around so give me a shout when you are in town next. Thanks for pointing out the typo.

  3. You are right yet we don’t realize if we don’t embrace this form of connecting with our clients we will look very behind the times. Don’t get me started on how poorly most animal hospital websites are. This is a lot bigger issue than most veterinarians realize. Have you seen Banfield’s website- they certainly get it!!

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree about websites. Some are truly cringe worthy. Hopefully, discussions like we are having will spur others on.


  4. Hello Mike,
    Many thanks for the blog. It seems veterinarians need to take care in the photos they post or support in their social media. Photos that are displays questionable ethical issues should be carefully considered. Photos posted by veterinarians of tail-docked horses, ear-trimmed dogs, and declawed cats reflect poorly on the ethics of those veterinarians, as those surgical interventions have serious ethical and animal welfare implications. Of course, all of those practices are banned or illegal in all civilized countries except Canada and the United States.
    Sid Gustafson DVM

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