Websites and social media: are yours working? - Veterinary Practice
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Websites and social media: are yours working?

Jenny Stuart previews the SPVS-VPMA ‘focus on digital technology day’ on 19th June with a discussion, among other things, on websites, how they should look and what they should achieve

IT is 25 years since Tim Berners-
Lee invented the World Wide Web
as a platform to allow scientists
working across the world to easily
exchange data. There can now be
very few businesses in the world
without a website and surely no vet
practice in the UK.

British people are among the most
prolific surfers in
the world,
beating the
US and most
of Europe.
Almost half
the UK
are also
regulars on Facebook; of these, 20%
are in the over 45 age group and most
are female. With so many potential
clients out there, how good is your
online presence?

Your website may be your first point
of contact with a new client, and
should honestly reflect your practice
and its personality.

If you are a small two-vet start-up,
then you may be happy with a website
that looks a little home-spun; if you are
a state-of-the-art referral practice, you
will want to talk to both referring vets
and above averagely anxious owners.
Either way, use language you’d use face
to face with clients.

One website I found kicked off
with: “We combine high clinical
companion animal care veterinary
practice standards with a commitment
to nursing and all round patient care.”
Compare this to their neighbouring
practice who simply said, “We look
after your pets as though they were our
own.” Which would you choose?

Put yourselves in the shoes of
a potential new client, switching
between the websites of the competing
practices on offer in your area, and
try to be distinctive. If the nearest
competitor is a budget practice offering
everything on the cheap, then don’t major on your price list. But maybe
they aren’t offering their own out-of-
hours, the same range of free nurse
clinics, or home visits.

Once you are happy with your
website, ask pet-owning friends to
compare your website with other
practices in the area. Is it the vets
they’d take their pets to?

Keeping your website up to date is
essential and so make this achievable.
A quick surf of vet sites turned up details of an event to mark National
Pet Month 2013 just a few weeks away
from National Pet Month 2014, “latest
news” a year out of date, and “special
offers” that closed months ago. As a
potential client, I’m starting to wonder
if these vets and nurses might be
equally out of date!

The simple solution is not to have
multiple pages that need regular
updating. Think of your website as
your practice brochure and only add
news pages if you have someone who
has “update practice website” clearly
written into their job description.

If they leave the practice, then you
have a vacancy! Part of this role is to
ensure that every member of staff, but
particularly your reception staff, are
familiar with your site.

If you’ve just added a page about
a new service that signs off “call
reception for more details” but you’ve
forgotten to brief reception, the job is
only half done.

Book appointments

The whole point of your website is
to get would-be clients or existing
clients to pick up the phone and book
an appointment or register and some
practices have taken this to a whole
different level.

A talk at the Focus on Digital Technology
will be from one of the vets and
the web designer behind Vet Klinic’s
website. This Swindon practice has a
sophisticated online booking system
that offers cheaper consults at quieter
times of day.

Another workshop will give an
introduction to DIY online videos.
Today’s better smartphones are capable
of taking professional looking videos,
and editing software is available to
download for free.

This makes it affordable to create
and post short information films from your own vets and nurses on
everything from giving a cat a pill to
socialising a puppy. This may not turn
you into Scorcese in 50 minutes – but
it will give you some useful tips.

If your website is your company
brochure, then your Facebook page is
where you can relax a bit. Cute photos
and funny stories work, and lost pets
are guaranteed to give you uplift, with
practices recording reach figures of
several thousands on the back of a lost

But don’t be seduced by the one-off figures; to paraphrase an old adage:
“Facebook reach is vanity, likes are
sanity and engagement is reality!”

Seek contributions

Give them something that they want
to contribute to. Photo galleries are
good, and remember dog owners
like engaging with dogs; cat owners
like engaging with cats – so separate
galleries for each are even better.

Vet Help Direct offers a Facebook
management service to practices and
director Susie Samuel explains that
sometimes the simplest things have
huge impact: “On Remembrance
Sunday we posted on a client’s Facebook page a suggestion that our
military animal heroes get remembered
too. This one post achieved 1,712
shares and 251 new likes!”

And Twitter? Apparently 15 million
people in the UK are confirmed users,
although 40% of those only read
tweets, they don’t write them, and I
suspect a very large percentage follow
either their football team or a celebrity.
Stephen Fry alone has 6.7 million
followers worldwide.

Susie Samuel’s advice is that most
practices will get a much better return
for time invested from Facebook but,
she says, if you have someone in the
practice who is a prolific twitter user
and really understands the platform,
then go for it:

“The scope is there to
attract the attention of celebrity pet
owners and big brands like RSPCA,
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home or
Dog’s Trust and for them to retweet
your news to millions.
“Twitter is also great for grabbing
the attention of individuals and
forming tight bonds with them. Just
remember that even mega-corporations
have been caught short by reckless
tweets from a naive intern so staff
training is a must.”

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