Friday, November 29, 2013

1227. SOCIAL MEDIA PG 5 - Mastering social media

Mastering Social Media (& Having Some Fun Along the Way) (PM48)
Western Veterinary Conference 2011
Kelly A. Baltzell, MA
CEO, Beyond Indigo Pets, Hanover, MN, USA
22549045
Social Media for Your Vet Clinic
Before we talk about the relevance of Facebook or tweeting, let's talk about the big picture. The past twenty years have produced a complete paradigm shift for the world. History now is swiftly changing with greater leaps in technology and outlook than ever before. Inevitably, change forces people to choose. Should one choose the comfort of the way one operated before the past twenty year shift or should one choose the challenge, and perhaps the difficulties, that could arise from testing the new methods of the time? There is no wrong or right when choosing between two items, but when choices are made it does make a statement about you, your vet practice and, possibly, your goals.
The Internet and email created a global community that has developed massively in the last twenty-five years. Because of these inventions that became available to so many, the world shifted. 

Social media has burst through the door screaming at us all to adapt or be left behind. The speed and ferocity of the social media has forced us to make tough choices.
Look at these numbers: Facebook came on the scene in 2004 and now has 175 million people visit its site each day. Twitter, as of January 2010, had 75 million visitors to its web site. YouTube is only five years old, but defined the last presidential election. There are 247 billion emails, on average, sent each day, and in 2009 alone, 47 million web sites were added to the internet.
Our advice is simple. Do not stay on the fence. Educate yourself on the benefits of social media, and then make decision. Where do you get educated? We having a saying: "Google is your friend," meaning use it to find information to answer your questions. Or, you could hire a consultant. If you are the independent sort, just create a Facebook account and press buttons to see what it does. Most of the time, when our clinics review the facts about what Facebook and Twitter offer, it is very difficult to argue that they should ignore using social media. So, let's look at a few things (there are many more than we have space for) to get acquainted with social media.

Why do businesses stay away from Facebook or Twitter initially? Typically, people do not want someone to publicly say something bad about their vet practice on a Facebook page or under a Twitter account. Our response is simple: Do you think that not being online will keep negatives about you or your clinic from coming to light? Most of the time, there is an overwhelmingly positive reaction to a veterinary Facebook page that is loaded with "sticky" content (pictures of the doctors with patients, the animals of customers that have given permission), that it's actually more difficult for someone to be critical. Veterinarians who display their clinics in a positive light across several platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) produce a great deal of goodwill.
The huge benefit of social media is that it is free

If someone says something negative about your work or about your clinic, your strong online presence on the Web helps you appear progressive and positively on the cutting edge. Anyone can say something negative online at anytime. Is it better to have your response be one of silence? More importantly, on Facebook, you as the page owner can delete any comment you wish. The point, of course, is that a strong, progressive offense is the best defense. Fear should not keep you from exploring social media. 


There is the notion that staff won't have time to manage social media properties. Or, some owners worry that their staff will spend too much time managing the clinic's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blog accounts. 

There are two options to negate this fear. One is to make social media a business priority and to set aside twenty hours of a staff person's time each month to manage this aspect of the business. The second option is to hire an outside vendor/individual to manage it for you. The key is making social media a priority for your business. In the "old days" of ten years ago it was essential to have a Yellow Pages ad. Today, it is essential to be able to find your business online. We find that people rarely consult the Yellow pages paper book.

Beyond simple goodwill, being on social media sites gives your clinic an internet edge - SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is all about one thing: making sure YOUR clinic web site shows up when people type a certain phrase into Google or Yahoo. Placement on the search engines is as important as the placement of your clinic sign on your building. If you have a web site, but it isn't optimized and nobody sees it, you will not get the traffic you need and want. Not only does your web site need to be optimized, but also your web site or some aspect of your business needs to show up on page one of Google, or at the very least page two. FYI: Google has been, on average, conducting 72% of all the searches on the Internet. This is the search engine where you want to place most of your focus. 

For example, if someone types in "Wilmington, NC veterinarian" and all your competitors show up on the first page and you are eight pages back, how much business is your site gaining for you? Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others ALL provide a way to boost your site's SEO. For free. That in itself reflects a direct revenue benefit to your clinic. If all you had to spend was 90 seconds a day "tweeting" or updating your Facebook page, and it brought you one customer a month, would you do it? At some point, social media starts to make business sense

The second aspect of social media that cannot be overlooked is "word of mouth" advertising. People tend to put more "weight" toward a recommendation from a friend then an "unknown" source. Facebook recommendations take wings and "fly" through the friendship network. Harness this power to benefit your vet practice and have other people pass the word about your services. Again, it is free!
If you want to spend a little bit of money, look at Google AdSense. Ad placement on Google and Facebook is not free; however, the words most veterinary clinics would be targeting cost so little it would most likely be a huge return.

