Social Media Warning Signs

Social Media is The Last Thing your Business Should Do

Toxic Waste

A couple of years ago I was hired by a veterinary practice to help them with their social media efforts. At the time I was trying hard to break into the veterinary market as a digital marketing advisor, so I was all ready to jump in and help this business out. This was a decent sized practice in a large market, and I hoped that if I did a good job for them that it would lead to other work.

During my initial visits with a business that wants to hire me I ask several questions to determine what their goals are. Typically, they want to increase their online exposure and grow their business, but I try to dig deeper and find out why they think social media is going to do a better job than word of mouth, or referrals from current clients. A sign of a healthy business is strong business growth from the recommendations from happy satisfied clients, we all know that.

It didn’t take too long to figure out that the reason why this practice wanted to use social media to grow their business was because they were losing so many clients. When I pointed out to them that maybe it would be a good idea to figure out why clients weren’t coming back their response was that they were working on it, but in the meantime they needed to keep their business growing. Ok, I’ll buy that and besides, I thought with just a hint of arrogance, that if I could help this struggling business I could help anyone. Not so quick. As we put a digital marketing plan together I realized that this business suffered from some significant issues, including a toxic work environment and inconsistent patient and client care. I soon realized that I was caught up in a losing situation. There was nothing that social media was going to do to help them. My arrogance was quickly humbled as I told them that I quit. My parting words were “The last thing you need is social media. You need to fix your business first.”

I realized that unless they fixed the significant challenges facing them that all social media would do is increase the amount of clients who would be pissed off from their visit. Many of them would go online and complain about the poor patient care and miserable environment. Why would this business want to promote that they are a bad veterinary clinic? Once these new clients left they would never come back.

As I left the hospital I realized I had learned a huge lesson: Social media, or any other type of marketing, is only effective if the business is based upon a solid and strong business foundation. What does this mean to the average veterinary small business? There is not a quick answer to this question – that is why there are business courses and degrees, but there are a few simple things to consider before hoping for a simple fix from social media.

Are the staff happy?

Clients can tell when there is tension in the air at a business. I remember once being in a dentist chair getting a cavity filled when the dentist and his assistant had a minor domestic. It made for a very uncomfortable experience. I never went back to that dentist.

Are clients treated like they are wanted?

The most misused phrase in most businesses is along the lines that “We are for the customer”, or “Customer Service is our bread and butter”. We have all seen those meaningless signs in stores as we wait for someone to serve us as they scurry by with their heads down. Mean it, or don’t promise it.

Is someone leading the business?

In my experience the biggest reason that social media efforts fail in any type of business is that there is no leadership to drive change in the business. Social media is so new to most businesses that having a champion to drive this change is essential. If there isn’t a leader pushing and encouraging for its success staff will lose interest. They rightfully think that if the leader of the business doesn’t care about this, why should I.

I could go on and on about the key pillars of a strong business but the three I mentioned are indicative that something isn’t right. It doesn’t matter if you are a Wal-Mart or a 4 employee vet business staff have to get along, the client has to feel valued and their needs to be a leader. Sounds simple, but getting there and being consistent is hard, but incredibly satisfying for any business. Who doesn’t want to enjoy their co-workers, their clients, and feel motivated and respected by their boss. Until these three key things are in place hold off on promoting your business with social media. There are other more important things to deal with first.

If you identify one or more of these warning signs you might be interested in improving your business skills. Oculus Insights has several business education programs geared towards working veterinarians, practice managers and other support staff. Check out www.OculusInsights.net for more information.

I’m always interested in your comments. Please drop me a line below.

Thanks

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Social Media for Veterinarians with Danielle Lambert

SnoutSchool (1)

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Lambert and her Snout School for training veterinarians and their staff about social media for while. She is one person who I think uses social media extremely well in her own veterinary business she manages, as well as her numerous clients. I also think she has a critical eye on how some vets are not using social media well, and in fact may be turning possible clients away.

During this podcast we discuss the good, the bad and the ugly about social media and how veterinary businesses can effectively use social media.

For more information about her 4 Week Veterinary Social Media Essential Course go to http://www.snoutschool.com/essentials.

She also has a free guide called 5 Must-Have Social Media Tools for Veterinary Hospitals at http://www.snoutschool.com/tools.

This podcast is sponsored by Oculus Insight at the Veterinary Business School – Business Education for Veterinarians and Practice Managers. For more information go to www.Veteinary

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Why Veterinarians Struggle with Social Media

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

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