Two weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking at the AAHA National Convention as a part of the BlogPaws veterinary social media track. In a fit of what I can only imagine was perhaps a hypothermia-induced lapse in judgment, Bill Schroeder invited me to co-present for the day.
For those of you who don’t know, Bill helms In Touch Vet, a veterinary marketing company that works with 8,000 vet clinics across the country with website design and social media. And I, well, I manage one site, which is slightly less impressive, really. He’s spoken all over the world. I’ve spoken all over the midwest. I’m not entirely sure what he was thinking, but I didn’t want to correct his mistake, so I accepted his offer. And this is why:
Five years ago, there were about three veterinarians on the web. I attended a social media lecture at Western States and they held it in the basement, on Saturday night in Vegas, where a woman with no veterinary experience whatsoever got up in front of the bored looking crowd of 10 and attempted to explain what a “Facebook” was. Now, things have changed. I see more vets trying to get on board. I say “trying” because this is what tends to happen:
1. They attend a lecture, think to themselves, yup, I should do this.
2. Log onto Facebook, become immediately overwhelmed.
3. Back to work / consider asking receptionist to share some pics from George Takei’s page, or worse, post some dull news brief from an academic journal.
Done right, social media is fun, and engaging. I wouldn’t be here all this time later if I didn’t think that were the case (because trust me, I’m sure not making a living off writing on this site.) We’re lucky, as vets: we don’t need 20,000 fans or fans in Dubai or strangers we’ve never met, though I like all of those things; we just need a small and loyal group who support what we do. Being here makes me a better vet because it forces me to concentrate on my communication.
So I got up there with Bill, and he said all sorts of profound things and told some great jokes and showed some compelling slides. I watched. I said a few things, the most profound of which was probably my comparison of Twitter to a one-night stand (it’s not about long term relationships there, and that’s OK), but the one thing that struck me more than anything was: wow, we’re all still pretty far behind the eight ball as a profession. That, and the fact that I should wear lower heels when speaking.
The Fallacy of That One Vet From Michigan
Let me share with you something someone said after one session: a veterinarian, and I won’t guess his age because, well, I never do that anymore, came up to us and said: “yeah, this is great and all, and I’m sure where you are in San Diego everyone’s all into this social media thing (I can’t recall if he used air quotes or not), but I don’t need this where I am.”
So we asked where he practiced, and he said, “Michigan.” Then he said, “Only 2% of my clients use social media. I know this. We have data.” I wasn’t thinking of calling him a liar, since we are an honest profession of course, so I believed him. But then he said this: “So I just think maybe we need to focus on our traditional methods of new client recruitment. Like going to Rotary Club.”
Now look. I like Rotary Club. My father in law is a past president of a well renowned local chapter and the members are amazing. But I think even he would agree, that as a sole way of looking for new faces to come in the door, maybe it is a somewhat limiting strategy.
Social Media: Old People Like Me Use It Too
Then I really pondered what he was saying. Only 2% of his current base uses social media. Who are these people, 98% of whom eschew online interaction? Other than the local Rotarians, I mean. We know, generally speaking, that 67% of US adults are active on social media. According to pingdom, half of all social media users are 25-44, with another 20% 45-54. That’s plenty of middle aged people with pets, I think. More than half are women, who, at least in my practice, show up in the waiting area more than half the time. That works out well.
So I ask myself, does this person live in a small town of Luddites who eschew all forms of web based communication out of a sense of nostalgia? Is there really some place in this country so far off the national average outside of Amish country? Or is he simply handing over, to the clinic down the street, this huge chunk of potential clients who aren’t even aware his clinic exists because they don’t go to Rotary meetings?
Maybe it’s a San Diego thing, but I really can’t comprehend a town where more pet owners attend Rotary than go on Facebook, or yelp, or any of the other places we now go to find recommendations for businesses. Perhaps, like the good men and women of the Old Mission Rotary, they do both.
I sense from many veterinarians the feeling that the internet, and social media in particular, is overrun with 14 year olds who go onto reddit, post a few LULZ and then get on with their day, none of which involves being the primary caretaker for animals. If that were the case, I would have abandoned ship long ago.
I, however, have spent the last half decade getting to know all of you, and I’m pretty sure that none of us are shopping in Forever 21. I think we’re all pretty solidly Ideal Veterinarian Client Demographic: educated, emotionally vested in our animals, and committed to their well being.
Social media: it’s not just for college kids and Beliebers.
And that connection I share with you all, that sustains me in my moments when I questioned my sanity going into the profession in the first place, is why I wanted to speak at AAHA.
I thought it went well, at least until I saw the first group picture.
Time will tell, I suppose.