 Google Adwords is what you see in the yellow box at the top of the search and on the right side of the page. The box says, "Sponsored links." All that means is you paid to be there. Of course the question is: How much? Well, that's one way Google makes its millions. It determines the value of the words people are searching. You pick the phrases that you want to display in the yellow box and side bar and Google tells you how much it is worth. If someone clicks on your link in the sponsored area, you pay Google. 

Google AdSense works with keyword searches. Facebook targets potential viewers of your ad in more detail. On Facebook, you can select the age range, demographic, gender, income level, education level, place of education, geographical zone, and interest of your target audience. Facebook then tells you how many people will see your ad. It gives you the opportunity to either advertise your Facebook page to gain more "fans/friends" or your web site. The popularity of advertising on Facebook was reported by BizReport (www.bizreport.com) on June 2, 2010. 

"In the first 3 months of this year, the social networking giant served up a whopping 176.3 billion ads - more than 50 billion each month, more than one billion a day. That total represents 16.2% of the total number of banner ads served up across the entire Internet." 

Both Facebook and Google give you detailed statistics on how your ad campaign is working, including number of 'click throughs' and your cost to date.

Using social media, ad words, and the Web is all about being progressive. Show people what you are, how good your service is, and let the overwhelming presence of positive information and news be your online presence. Don't hide. And remember, there is profit in the use of social media!
Social Networks: Engage the Community

Twenty years ago, you were in charge of your own brand and your own reputation. Today anyone - a satisfied (or disgruntled) employee or a happy (or upset) customer - who has had any kind of experience with your business, good or bad, can blog about it, tweet it, post it on Facebook, or write a review about it on Yelp, and that good or bad experience can now be seen by thousands. What people are saying about you is now part of your brand, whether you like it or not.

That's why it's as important as ever to deliver a positive experience to both your existing and potential customers - and sites like Facebook and Twitter are part of that experience.

Social media websites are not as much about selling your services as they are about publicity, conversation, interacting, and engaging with fans and critics alike. It's an opportunity to listen to what people are saying (good and bad) and get new ideas for how to improve your business, and it requires you to become an active member of the community.
What does engaging the online community of which you are now a part of look like? For starters, it includes:
 Welcoming each and every person who becomes a fan of your page with a personal note
 Responding to your fans' posts when they make them (which serves the additional purpose of encouraging other fans to make posts)
 Making comments on other people's posts and pages (the old adage "do unto others..." holds true online, too)
 Embracing transparency, allowing your staff to be themselves, letting people get to know you, and learning about the people who are interested in your business
 Having an active, current Facebook page with plenty of status updates and posts
 Experimenting with different Facebook applications, Twitter "hashtags," and the various widgets you can use to extend either service
Once your fans see that you're serious about becoming good social network citizens, and that they can ask you questions and get real answers and advice, you'll begin to get even more interaction with your fans and followers. Then your Facebook page becomes an invaluable tool for both you and them. The next challenge, of course, will be to turn this online feedback into real-world action.
We may not always remember exactly what someone tells us, but we almost always remember how we felt when we were dealing with them. And when people feel respected and engaged, whether it is in person or online, they have a natural desire to tell other people about the experience. Voila! More customers!

"Friend" Seeding 101
The currency by which social networks operate is connections or "friends." How many people are "following" you on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites is often dependent on how many people you're following and how well (and how often) you convey invitations to connect to other sites.
You can't attract people to your business unless you have a lot of people to talk to. One of the best ways to do that is to leverage the friends of your friends:
 Do any of your employees - especially younger staff members - have personal Facebook profiles? Ask them to become a fan of your new Facebook page. There's a large gray box at the top of your Facebook page that says, "Become a Fan," so there should be no question about how to do this.
 If your fan page is connected to your personal Facebook profile, there's a "Share" link in the bottom left-hand column of the page that will allow you to invite up to 20 of your existing personal friends at a time to become a fan of your new page.
 If you have a personal Facebook page, you can also simply create a Facebook Event and call it something like "[Business Name] Facebook Page Launch." With it, simply post a link to your new page, write a short explanation of what the page is all about in the event details box, and give it an arbitrary date in the near future so that it stays visible to your friends for a couple of weeks. It's a simple way to publicize your business' new page to your existing list of friends. Ask some of your coworkers or staffers to do the same on their own personal pages, and you'll see your fan base grow exponentially.

