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Ready to energize your social media presence? Check out our series to help you rock your social all year long!

Having a solid online presence is essential to the growth and sustainability of your business, so we’re here to help guide your practice through the worthwhile process of creating your social media strategy for 2018.
Experts believe that everything social should be backed by a well-thought-out strategy that aligns with your business goals. But your business is about caring for animals, right? We understand it’s hard to make planning a priority, but it’s a must in today’s social world. That’s why, starting with this article, we’re breaking down what can feel like an overwhelming task into a “do-able” four-step process:

  1. Creating your social media strategy (see below): a critical first step that will pay off in time-savings and results down the road.
  2. Tips and tricks for optimizing and simplifying social media: useful pointers that can help streamline, simplify, and optimize how you use each platform.
  3. The why and how of Search Engine Optimization (SEO): expert advice to help ensure your posts go the distance.
  4. And finally, the star of the show, the content plan: diving deeper into your overall strategy to plan what you’ll write for each platform, what times to post, and where to best share these gems with the world.

1.   Get to know the top social media platforms

Before we get to the main event, let’s get familiar with the best social media platforms your practice can use to reach more pet parents this year, as these will be a key part of your social media strategy. There are many other platforms out there and you may be using them, but our goal is to provide some intel on the ones most frequently used by veterinarians and pet owners.

Facebook: The Original “Go-To” Network

As one of the biggest social platforms in the game, Facebook is extremely relevant and important to your strategy.
Thumbs up: It’s simple, fun, and effective, with very few limitations and built-in analytics to help you keep track of what works best for your audience.
Thumbs down: Without frequent post updates, fan engagement and organic (unpaid) reach won’t be that strong.

Instagram: An Image is Worth 1000 Likes

Instagram—an image-oriented platform—has already become a game-changer for businesses in 2018, with more consumers turning to it as an informal, authentic marketing channel to connect with brands (and yes you are a brand!).
Thumbs up: #Hashtags can be used in captions to help reach new fans while also spreading the word about your awesome photos, without hassle.
Thumbs down: You can’t add links to your blog or website directly in a post—only one link in your profile bio.

Twitter: Forging Connections—Short but Sweet

With an active user base of over 300 million, you have a lot of potential new clients to work with! Clear and concise writing is the name of the game here, with strict character limits (now 280 per tweet) for each post.
Thumbs up: Having recently expanded the 140-character tweet limit to 280, you now have more wiggle room to share veterinary content, and like Instagram, #hashtags are an ideal function to get your content seen.

Thumbs down: Writing concisely takes time and effort—but trust us, it’s worth it!
Now that you know a little more about each platform, it’s time to power through to the planning of your social media strategy.

2.   Create your social media strategy

The checklist below highlights the questions you should ask before planning the actual content you’ll develop to achieve your social media goals. While it may seem more appealing to just jump in to posting cool stuff on your social media platforms, doing so without a strategy can result in lost opportunities and time. A well thought-out, actionable strategy can help you better understand your goals and how to realize them on social media.
It starts by asking and answering the following questions:

  • What do we want to accomplish with social media this year?

Your goals should be specific, measurable, and attainable. For example, increasing your social media reach by a particular amount of followers on each social media platform might be one measurable goal. Or maybe increasing the number of client interactions on each platform (booking appointments, getting treatments, etc.) is more your speed. Ultimately, your social media goals should align with some of your practice’s business and marketing goals.

  • Who are we trying to reach?

Pet owners, of course—but let’s dig a little deeper. It’s important to recognize the needs and concerns unique to a variety of different pet owners. Spend some time researching pet forums and magazines, or simply ask your clients what pet health needs they would find interesting to read about. While this will likely be your primary audience, you may have secondary audiences, such as other veterinarians or industry thought leaders with whom you’d like to engage.

  • What type of content meets their needs?

Once you know who your audience is, you’ll have a better idea of what topics to cover on social. To keep things fresh, try to include a variety of educational content, entertainment pieces, behind-the-scenes information, and specials. It’s important to balance these so your readers don’t feel overloaded in any one area. Another tip is to only communicate when you have something new to share. While this isn’t always possible, do your best to set it as a goal.

  • When should we post updates?

The key here is to be consistent, by delivering quality content on a frequent basis to keep pet owners coming back for more. We usually suggest posting at least once daily, but no less than three times a week at minimum. This part of your plan should look at what kind of posts make the most sense at different times throughout the year. For example, during tick season your strategy might involve a series of posts outlining potential tick infestation risks and the benefits of prevention.

  • Where is the best place for each type of post?

Not all social media platforms are built the same, so you definitely want to be selective in terms of which type of content you post, and where. A text-heavy post might flourish on Facebook, yet flop on Instagram, for example. You’ll now want to consider which messages will go in which platforms, which we’ll look at more in the Content Plan.

  • What are the results we’re looking for?

No matter how much research and planning you do, it’s impossible to get a perfect reaction from pet owners or other audiences with every post. Using social media analytics is a great way to keep track of what works and what doesn’t—and most platforms have these insights built right in.
You can also set measurements you’ll be looking for to determine ROI against the goals you’ve set as part of the plan.
You might also want to consider:

  • Where are we at today in our social media?

Understanding your current state will help you formulate a plan of where to go next and how to optimize your social presence.

  • What is our competition doing?

It can be helpful to look at what your competition is doing in the same social spaces to determine what you like and dislike, and how you can do things differently or better.

Social Media Guide Step 1: Creating Your 2018 Social Media Strategy Checklist

  • Get to know the top social media platforms
  • Create your social media strategy using the questions above
  • Watch for Step 2: Tips and tricks for optimizing and simplifying social media

This is a great start for your 2018 Social Media Strategy. Watch for more in this series:  Tips and Tricks for Optimizing and Simplifying Social Media, The Why and How of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and The Star of the Show—the Content Plan.
Other related articles to help get you inspired include 5 Secrets of Social Media Efficiency and 12 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Presence

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