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Practice Management

Social Media: You Need a Plan!

by Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ
    social media map

    A few years ago, I was sitting next to my business partner, Bash Halow, at the VHMA Annual Conference in San Antonio, listening to a keynote speaker. The presenter polled the audience, asking for a show of hands to see how many practices in the room were using Facebook. About half the hands in the room went up, mine included. Bash turned to me and asked if I truly knew what I was doing with our Facebook page. His experience up to that point had been that social media was a hot topic, and he was seeing lots of practices jump on board, but then they seemed to wander aimlessly for direction and content.

    This started a conversation that later morphed into an idea for our Social Media for Veterinary Professionals series of workshops, where attendees get to work in small groups with instructors experienced in all kinds of social media platforms and then head back to their practices with a real marketing plan in hand. While many practice managers and veterinarians seem to be moving forward with learning how to use social media platforms, many are still struggling with content development and marketing planning.

    Getting Started

    Your practice’s social media plan is actually a small part of your overall marketing plan. Now it’s time to ask yourself: do you have a plan at all, or are you just winging it? In order to formulate a marketing plan, you need to start with a strategic plan and some solid goals for your practice. Are you trying to increase new clients? Looking to boost your heartworm prevention compliance in the coming year? Or maybe you have a new senior wellness plan and you want to launch it as a new program to your existing clients. If you just thought to yourself, “I’m too busy to plan for marketing or to set goals,” then the Strategic Planning Workshop series was designed for you and your team. You can find out where the next Strategic Planning Workshop will be by visiting the Halow Tassava Consulting Web site.

    Assess Where You Are

    As an example, let’s focus on one goal and map out a marketing plan that includes social media. Take boosting heartworm prevention compliance. Where do you start? First, take a look at your current compliance numbers. If you’re not monitoring these numbers yet, it’s time to do so! Once you determine where you are in terms of compliance, the next step is to set a goal for where you want to be 6 months or a year from now. If your goal is to increase heartworm prevention compliance by 20%, then you and your team have something to work toward that is a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and tracked over a period of time.

    The Marketing Plan

    You now know what you want to accomplish, and you have a target goal in mind. The next questions to ask yourself are:

    • Who is my target audience?
    • How do I want to market to that audience?

    When you think about your target audience, you need to think about your internal audience as well as your external one. To succeed in meeting your goals, you need to educate and market your program to not only your clients and other pet owners, but also to the members of your practice team. Get the team involved—from the planning stages all the way through to keeping everyone up-to-date on your progress.

    Your plan for marketing to your external audience of pet owners should include several tools—not only social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, but also more traditional marketing tools like postcards, direct mailings, and e-mail. Once you choose your tools, you need to draft weekly and monthly plans. To get you started, here’s a 4-week sample marketing plan that you can download.

    Measuring Your Success

    How do you know if your program is working? You need to track changes in your compliance numbers over time, throughout the course of the execution of your marketing plan. You can determine these numbers by using your practice management software reports and calculating your net changes over time, or, if you subscribe to a service that provides compliance reports, you can monitor the reports to see your progress.

    As important as measuring your success is passing information on your progress along to your team. Knowledge is power, and when armed with the proper information, your team will be equipped for success in carrying out your plan.


    When it comes to your practice’s overall success, your marketing plan is only one piece of the puzzle. Start with evaluating your practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, then formulate a strategic plan with your team to keep things moving forward. It’s never too late to create a strategic plan—start today!


    Did you know... Pet ownership has increased 17% in the past 10 years, according to the November 2009 issue of Money magazine.Read More

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