Do your clients know if you’re open during the COVID-19 crisis?
Short version: With businesses all across the country closing because of the coronavirus crisis, your clients may not realize that your veterinary practice is an essential service. But there are a few steps you can take to change that.
The last month has been the longest year in many of our lives. From the news about increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, to the shelter in place orders, to the sad stories about businesses closing and people losing their jobs… well, it’s been overwhelming.
For those running veterinary practices, the situation presents a unique set of challenges. You’re considered an essential service, but even in the best of times, many people don’t think to bring their pet in for exams, dental cleanings, or vaccines.
Yet, most people are spending more time than ever with their pets. So, they’re probably noticing symptoms and behavioral issues they might have overlooked even just a few weeks ago.
So to the primary question of this article – do your clients know you’re open? I mean, like really know it?
Sure, you may have sent an email to all your clients when the pandemic began, and maybe even posted a message on your website. But regular people have been so overwhelmed with information that – even if they read every word you shared – they may not remember anymore.
So, let’s remind them you’re open for business, and give them an update on what services you can provide.
Before we begin, a quick note…
Before we dive in to the steps you can take, let’s take one quick step back.
All of these suggestions are based on two assumptions. One, that you’ve made protocol and procedural changes within your practice to keep your team members, clients, and patients safe (curbside check-in, telemedicine, etc.). And two, that you won’t be encouraging people to ignore stay at home orders.
The whole idea is that pets will need care during these crazy times, but their owners may not realize veterinary clinics like yours are open and considered essential services. So we just want to remind them.
And with that said, let’s dive in…
Steps to take
Below is a broader checklist of things you can do to remind clients you’re open. Today, we’re going to be focusing purely on the social media part of it. We’ll cover the other topics in future posts.
Checklist for updating your clients
- Post an update on social media
- Update your Google Business Listing
- Update your Yelp Listing
- Add information to your automatic reminder emails
- Update your website
- Send an email to clients
We’re focusing on social media today for a couple reasons.
- People are spending all their days isolated at home, and are craving social connections. Consequently, usage of apps like Facebook and Instagram have skyrocketed in recent weeks. So it can be a great place to reach people right now.
- It’s free to post updates on those platforms, so they’re a useful resource when you’re trying to shave costs in your practice.
- Since these platforms are inherently visual, they provide a unique opportunity for standing out from the crowd in interesting ways.
1. Download our free resource kit
This is totally optional, but will save you a TON of time. We’ve created free emoji-based resources that you can use to update your clients. They’re based on the protocol changes we’ve been seeing many practices adopt, and are condensed down into bite-sized updates that are perfect for sharing.
Mix & Match
In the kit, you can think of the individual graphics as slides dedicated to different policies. So, you can pick and choose the ones to share depending on which protocols you’ve adopted in your practice. For example, if you’re offering curbside check-in, want to promote your online store, and you’re limiting your hours, you could just use the slides for those. But if you’re also offering telemedicine, than you could include that slide too.
If any of the text in the slides doesn’t work for your practice, or we missed a big policy, please get in touch! We’ll happily create slides for major policies or make alternate versions if there’s a different way of doing things.
Alternatively: If you want to create your own graphics, we’ll include recommended dimensions throughout the rest of this article. The key things to remember if you create your own graphics are that they should be easy to understand quickly – and that it’s OK to use several images rather than cramming everything onto a single slide.
2. Update your Facebook Profile Picture
We recommend starting with this one for a few reasons. It’s the quickest update you can make, and it will be visible next to every future post you share (so it will reinforce the message). Also, Facebook’s algorithm seems to really like changes to things like profile pictures, so it may end up showing the update to more of your followers.
If you’ve used Facebook recently, you’ve probably seen some of your friends add a special graphic on top of their profile image to say things like “Stay Home, Save Lives” or “#Quaranteam”.
This is a Facebook feature called Frames, and did you know you can use it on your practice’s profile photo too?
