You know your practice should have a better online presence, but it all seems so overwhelming. While scrolling through your colleagues’ libraries of blogs and weekly—or daily!—Facebook posts, you can’t wrap your brain around building so much material from scratch. Relax. The colleagues you admire, and maybe envy, were in this same place at one point—everyone has to start somewhere. You are more than qualified to write educational, engaging material that will quickly gain your practice a loyal online following, and help some pets along the way.
Our step-by-step guide will map out a solid plan to help you start, and make the process less intimidating. Let’s get started!
#1: Set up your online platforms
If your practice does not yet have a website and social media pages, this is your first step. Word-of-mouth referrals may have worked in the past, but today’s veterinary clients often choose a veterinarian based on their website and social media presence. If “no results found” pops up when potential clients search for your name online, they will move on to another practice.
You likely already have a personal Facebook page, so creating a business page should be relatively simple. Ensure you establish yourself as the administrator, and give the appropriate access to any team members who will help you manage the page.
Setting up a website is a little more involved. You can use a simple do-it-yourself website creator, such as Google Sites or WordPress, or hire a website design company, such as Digital Empathy, to do the heavy lifting.
#2: Create a content calendar
Although mapping out content for the entire year, or at least several months, may sound daunting, a content calendar will help you stay on track. Decide how often you will post—a monthly blog and two to three social media posts per week are a good place to start. Next, fill in your blog calendar with topics. If you can’t decide what to write about, here are some ideas:
- Timely topics — Dental health in February and heartworm disease in April, for example
- Seasonal topics — Heat and cold safety
- Holiday-related topics — Chocolate toxicity, pancreatitis, and pet-safe holiday gifts
- Trends and news — New diets, pet food recalls, or disease outbreaks
- Practice updates — A new team member or new service
If all else fails, consider the questions your clients ask most frequently, and create topics around them.
#3: Research your topic
You are a veterinary expert, and can likely write about many topics off the top of your head, but posting accurate information is critical. Plus, a few relevant statistics, such as the number of positive heartworm cases in your county, or the prevalence of pet obesity, will grab your readers’ attention.
When researching, choose reputable resources to back up your information, such as:
- AVMA resources and tools
- Veterinary college websites
- American Heartworm Society
- Companion Animal Parasite Council
#4: Create an outline
Starting with an outline may remind you of eighth grade English class, but without an organizational framework, your blog may start off about heartworm disease, but end up about the importance of preventive lab work. While the topics do overlap, your blog must be organized, with clearly stated main points. A rambling blog that changes topics three times will only leave your reader confused, and they likely will stop reading.
An outline also helps break up your writing into easily understood small chunks. When a reader opens a blog on their phone or tablet, one long text block will prompt them to quickly close the tab. Breaking up your blog into short paragraphs, and using subheads and bulleted lists liberally, will make the information more digestible.
#5: Fill in the details
Once you have your introductory paragraph and main ideas outlined, add supporting details. No need for eloquent sentences yet—quickly add the main facts you want to get across to the reader. This will ensure you include all the important details, and don’t get too long-winded while writing about the importance of tick prevention.
Lastly, go back and write each paragraph in complete sentences. The final writing shouldn’t take long, since you have already mapped out the basic outline and supporting details.
#6: Proofread and make edits
Always reread your writing at least twice, and then ask someone else—preferably with excellent writing skills—to proofread. Good writing involves a unique combination of creativity and technical skills, and everyone makes mistakes. Consider your initial work a first draft, and be willing to make changes and edits that will improve grammar and clarify your main points.
#7: Add photos
Everyone enjoys cute pet pictures! Adding a visual element will help catch a scroller’s eye, and increase the chance they will actually read your blog or Facebook post. You can use photos taken at your practice, but keep these points in mind:
- Avoid using photos with background clutter. A clean, clear background allows the reader to focus on the main image, and not be distracted by your messy counters.
- Obtain consent from pet owners before using photos of their pets.
- Obtain their consent before posting photos of your team members.
Alternatively, you can purchase a plan from an online photo library, such as Shutterstock or iStock, and choose from thousands of professional photos.
#8: Publish your post
Finally, publish your blog post on your website’s blog page, and spread the word to draw readers. Here are a few ways you can let people know about your blog post:
- Post a short “teaser” on Facebook with a link to the blog
- Send clients an email with a link to the blog
- Include a link in your monthly newsletter
- Include a link with your email signature
You won’t gain a heavy blog following right away, but engaging, educational content will help you build a loyal following over time.
#9: Write coordinating social media posts
Remember the blog outline you balked at? This also provides main points for several social media posts you can use throughout the month. Sprinkle in fun posts that include pet photos and behind-the-scenes peeks at practice life, and you’ll have a full social media calendar before you know it.
Like anything, getting started is the hardest part. Start by discussing a content calendar at your next team meeting—no need to tackle this on your own—and writing one blog to test the process. The more you write, the more intuitive writing becomes. And, if it still seems too much, let us do the work for you! Reach out to see how Rumpus can help boost your online presence.
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