Why Facebook is like a visit to the local dog park

Facebook represents a huge opportunity for vet clinics - it’s like going down to the dog park and having a chat with fellow pet owners. This analogy is a good one as it clarifies what Facebook is, reduces the perceived threat and also highlights the weakness in vet practice community engagement - where often vets can do more.

Heaps of vets are on Facebook (>50%) or are keen to get involved. Before spending any more time on Facebook, ask yourself: what are you trying to achieve? Signing up for Facebook because “everyone’s doing it” or “my front desk team member thinks it’s a good idea” might get you started but you need more to be successful.

Determine what you want to get out of it and be realistic. If you’re not setting targets and measuring your results, you’ll most likely waste time and end up with an undercooked page that no one looks at. It’s worth noting that for most vet clinic Facebook pages, this applies.

Pet Pack research shows that there’s a significant opportunity to provide better quality information to clients in a form they can digest and at the appropriate time. For example, I want to know when my worm tablet is due - I want to be told at a time that suits me, I want you to keep bugging me until it’s done and I want to be able to buy more product without leaving my home. The reality is very different - and so we see clients disengaged from clinics and using other outlets for advice and service before the vet. We measure this in the poor compliance rates on basic health care stats - worming, dental and weight control.

In response to this a vibrant Facebook page can make all the difference. Lots of people connected, regularly engaging with your message and you responding to them - it works well. Like a regular visit to the dog park, relationships are built outside the clinic and habits are formed - habits of communication which lead to habits of behaviour such as asking you for advice before anyone else.

When deciding what you want to achieve a key question is: do you want more new clients or do you want more from your existing clients? You may want both. The online tools you use will be determined by this answer. Facebook sits astride both.

From the diagram above you can see that Facebook is important to your existing clients first - they know you, want to join and engage. They then tell their friends about you - and so the power of Facebook for WOM (Word Of Mouth) becomes clear.

Measuring the sales that Facebook generates is difficult - in fact, at Pet Pack we don’t do it. The reason is that few sales are made direct from Facebook because it’s a conversation zone. However, sales as a result of the conversation do occur - and to help this along, we recommend you link from your Facebook posts to your website. Vet sales depend on phone calls. Phone calls are made from websites. Link to your website at every opportunity.

The current status of most vet clinic Facebook pages is that they’re undercooked and not engaging their audience. This is a problem, particularly if there’s staff time going into running the page - often up to 20hrs a month. Typically a poor performing page will have:

  • a 50% chance of an error in the set up or the structure is not optimised
  • low Fans (around 150)
  • low engagement (people are not interested in the page)

If you have 150 Fans and low engagement, Facebook will allow perhaps 20 of those people to see you post (Reach). That’s a poor result for the work going in.

How to turn it around

To make a vibrant page with lots of engaged Fans - here’s a few tips to get you started:

  1. Get your posts right
    You need a good mix of social, local, real images, vet technical recommendations.
    Avoid only posting cute puppy pics. While these images are engaging, without the strong recommendations on health care, your brand looses - you’re no longer the “leader in animal health care in your community” but “I love puppies”.
    Avoid politics, sexism and racism - anything to offend your Fans and erode your professional status
  2. Steer away from lots of commercial posts
    Inducements to buy can work (eg 50% off dentals this week) but think of the 80:20 rule and keep a majority of your content to helpful, informative or otherwise engaging material.
  3. Prepare to succeed - get your set up properly
    Too many clinics have their pages set up incorrectly or are missing important components to their set up. This has varying impacts - ranging from the severe end where you can be penalised by Facebook through to being inconvenient - people just can’t find you. As Facebook ramps up it’s business offering, it makes sense to follow their recommendations on set up to make the most of the service.
  4. Be consistent
    Work out what your brand is, what you stand for and how you’re going to operate and behave on FB. Let all staff know this. Monitor staff posts carefully - have one person in charge to ensure the brand is being adhered to.
    Inconsistent messaging is confusing for clients. Confusion leads to them walking away.
  5. Get the frequency right
    Post at least 4 times a week and be prepared to respond twice a day to your Fans

If you are serious about turbo-charging your page - hitting the 1000 Fans mark, you’ll need to do more - including running promotions, getting expert help to support your team and keep you on track. The Pet Pack Facebook service will help you do this - click here for more information.

Case Study - a successful promotion on Facebook

Joh at Willunga and Aldinga Vets was keen to grow his Facebook page (insert his FB page link). Working with Pet Pack, he used a Facebook App to run a recent promotion. He grew his new Facebook page by 50% in 20 days - from 344 to 521 Fans. As a bonus, he used the promotion to collect email addresses for his monthly Email Newsletter (also provided by Pet Pack)

The message is that you can do it too - if you need help, give us a call. That’s what we’re here for.

Engaging with clients is important to the success of a vet business. Engaging with them outside the clinic is part of this and can be improved. Facebook represents a good opportunity to keep in touch with your clients in a low cost way. Get involved with Facebook and when you do, set out to succeed and do it properly.


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Pet Pack Pty Ltd
Suite 4, Level 1, 66 Albert Rd
South Melbourne VIC 3205