Facebook? Twitter? What do these have to do with practicing veterinary medicine today? Actually, quite a lot! Did you see a fascinating case today that you'd like to share with your clients? Did you come across an interesting news item that your colleagues may want to know about? Would you like to know what's going on with others in the veterinary world or animal-related groups?
All of these are possible when you use the resources available to you through Facebook and Twitter. You can set up a Facebook (FB) page for yourself or your clinic and easily post information and pictures about an interesting case. Did you know that the fastest growing segment of Facebook is females, age 55-65? That's a good portion of YOUR demographic!
Invite your clients to become your FB friend or a fan of your clinic and then every time you post something (which is as easy as sending an email), your item will show up in your clients' news feed (kind of like an electronic bulletin board). Now instead of sending a massive email blast to your client base, some of which are blocked as spam anyway, you just have to post something once, and it will go out to all your FB friends and fans.
You can even make separate lists in Facebook-one for clients and another for colleagues, so that you can post items of interest to specific groups. If you are worried about others posting inappropriate messages, you can choose to delete those from your news feed and block the person from your FB page, so that they can't repeat the messages. At all times you can control who is your FB friend or fan.
Twitter is another great way to let people know what's going on! Because everything you write has to be 140 characters or less, everything has to be to the point. Did you just post a fascinating new article on your clinic website that others would benefit from reading? Do you want others to know that November is Pet Cancer Awareness month or February is Pet Dental Health month or National Pet Week is in May? You can post a quick snippet on Twitter with a link to your website so others can read the article or get more information.
Use Twitter to allow your clients to see what you do. A good example of this is @Azzore. Dr. Terry Dew, Practice Manager Cheree Miller and their staff keep a constant stream of "tweets" going daily about their surgical procedures, rechecks and recoveries of surgery patients. They include pictures and what type of surgery is being done. Clients LOVE this!
You can also "follow" other interesting people on Twitter to keep up with what's going on in our profession and those that affect what we do every day. If you're concerned about animal welfare issues, you can follow HSUS and the AgAlliance to read about both sides of the issues. Or you can follow some veterinary specialists to keep up with the latest in veterinary oncology or animal behavior issues. And, of course, you can follow our own Dr. Jim Humphries and Tom Dock on PetDocsOnCall and ASVJ.
The way we reach out to our clients and colleagues evolves regularly. Nothing will take the place of face-to-face communications. Use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to enhance what you do and to increase your ability to educate others about veterinary medicine. If we don't do it, someone else will try to do it for us.