Beyond leveraging your existing online friends and connections, and those of your employees, there are a number of non-Facebook- or Twitter-related steps you can take to build a healthy following:

 Make sure you're using your existing website to promote your fan page. Facebook offers a number of different "badges" that let you easily highlight your presence on Facebook, ranging from simple links and graphics to fully dynamic and interactive widgets that allow users to become your fan and view your Facebook page update stream.

 When you send emails to customers (or friends or family), do you have a link to your business' website beneath your "signature"? You should - and it's a great place to promote your Facebook page as well. If someone reading your email is just a link click away from seeing your Facebook page, they are also just one click away from becoming an online fan of your business.

 Don't forget about offline promotion of your new Facebook page as well. Print out a placard or sign with the Facebook logo, include a phrase such as "Find us on Facebook," and post it next to the front desk in your office.

 If you're not getting results fast enough, consider using Facebook ads to spread the word even farther. You choose your graphic, text, and target audience, and Facebook will add dynamic information if you choose. The costs can be reasonable, and you can manage with whatever budget you have.

Keep in mind that people will only want to become your fan because they want to feel like they are part of something - like they'd be missing out if they weren't part of the group. If you want people to take that step and openly align and associate themselves with your business, you need to make them feel as if they'd be missing out if they did not become part of your community. Don't be passive on Facebook or Twitter in regard to the content you post, the frequency with which you post, and the tone of "voice" you use.

Make your fans feel special. Pay attention to them - for real. Send personal notes, quick and honest replies, calls to action, and reach out to your fans and followers. Put the "social" into social media!
Social Media Content for Businesses

OK. You've created a Facebook or Twitter page for your business. You've posted your logo and some basic business information. You may even have a few fans already.

Now what?
The biggest stumbling block most businesses face (people, too, for that matter) after they create a presence on a social media website is figuring out what kind of content to post to the site and, just as important, what not to post.

The key is to provide real value - some good reasons for people to want to connect with your business online. The simple fact that people can become fans of your page - fans who you can then send updates to without going to the trouble of building (and maintaining!) an email list with updated email addresses and all the other hassles associated with email communication - makes these tools invaluable.
While a variety of content is best, here are some tips to get you started:
 Photos
 History of your clinic
 Staff bios
 Highlights of your website
 Welcome notes to new patients
 Interesting cases
 Tips on pet health, care, grooming, etc.
 Veterinary trends
 Interesting or helpful stories or websites
 Neat, funny, or cool videos
 Highlights or areas of focus for your practice (dentistry, exotics, boarding, etc.)
 Testimonials and quotes
 Specials, coupons, or promotions
 Events you are organizing or participating in

As long as it's not 1) violating someone's privacy rights or 2) inappropriate material, almost anything is fair game.

The same principles apply for Twitter, an even simpler communication tool that allows you to quickly and easily update your followers about your. Offering a new service? Tweet it. Having a special promotion? Tweet it. Hired a new employee? Tweet it. Moved or opened up a new business location? Tweet it.
It's important to remember that, especially with the younger demographic, these aren't just websites - they're interactive conduits that make as much, if not more, sense on mobile platforms as on the computer desktop. There are, for example, more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. 

And research shows that people who use Facebook or Twitter on their mobile devices are twice more active than non-mobile users. Both Twitter and Facebook also allow you to quickly and easily post updates from your cell phone or other mobile device, which extends the usability of these platforms to a degree that's hard to imagine if you're only looking at the website version of these services. 

