When McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Canada hires a new veterinarian, they create a video and shared it through social media to introduce the new staff member. The practice produces and posts “Meet the Vet” videos on YouTube, which they also share to the practice’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The goal is to facilitate a comfort level with the new vet before he or she arrives at the client’s barn.
“The videos make the introduction a lot easier when people have a chance to see a video of who will be caring for their horse,” said Mike Pownall, DVM, MBA, co-owner of the Ontario practice with his wife, Melissa McKee, DVM, and their business partner Maggie Turner, DVM. “I try to keep them two minutes or less unless the individual has numerous interesting tidbits. Then we’ll record two parts. People don’t want to watch a five-minute video.”
Their strategy and intentional approach to creating, posting and sharing content has driven their success.
In the article that follows, you’ll find eight additional tips you can use to maximize your social media efforts.
Social Media for Veterinarians
Social media drives people’s desire to be entertained. Giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at your business increases the likelihood of the viewer stopping and engaging rather than scrolling past. Some of the most exciting content to viewers might not be directly related to horse care. Taking a page out of author-veterinarian James Herriot’s book can create similar levels of connection through social media.
“People like seeing the behind-the-scenes of what happens day to day. Many people in the past had thoughts of being a vet and chose another career,” Herriot (real name: James Alfred White) once said. “Just showing what a ‘day in the life’ of a vet looks like draws people in.” You can do this by:
- posting a picture of other animals you might see on the farm;
- sharing a unique barn feature that other horse owners might like to add to their barns;
- highlighting an interesting site you drive past while traveling to an appointment; or
- sharing your favorite playlist, podcasts or audiobooks to pass the travel time.
Adding educational tidbits and interesting anecdotes amplifies the message you’re sharing. Consumers appreciate learning something new without feeling pressured to buy.
Share Veterinarian Case Studies on Social Media
Viewers crave studies that show scenarios veterinarians encounter with client horses. They also like to see diagnoses, treatments and outcomes from veterinarians on social media. Sometimes, the gorier the video or photos, the more people engage and react. Just be careful about being too graphic.
Pownall recommended including a disclaimer warning about graphic content in case people don’t want to see it. While people are intrigued by the treatment of gory injuries, no one wants to see a suffering animal.
“It is one thing to look at a leg or shoulder with a flap of skin that a vet is stitching. It is a very different thing to see a horse down and struggling in a ditch,” said Pownall. “I’m a vet and don’t want to see that. We’re healers. We want to show off how we make sick animals feel better.”
Give Them Something to Talk About
You’ve likely had that “why didn’t I think of that” moment when you see another veterinarian’s post spark interaction with an audience. That often starts with creating a post that gives the clients something to talk about and share.
A single hashtag might not seem like it will have a significant impact, but it can make a campaign go viral and get your message out to a broader audience. Looking outside of the equine industry. One example is the Skimm media company’s #showusyourleave. Hundreds of brands responded by transparently sharing their paid family leave benefits.
In an effort to “be on social media,” many brands throw posts up on Facebook or Instagram to show activity. However, Pownall emphasized that a random post will not in itself encourage deeper relationships with customers or greater visibility.
“It’s important to be more thoughtful about the message or the audience you are trying to reach,” he said. “Facebook has an older audience. Instagram attracts younger users. The posts on each platform should speak to those clients’ interests.”
Many vets have embraced Facebook and Instagram, but TikTok is now the most actively used social media channel—one where a lot of vets don’t participate. This is not a suggestion to sign up and share content haphazardly. Instead, it’s essential to understand the platform audience and determine whether it matches your client demographics. Then, you can decide whether the effort is worth the time and investment.
Consistency is also crucial. Randomly posting on social media a handful of days a week will not generate the attention veterinarians are looking to gain. Maybe your audience is there at 8 p.m. and you’re posting in the morning. “You need to be thoughtful about where, how and when you’re posting, especially if you’re spending money on promoted posts to maximize your investment,” Pownall said.
Invest in Quality
Engagement is directly related to the quality of visuals and audio. Pownall recommended spending the time and money to shoot higher-quality content, which might mean hiring a company to assist.
“Many people think that recording off a phone is ‘good enough,’ but they don’t pay attention to audio, which can pick up wind, horses chewing or the noise from a horse acting up in a stall,” he said. “Poor sound quality is the biggest reason people turn off a video.”
Tap the Right Person
Too often, the youngest person on the team is assigned to oversee a veterinary practice’s social media efforts simply because he or she is more digitally astute.
“Just because they are on social media does not mean they know how to present your practice in the best light,” he said. “They might be a horse owner, but if the practice targets middle-aged dressage riders rather than barrel racers, the individual might not have the maturity or understanding of the discipline needed to speak to your ideal client.”
It’s also not uncommon to hand it off to a receptionist, but that person might not always have the skills or interest in maintaining social media platforms.
“If you don’t have the right person who can consistently create content and [that person is] so busy answering calls, completing administrative tasks or simply doesn’t have the interest in posting, it’s not going to be useful,” Pownall said. “It’s often good to look at hiring another company that can guide you, create posts and help navigate social media efforts to get bang for your buck.”
Social media is designed to function as an advertising platform, even for veterinarians. The volume of organic leads (often the most valuable) is limited with the “pay-to-play” model that puts your message in front of larger audiences. For that reason, Pownall encouraged studying the results to determine whether the investment is worth the effort.
“I don’t think people are budgeting or accounting for how they are getting the message out there and paying for it somehow,” he said.
He recommended looking at social media efforts to determine a return on investment to understand how much it costs your practice to gain a new client through digital platforms.
“Get your bookkeeper or accountant to add up all the money you’re spending on marketing and the number of new clients you have seen from those efforts,” Pownall said. “I’m a big believer in understanding the metrics of how much marketing costs compared to the value of the new client.”
Hire an experienced independent contractor or marketing agency who can dig into the metrics and build a marketing plan based on the data. Choose a professional who loves and appreciates animals, Pownall added.
“I have seen vets hire people who do advertising for ag machinery. You don’t pet tractors; you want to know the features you are getting,” he said. “It’s not like that with animals. Vet care is selling an emotion, a peace of mind to know their horse is in good hands.”
Before hiring, ask questions about the previous veterinary projects the contractor has worked on and understand the person’s turnaround time. You want to work with someone who can work in real time as much as possible.
“If the state vet says there has been an EHV outbreak, [you] don’t want to wait two weeks for an agency to post it,” he said.
Use Multiple Approaches
There is no denying that having a social presence is widely expected. Creating a strategy paired with your practice goals and clients is a marketing must-have. Pownall said digital newsletters offer the potential to provide the greatest return on investment.
“The most effective digital platform for a vet to have is an email list [that he or she uses] to send regularly scheduled newsletters,” he said. “It is the most effective thing we do. We consistently see an uptick in client appointments for three weeks when we promote a special or service.”
Focus on What You Do Well as a Veterinarian on Social Media
Some veterinarians thrive on planning, creating and posting messages for their audiences on social media. If this is you—keep sharing what’s working. On the other hand, consider outsourcing these tasks if you dread them and do not have staff resources to take over.
Consistency is an essential element of any brand messaging plan. With the volume of messages online and dwindling consumer attention, sharing—and sharing often—places your vet practice top of mind.