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3 steps to help you connect with clients on social media

INSTAGRAM @drkathrynduris   
Kathryn Duris, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Cotswold Animal Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of Louisiana State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. Dr. Duris grew up in Louisiana but has been in North Carolina since graduation. When she is not working, you can find her traveling, playing tennis, or walking her Catahoula leopard dog, Willow.

Social media has exploded in the past decade, so it’s no surprise it’s spilling into the veterinary medical profession. Depending on your generation, you are most likely on Facebook; but what about Instagram? How can these social sites be beneficial to practicing medicine? Let’s start from the beginning.

1. Create a page.

When a new client is looking for a veterinarian, where do they look first? While word of mouth will always be the most reliable reference, social media is quickly becoming the next best thing. Why rely on online reviews from strangers when you can post on your Facebook and ask for recommendations from people you actually know and trust? Connecting this way becomes even easier if your hospital has its own page. The potential new client can click right on it and see your hours, reviews, and hopefully pictures of your smiling staff and adorable patients. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and social media is flooded with them, so why not use this to your advantage? Let the images of your happy veterinarians and patients speak for your hospital and the new client is sold.

The benefit of having an Instagram page for your clinic is more access to clients through curated pictures (especially the younger generation). The attention span of the average person has significantly shortened from minutes to seconds. If you don’t grab someone’s attention through a picture, they will often scroll right on past your important message. Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can now post something and it will link it directly to Facebook all in one swipe.

Instagram is also great for personal growth as a professional. I have used my own profile to post pictures of cute puppy clients and occasionally discuss hot topics. Through this, multiple brands selling scrubs, pet food, and even medical supplies have reached out to me to be an ambassador for their company. They send me free products and all I have to do is promote them on social media. Now, here is where I think authenticity is key. I personally never promote a product I don’t actually love and use myself. I think this is false advertising and unfortunately it can be very prevalent on social media.

2. Ask your clients to participate.

Next, the client schedules an appointment with you. The appointment goes well and they are satisfied. What else is there to do? Ask them if you can take a picture of their pet and use it for social media. Trust me, they love it! I have asked hundreds of clients for this request and have yet to be declined. You can also ask them to sign a photo release waiver as well. Now, I must say that this should be reserved for healthy patients. Unless there is something educational you would like to share on your social media about certain disease prevention, I would not recommend photographing sick animals.

After you get their permission, make sure to tell them to check out your platforms to see their sweet pet. While they are at it, you can even ask them to write a glowing review on your page. Some clinics have even had incentive programs for clients, such as “post a review on our Facebook page and receive a 10 percent off your pet’s dental cleaning,” or something like that. Clients save money and your ratings increase, it’s a win-win.

One aspect of social media and veterinary medicine that is very unique to our time is there are a growing number of dog and cat accounts on Instagram. Yes, you heard me correctly. Some of the biggest pages with the most followers are actually for animals. People love seeing pictures and videos of dogs and cats smiling, being goofy and just living their everyday life. The crazy part is that these big accounts are monetized and their owners are actually making money off of them. I have had multiple clients ask me to follow their dog or cat on Instagram. They will sometimes even take a picture of their pet at the hospital and post on their own page with a link to our account. What does this mean? Free advertising. Don’t be surprised when more people start using telemedicine companies that are already on social media. People are getting busier and we have to keep up.

3. Create engagement.

You now have a page, but how often should you post? The general rule of thumb is to post once on each site per day; however, you don’t have to stick to it. Start slow with two to three posts per week and work your way up from there. The more you post, the more your follows will see your page and thus increase engagement. Keep in mind you want the quality of content to stay consistent so it’s better to skip a day or two from posting if you don’t have valuable information. Make sure to switch things up too, such as puppy pictures one day and an informative article the next. The best way to get your site seen is to use hashtags, like #puppiesofinstagram or #vetmed. These hashtags will get your pages seen by people who don’t already follow you, which will help grow your audience. Don’t forget, being genuine is important. Make sure to stay true to who you are through your posts. People can spot a fake from a mile away.

Whether or not you are a hospital owner, associate veterinarian, technician, client services representative, or just a loving pet owner, social media can have a very important role in your career—and it is here to stay. Social media is a train that many medical professions are hopping on board, so don’t be left on the tracks wondering why your growth has declined. We want to perform the best medicine we can and this is where the next generation of veterinary medicine is headed.

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