How to use social media to promote preventive care for pets (Sponsored by Nestle Purina)


How to use social media to promote preventive care for pets (Sponsored by Nestle Purina)

Nov 11, 2013

When patients miss routine checkups, veterinarians forego opportunities to diagnose obesity, dental disease, and other health conditions. Besides helping pet owners save money, regular exams let veterinarians diagnose problems early, when more treatment options may be available and the cost of care could be reduced. Sadly, pet owners aren't getting the message.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 11% of dog owners and 27% of cat owners surveyed visit a veterinarian only when their pet is sick. Those percentages equal 7.5 million dogs and 20 million cats.1

Overlooked preventive care also hurts the health of practices. The average veterinary expenditure per household for all pets was $375 in 2011.2 Only 62% of dogs and 42% of cats received preventive care exams during a three-year period, according to a 2012 study of 104 practices by Communication Solutions for Veterinarians.

To help pet owners understand the importance of preventive care, the first step is to change your terminology. Replace "wellness exam" with "preventive care exam." For example, I have two young, indoor cats. Caymus is 2 years old, and Opus is 3. If I'm a typical cat owner, I might assume that my young, indoor cats don't need wellness exams. Remember, 27% of cat owners in the AVMA survey visit a veterinarian only when cats are ailing.

Clients may perceive wellness exams as optional, while preventive care exams are actionable — and pet owners want to keep their best friends healthy. So update your practice-management software, changing the description from wellness exam to preventive care exam. This will revise the term on invoices, treatment plans, and reminder emails and postcards. Your goal is to change clients' perceptions from "Veterinarian = Shots" to "Veterinarian = Preventive Care."

To promote preventive care, engage social media. Social media lets you have ongoing conversations with existing clients and prospective ones. Today, 77% of veterinary practices have websites and 43% are on Facebook.3 As a veterinary consultant, I advise practices to focus on the top two social networks: Facebook and YouTube. Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networks are still runts of the litter.

Current alpha dog, Facebook reached 1 billion monthly active users in October 2012, with 584 million daily active users.4 Facebook's average user has 234 friends.5

Word-of-mouth referrals have long been the No. 1 source of new clients for veterinary hospitals. With social media, word of mouth becomes world of mouth. Every time pet owners Like your business page, all of their friends see that they like your veterinary hospital. Let's say you receive 200 Likes this month. If the average Facebook user has 234 friends, that's 46,800 potential exposures for your business — something yellow pages advertising could rarely accomplish in 30 days. Best of all, social media is free.

Nipping at the heels of Facebook, the second largest social network is YouTube. Each month, 800 million unique users visit YouTube and 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views, or around 140 views for every person on Earth. More than half of videos on YouTube have been rated or include comments from the community. For every click on Dislike, YouTube videos get 10 Likes — people telling others about the stuff they love.6

Set up a free YouTube account, and then create your hospital's own channel. Videos from channel subscriptions and personalized video recommendations appear on the user's YouTube homepage. YouTube sorts these videos based on what it thinks users will want to watch next. When uploading videos, complete the Settings and Info sections, which lets you include keywords in the Tags section and select the appropriate category. Give the video an accurate title and description to help people discover it.

Think of YouTube as the library on the Internet where you store all of your videos. Link to specific videos on your practice website, Facebook page, and other social networks.

Easy video ideas for YouTube
Keep YouTube videos short, targeting 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Longer videos are OK, but short clips will generate the most traffic. Shoot videos with a smartphone or digital camera. See the sidebar "Easy video ideas for YouTube" for ideas to get you started.