Tweak your Tweets: Simple tips for more effective Twitter presence

Does your practice use Twitter? While there have been countless articles in our trade publications and nearly as many seminars at conferences on why you should — and yes, you should! — many veterinary practices that are already doing so took their first steps in the wrong direction. But don’t worry: It’s easy to get back on the right track.

A few months ago at VPI we decided to up our social media presence in the veterinary community. We knew we had a lot of information to share — such as our ground-breaking VPI-Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study (download here or just click on the link on the right-hand side of this page) — and we weren’t doing as good a job of it as we could be. I became the face of our veterinary community social media, which in some ways struck me as amusing, since I didn’t even have a Facebook account at the time.

SelfieThose of you who know me understand that when I set out to do something, I study and plan to master whatever skills it requires. I think this is pretty common among those of us in the veterinary community, don’t you? And so in short order I had a blog (this one), a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I took my first selfie (with Dr. Patty Khuly, one of the early adopters of social media in our profession) at the NAVC Conference, and I never looked back.

What I saw on Twitter at #AVMAConv

At the recent AVMA Convention, I tried to keep my Twitter feed hopping, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. I have come to enjoy the enhanced community feeling that comes from sharing a “hashtag” at an event — just as long as everyone remembers to experience the event, not just tweet about it!

Soon I noticed veterinarians and veterinary practices starting to follow my Twitter feed during #AVMAConv, and I quickly followed them  back. And then in my down time, I started looking at the veterinary practices I was following. After I looked at quite a few, I saw some common issues that need to be fixed.  Are they your issues as well? Here’s my list, along with my suggestions on quick fixes to get you back on track:

1)Tell people who you are. While you need to create as short a Twitter handle as possible, acronyms such as “AH” (for “Animal Hospital”) aren’t well as well understood as we  in the veterinary community think they are. So whatever your Twitter handle is (mine’s @VPIvetchannel), make sure you spell out in your profile exactly who and what you are: The full name of your business, and that it is a veterinary practice and what kind of veterinary practice you are. What makes you special? Use a few words sharing that information, too.

2) Tell people where you are.  I bet there are a couple dozen “Lakeview Veterinary Hospitals,” and the same with practices named after the streets they’re on. Main Street Veterinary Hospital? Broad Street Animal Hospital? Good for you for a central location … but what city are you in? There are some city names that show up in multiple states. Is yours one of them? There are Lexingtons in 18 different states. Are you sure your clients know the town and state your practice is in? Make sure it’s in the description, along with your address, phone number and website.

av3) Get  an avatar that pops. Your Twitter avatar is that little square that shows up inside your “header image” on your profile page, and next to your handle everywhere else you post. I noticed lots and lots of practices have been popping their practice logos into that little square, and that’s OK if your logo “reads” when tiny, and also says “pet care” in the imagery.  If it doesn’t, find a local graphic artist who can turn your logo into something that works in the confines of an avatar. We asked a graphic artist to “super-charge” a picture of me for my avatar. Even in a small size, this little image stands out — and says “VPI.”

4) Give your background the “aaaaawww” factor.  I know that you’re proud of your beautiful practice, but unless you’re an architect a picture of a building isn’t going to be as evocative as a picture of a pet. Choose two or three sharp, clear and happy pictures of pets, crop them to cover photo dimensions (you can use free photo editing software such as Pixlr) and rotate them occasionally to represent all the animals you see — cats, dogs and exotics, for example. No red-eye shots of dogs, no cluttered backgrounds on cats. And resist the urge to use a picture of your own pet unless it’s a great picture.  (Here’s a helpful post on choosing and using images  on  social media platforms. And if you don’t think you can do a great job with this, ask your graphic artist to design your header, too.)

See? I told you these were easy fixes!

I’ll talk about some guidelines for choosing content in another post, with some information I picked up at AVMA sessions on fighting “internet myths” and how to compete with “Dr. Google.” Stay tuned!