Whether you’re starting up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+, the first few weeks or months of having a new social account can be quite painful. You probably won’t have a lot of followers right off the bat, and taking your account from newbie to established can be a slow process. For this reason, many social accounts don’t make it – languishing unused and fading to obscurity before they have the chance to make an impact.
For your social media marketing to be really effective, you have to make it over that awkward hump of being a new account. Unless you’re a celebrity or your first post goes viral, you’ll have to go through those uncomfortable growing pains. There’s no magic formula to to eliminate that period entirely, but here are some tips to make the process a little easier.
[Related Reading: Getting Started with Instagram for Veterinary Practices]
No matter which social network you’re starting on, you’ll need to determine a strategy before you plunge in. Knowing what your goals are and what you’re going to do to achieve those goals is an essential way to be successful.
Make it manageable
Unless you’ve got a whole army of social media managers at your disposal, there’s no way you can be on every single social network. And there’s no reason to be. Your clientele will likely be predominantly on one or two social networks, so it’s probably best to focus your efforts there. It’s better to only have a few social accounts than to be spread so thin that you’re not updating any of them regularly.
Set goals for success
Before you start posting like crazy, consider what it is you want to achieve with this social network. Are you chasing likes, clicks to your website, direct ROI? Knowing what your goals are will enable you to know when you are succeeding. Plus, establishing goals with your boss helps you prove your success (and the worth of social media) to them as well.
A couple basic goals that are good for veterinary practices:
- Engagement: The more engagement you get, the more awareness about your practice you will build, which can help keep you top-of-mind when people are thinking about where to bring their pets. Engagement includes likes, comments, and shares, and leads to greater reach, which ultimately exposes your practice to more people.
- Increased practice visits: While awareness is good, ultimately, you want your social media marketing to help you see an increase in revenue too. This means actually driving followers from your social media accounts to your practice website, and ultimately through your practice doors.
There are a couple of ways to achieve this goal. One is to write informative blog posts that you can share on social media and draw interested readers onto your website. Blogs also have many other benefits, including for education and SEO. Include a CTA in every blog post encouraging readers to visit your practice if they are concerned about their pet’s health.
Another way to achieve this goal is to promote your online appointment form directly on your social accounts. If you feel it’s appropriate to the social post you are sharing, add a little burb at the bottom that says something like “Come in for a visit! Book an appointment here: www.linkhere.com.” It doesn’t have to be intrusive to be effective. And if you want to know if your social posts are working, include a section on your form asking clients how they heard about your practice.
Share a mix of entertaining, educational, and promotional content
Social media marketing is always a delicate balance. If you’re too promotional, people won’t want to follow you, but if you’re never promotional, it will be hard to effectively market your practice. Make sure the majority of your posts have some sort of entertainment or educational value, but don’t be afraid to throw in some self-promotion, especially when it fits in naturally.
Determine administrative duties and access
You don’t have to do it all alone. If you know you won’t have the time to find the interesting and funny links, take photos of your patients, and create blog posts that you can share on social and link back to your practice, recruit people to help you. Make decisions about who is doing what, and determine who gets administrative access to your social accounts. It’s also a really good idea to create a social media policy, so that everyone is on the same page about what’s OK to share and what’s not.
Once you’ve got your strategy in place, you’re ready to actually get online and set up your accounts. From there, it’s all about executing your strategy and growing your social media presence. Here are some tips for going from zero to hero on social:
Fill out your profile
The more information you give potential followers about your practice, the more incentive you give them to follow you. Let’s be honest, no one wants to follow an egg on Twitter. Fill in all the blanks, with your practice logo, an about section, and a cute cover photo to draw attention.
Populate your accounts
Post a few starter posts to give people a taste of what they can look forward to if they follow your social media accounts. Don’t overdo it, but two or three posts is a good way to get any initial viewers interested. Then, once your account is set up, make sure to…
Post regularly, even if it feels like no one is watching
Nothing is worse than an empty account. No one has ever followed a Twitter egg with a single tweet that said “Hello, world!” Posting a ton is not a good plan either, because you will irritate and alienate any followers you have already gathered. Instead, stick to a regular posting schedule, even if it initially seems like you’re only posting for 2 people (including your mom). Regularly posting quality content is one of the keys to increasing those 2 into 200 and then on to 2000.
Advertise your social accounts on other platforms
A great way to build those initial followers up is to draw on people who are already fans of your practice. Make sure to add social buttons to your website, so visitors can you find on social as well. Consider adding something to your weekly newsletter and making a special banner for your website directing people to your accounts. And if you’re already on a social network, let people on that social platform know that you have a new account elsewhere – there’s a good chance that some of them will follow you there as well.
Follow other people
Once you’ve got some quality content posted, and some followers on your account, now is a good time to start following other people. Not everyone will reciprocate the favour, but following other accounts is a good way to let other people know that you exist, and that you have something interesting to say. This is especially true of social networks like Instagram and Twitter (you can only follow other Pages, not people, on Facebook).
Engage with others and join the conversation
Liking, commenting, and sharing are all great ways to let people know that your practice accounts exist, and to participate in the most crucial activity of social media – being social. Plus, it allows you to acknowledge other Pages and people and the great content and ideas they’re putting out there.
Use quality content
Finally, the best way to build up a following is to share quality content. As we said before, there is a delicate balance between self-promoting and entertaining. Find that balance and you’ll find yourself creating content that people want to engage with and share. The more engagement and shares you get, the more people you’ll reach, and the more people you reach, the better it is for your practice.Like most new marketing efforts, there will be some growing pains when you start a new social media account. Fortunately, with these tips, you can more quickly overcome those growing pains and create a flourishing social media presence.
Need a hand with your social media? WebDVM websites come with WebDVM Social built in to help you reach your audience!