First of Two Parts
Whether it is communications, education, media or marketing, the world is rapidly changing.
The stunning shift in the way we communicate is caused by interactive, instant and worldwide information delivery. We can call this the “new media.” This is a true evolution that is forever changing established industries and even the way we communicate with our clients.
The way people obtain information is changing. Newspapers are in record decline, with daily readership down by 7 million. Television and radio advertising is down 11 percent. Where has this audience gone? Online news readers are up 30 million. Internet use is up 10 percent, and smart phone use is up 19 percent.
The shift began in 2004. Almost overnight the Web became more about information sharing, collaboration and user-centered design rather than a one-way information delivery medium. The Web today, known as Web 2.0, is extremely interactive, searchable, customizable—and can fit in the palm of your hand.
The devices used to access the Web have undergone an equally dramatic evolution. From desktop computers to smart phones, these devices are making it simpler and more compelling for millions of new users to enter the world of new media.
This phenomenon is known as convergence. Convergence is affecting the way people communicate, behave and even evaluate a business or a practice. It also means you must learn new ways of communicating in order to attract this highly connected population.
People of all generations, from seniors to teens, are increasingly embracing new technologies, using everything from smart phones to the
latest social media websites. In fact, the fastest growing demographic on the social media site Facebook is women 55 to 65 years old.
Social media use Internet-based technologies to transform one-way information gathering into two-way information sharing. In other words, no longer do websites solely provide static information to passive readers.
Now, Internet users are active participants who not only search for information but also comment on it. They critique services, discuss ideas and interests among peers and post unique content. In fact, much of the content now on the Web is user-generated, principally on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and various forums.
Social media are also a way that veterinarians can create and build online relationships that can be leveraged into valuable new clients. But this new communications technology and the proliferation of social media sites have many busy professionals feeling a bit overwhelmed.
They wonder if it is worth the time and effort to learn. It is true that “social marketing” or “social influencing” takes time and it is a new and foreign world. But 91 percent of all Internet users say customer reviews are their No. 1 aid in making a buying decision. Eighty-seven percent trust a friend’s recommendation over a critic’s review and are three times more likely to trust their peers than advertising.
That shows the power of building a social network. When you establish a social network, you become a trusted source, a friend.
Really, social media are about one thing: communications. Social media are not just about the technology. They are more touch than tech!
The good news is that most veterinarians are good at interpersonal communications. The same skills used in the exam room to build a practice are the techniques used to drive outstanding social media success.
Social media marketing is relationship building, connecting with people and engaging in conversations about your passion in veterinary practice. The net result is a solid and growing audience uniquely interested in you and your practice. That audience is then leveraged for the benefit of your practice, your product, your concept or whatever your passion is in life.
Social media constitute a process, not an event. With continued application, you earn an audience, one that frankly can be more powerful than that of your local TV news or city paper. You have also bypassed the editors and producers and have “gone direct” to your highly focused audience.
Now here is the real “hidden” power of social media networking: We have clients in our offices 20 minutes once a year. Half of that time is with the technician. So we have 10 minutes of contact with clients once or twice a year. Communicating with our earned social audience extends that client care and communications to 365 days a year. There is nothing more powerful than that.
The evolution is happening now. How do you jump into the stream of information and start to build relationships?
The first step is to simply get over the fear of diving in. You don’t have to do everything right the first time. Anything can be edited or deleted. Your comfort level will grow as your social network grows. You will find it a friendly, fun place, and your confidence will skyrocket. All you need is the tools, most of which are free.
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the thousands of crazy names of possible social sites. Next month, I’ll simplify new media tools for you with this summary of the tools I suggest every professional use: WFB-LTF.
I’ll begin with your most important Internet tool, your website. This is your home on the Internet. Everything else you do on the Internet will point your audience back to your website. Then, I’ll show you how to use the most popular tools, like Facebook and blogs as well as others such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Forums to earn an audience and drive them “home.”
This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Click here to become a subscriber.
Jim Humphries, BS, DVM, is president of the Veterinary News Network and executive director of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. He is a 1977 graduate of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine.