6 Sound Social Media Guidelines for Veterinary Clinics During COVID-19
In this era of COVID-19, one thing is for certain and that is that practically nothing is certain. Best practices for business operations are constantly evolving, the CDC and WHO regularly update their official recommendations, stay-at-home timeframe estimations continue to vary greatly … it’s a lot to keep up with! One thing we DO know is that your clients still want to hear from you.
For starters, Fluffy still needs his new puppy wellness exam and Fifi still needs her vaccinations, and that means clients want to know exactly what to expect when they arrive. Then there are your technicians who have loving and concerned friends and family that want to know what you’re doing to keep your team safe. Not to mention, pictures of cute animals make everyone feel better, so those are particularly sought after these days. You’re in a place to deliver all of this in-demand content and more, and you already have access to a free tool that allows for the rapid sharing of information, stories and images … your social media channels!
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are great ways to connect with “your people” and efficiently share updates as your policies and procedures shift. Just make sure you don’t move so fast that you forget to follow regular best practices. Dot your digital i’s, cross your digital t’s and follow these six guidelines, and we think you’ll find that these unprecedented times provide a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships and build trust with your customers.
1. Be open and honest
A few short years ago, perfection was the name of the game on social media. You’d take 30 pictures just to have one “post-worthy” image, add a handful of filters on top of that, plus a flattering crop and heck, why not throw in a blemish removal? Every day was a flawless day, you only showed the best parts of your life and captions were oozing with sunshine and rainbows. Ick! Thank goodness that is no longer the case and there has been a shift towards embracing reality.
Businesses that pull back the proverbial curtain and humanize their content are rewarded with loyalty and patronage. That means you! How are you feeling? What’s the mood at your practice? It’s okay to express vulnerability and uncertainty in your captions. And it’s okay to have some fun, too. If you have the opportunity, going “live” is the ultimate form of the #NoFilter trend. Use your uncharacteristically empty reception space to try the newest TikTok dance challenge. Offer potential new customers a virtual tour of the office. Ask clients to submit pet questions and answer them live. There are so many possibilities, and all of them foster a sense of group belonging and underscore the fact that we’re all in this together.
2. Check in with your community
So you’ve shared how you’re doing, which is a great start. But one of the most unique aspects of social media is its inherently social nature. (Go figure!) Unlike other forms of marketing like billboards or postcards, your customers can talk back – why not take advantage? Make your social platforms a welcoming environment and literally ask how your audience is doing. You can post a picture and ask them to check in in the comments section, post a text-based update with no image or post a poll to your Instagram story and have people weigh in that way.
Are there any concerns you can help alleviate for them? Any at-home care tips you can provide them with? This is your chance to build yourself up as an information provider and a thought leader, differentiating you amongst other practitioners in your area.
3. Banish unknowns by getting extra visual
There is always an air of mystery around anything new. Since practicing curbside care is most likely new for you as the professional, it’s definitely a new concept for your customers. (If this operation model is still a bit fuzzy for you, check out our new Patterson Veterinary University course on telehealth!) Don’t let anxiety creep in for your customers who might be wary of a different way of doing business. Alleviate any mystery by showing them exactly what to expect on social media. You could post an album of images and describe each part of the process in the captions. Or, create a video! We’ve seen great examples lately, like this video from Oceana Veterinary Clinic that shows what will happen during a new puppy wellness check, or this lighthearted video from Valley Veterinary Hospital that addresses customer FAQs. Information + entertainment = winning content.
4. Highlight employees and customers going "above and beyond"
Storytelling posts are on the rise in popularity, and have the added bonus of typically earning high levels of engagement. Not every post needs to include a link back to a product or a sale or a special or even a piece of content; people sign up for social media because they want to connect with, and hear about, other people … so tell them about yours!
Let your customers get to know your team members by sharing an action one of your employees took that was particularly kind, helped a client, helped an animal, extended themselves, etc. You can even make this a weekly feature. It will make your employees feel good, and also let your digital audience get to know the real people who make your brand so special.
Ditto for your customers. How are they stepping up? Use this time to gush about them, and how adaptable and understanding they’re being during these times. Has one of your clients been sending reusable cloth masks? Thank you notes? Baked goods? These would all make great stories to share, and if one customer comes across this type of post on your page, they will probably be on their “extra best” behavior in hopes of being featured as well. In all cases, just make sure to obtain permission before sharing customer photos out externally.
5. Be extra attentive to your inbox
In these uncharted waters of COVID-19, people are seeking information and answers, and you have the chance to offer them. With more folks working from home than ever before, chances are more of these queries than usual will come in digitally through your social media inboxes. Be extra diligent when it comes to responding quickly to these messages. Besides being a general social media best practice to reply to questions quickly, things are changing so quickly these days that if you let a question linger too long, your information might soon be out of date.
To that end, make sure to be transparent about this in your communications. “This is how we’re addressing XYZ as of today, but we’ll be sure to update you if and when things change!”
If there are any questions that you seem to be receiving through your inboxes from multiple people, chances are, the answer would be of interest to your wider audience. Take the opportunity to be proactive and post FAQs and answers to your feed, either in a static post or again, through a live Q&A session on your stories.
6. Pu👏ppy👏 Pics👏
It’s a universal truth: animals make us ALL feel better. As a veterinary industry professional you’re uniquely positioned to be able to provide your audience with the BEST kind of exclusive content there is: pics of cute puppies and kitties! (Don’t skimp, please. Requesting for a friend. 😌)
Static images are great, but why not take things up a notch and try some videos? Dr. Ryan Henderson of Fox Hollow Animal Hospital uses his Instagram feed to post “puppy play date” videos as he enters each exam room to greet his patients, and these have earned over 1,000 likes. What a great chance to brush up on your tech-savvy social skills while also providing a bit of heart-melting relief.
When you get down to it, social media success in the time of COVID-19 comes down to finding what works for your clinic. Use our guidelines, but ultimately you know your audience best and whether they might respond better to a buttoned-up announcement, a light-hearted meme or a mix of both (that gets our vote!). There’s a plethora of information being posted to social media from individuals and from brands, so it’s all about finding your groove of posting frequency. Don’t flood newsfeeds by adding to the noise “just for the sake of posting,” but if you have something important to share, a helpful resource or a particularly cute pupper, by all means DO!
Stay well, keep taking excellent care of our pets, and go easy on yourself – we’re all in this together. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via OUR social media channels! We’re always active on Facebook and Instagram and you can rest assured we’re being extra attentive to our inboxes, just like you. 😉