Other things to remember:
 Be "human" in social media marketing. If your Facebook page doesn't make your practice appear more human and less business-like, then there's no point. Put the "social" into social media!
 Post the occasional fun, entertaining, or clever status update. It doesn't take much effort to bring a smile to your fans' faces - and it's something they'll remember. Show off your personality, let your staff show off theirs, and slowly but surely the personality of your practice will shine through.
 If you can give your Facebook fans some kind of insider status, they will remember it and it will help get the word out. For instance, coupons and promotions are a great way to pull potential customers to you. Offering deals on medications? Give your Facebook fans an extra 5% off. Or, let your Facebook fans know about a deal or promotion a week in advance! Be creative with your coupons and promotions. Try different ideas to see which one gives you the most bang for your buck.
 Try to create a feeling of knowing who you are for people who may not have ever been to your office.
 The idea is to keep your Facebook friends thinking about your business so when they need your particular product or services, you are the first thing they think of. And keeping your business on the minds of your customers is always a good thing.
Social Media for Business
The phrase "social media" is all over the place now, but figuring out exactly what it means and how to use it can be a little tricky - especially as it relates to business. Does having a Facebook page mean you've embraced social media? What's social about Twitter? And do blogs play a part in this, too?
Social media is a broad term that covers a fairly sizable range of websites and online services, but the common denominator for all of these sites and services is the ability to interact with the website and with other visitors of the website.
At the end of the day, it's about communication. As the Internet and the Web have matured, we've slowly moved beyond email and websites (both communication tools themselves) to tools that allow for much more involved forms of communication. Chat rooms and message boards were early social media tools in that they allowed participants to communicate (chat, trade messages and files, etc.) with ever-larger groups of people. Websites evolved to be places that didn't just give you information like an online brochure, but allowed for more interaction and the ability to add content to sites in the form of comments or votes on articles, uploaded photos, recommendations, and so on. Unlike traditional media (newspapers, radio, television), in which all you could do was read (or listen or watch), the newer breed of websites and social media tools allow you to communicate as well.
Recent studies have shown that social networking now accounts for 11% of all time spent online in the United States. Facebook alone has more than 400 million active users, 50% of whom use the site at least daily, with the average user spending more than 55 minutes per day on the site. With these kinds of numbers, it's no wonder more and more businesses (both big and small) are trying to harness the power of social media to find customers, build a reputation for great customer service, and reach out to (and truly interact with) their friends, fans, and followers.
The low cost and low barrier to entry also make using such sites as Facebook and Twitter attractive marketing platforms. There are obvious primary and secondary website traffic benefits to using these services - in short, an interesting or popular Facebook page can help drive users directly to your website and/or your business itself. But social networking allows you to build a core group of supporters who will help perpetuate your business both online and in the real world, as well as make your business seem more personable, more human, and more social.
Social media allows you to move beyond traditional "marketing" (brochures, yellow page ads, etc.) and begin using these tools as a unique customer service opportunity. If you take the time to build a relationship with your followers, they'll become a true fan of your business and a customer forever. If customers know they can ask you questions and get real answers and advice, it becomes a valuable tool for both you and them. Once you build a connection, there's a good chance users will tell their friends. And their friends will tell their friends, and so on.
  
Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker) Kelly A. Baltzell, MA
Beyond Indigo Pets
Hanover, MN, USA



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USE OF TWEETS


The same principles apply for Twitter, an even simpler communication tool that allows you to quickly and easily update your followers about your. Offering a new service? Tweet it. Having a special promotion? Tweet it. Hired a new employee? Tweet it. Moved or opened up a new business location? Tweet it.
It's important to remember that, especially with the younger demographic, these aren't just websites - they're interactive conduits that make as much, if not more, sense on mobile platforms as on the computer desktop. There are, for example, more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. 

And research shows that people who use Facebook or Twitter on their mobile devices are twice more active than non-mobile users. Both Twitter and Facebook also allow you to quickly and easily post updates from your cell phone or other mobile device, which extends the usability of these platforms to a degree that's hard to imagine if you're only looking at the website version of these services. 

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YOUTUBE


YouTube
Video is super powerful. Remember the grade-school excitement when the audio-visual kid wheeled the television into the classroom? Your audience does. They were born for this stuff! YouTube offers the unique opportunity to be your very own broadcasting network. Forget about the need to hire a professional camera crew for social media videos and look to your smartphone. Most modern phones have the ability to take videos that are of greater quality than the Internet can handle. Did you know that YouTube is the number one place a person goes to learn a new skill? What about the fact that Google owns YouTube? Do you think that this will help videos on YouTube display during Google searches?
Common YouTube Uses
 Create video tours of your practice
 Request video testimonials from your clients
 Develop instructional videos that support appointment discussions/recommendations
YouTube Capabilities that You Should Not Miss
 Brand your YouTube channel with your practice colors, logo, and message
 Link your YouTube channel back to your practice Facebook page so that you experience "cross traffic"
 Properly "tag" videos with key words so that search engines understand the content and can properly populate user search requests with your videos.
 Keep videos informal, yet professional. No more than 2 minutes of length.
 Brand every video with your logo, phone number, and other identifiers

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