But rather than using a frame intended for the average Facebook user, we’ve made special frames just for veterinary practices. You can add them – for free – to your practice’s profile photo as a quick way to remind clients you’re open, and that you’re dedicated to helping their pets.
How To: You can add a frame by logging in to your practice’s Facebook profile on a computer, then clicking to update the photo, and choosing Add a Frame. From there, just search for “Vetfini”, select one of the Frames, and add a caption. (For more detailed instructions, head over to our Frame How To Guide here)
Alternatively: If you’d like to create your own custom profile photo from scratch, you can use whichever graphics editing program you’d like. But since Facebook displays profile photos as circles in most contexts, we recommend starting with a square image, and then testing to make sure any important messaging will still be visible when Facebook crops it to fit within a circle.
Once you’ve added the frame, your followers will see a post show up in their feed. The next step is to share a post on Facebook.
3. Post a Carousel on Facebook
Typically when businesses share links on Facebook, they use the basic post format. That’s all fine and good, but Facebook does offer some more interesting ways of sharing updates.
One of our favorites is the Carousel.
By posting an update using the Carousel, your followers will see a scrollable collection of images. And since this type of post isn’t used as frequently as a standard link, it tends to pique people’s curiosity, making it more likely that they’ll swipe through to see what information it contains.
How To: You can post a carousel by logging in to your practice’s Facebook page on a computer, and clicking the Add a Photo button. Then, select Carousel from the list of options, paste a URL, and upload your slides one-by-one. (For more detailed instructions, head over to our Carousel How To Guide here)
In our Resource Kit, we’ve included a folder of graphics formatted specifically for the Carousel. They’re square, and should fit nicely within the confines of this scrollable post.
Alternatively: If you’d like to create your own graphics from scratch, you can use whatever graphics program you like. However, make sure you format the images to be square (1080 pixels x 1080 pixels) – otherwise they’ll be cropped when you include them in the carousel.
4. Share a swipe-able Instagram Post
If you’re familiar with Instagram, you know the most popular format for sharing photos is the square layout. But did you know that you can also post photos (and videos) that are taller so they take up more of the screen? And you can also share a single post that contains a swipe-able collection of multiple photos and/or videos? ?
When you use these features together, you can create much more engaging posts – making it more likely your clients will see what you have to say. (Compared to, say, sharing a single image).
In our kit, we’ve included versions of the policy slides formatted specifically for the taller portrait orientation. And similar to the Facebook Carousel, you can include a collection of images to share all your policy updates in a single, swipe-able, post.
How To: You’ll need to transfer the policy slides to your phone’s photo library. Then, sign in to your practice’s account within the Instagram app. Tap the button to create a new post and select the first slide, then tap the expand button followed by the multi-select button. From there, just select the other slides you want to include (in the order you want them to show up), add a caption, and share. (For more detailed instructions, check out our Multiple-Image Post How To Guide here)
Alternatively: If you’d like to create your own graphics from scratch, just make sure you format them in a 4:5 aspect ratio (1080 pixels wide, by 1350 pixels tall).
5. Share a story on Instagram (and Facebook)
The Story is a relatively new feature on both Instagram and Facebook. It’s a way of sharing content that will disappear after 24 hours. And because it’s only available for a short period of time, both Instagram and Facebook prominently feature stories at the top of their user interfaces to make sure people have an opportunity to see it.
So, in our kit, we include versions of the policy slides formatted for the super-tall aspect ratio used by Stories.
How To: To post a story, you’ll first need to transfer the Story slides over to your phone’s photo library. Then, log in to your practice’s account within the Instagram app. From there, go to the main screen of the app and tap the camera icon in the upper left corner. A camera viewer will take over the screen, but if you tap the small square thumbnail in the bottom left corner, you’ll be taken to your photo library. Tap the Select Multiple button at the top of the screen, then tap all the slides you want to include – in the order you want to include them. In our kit, we include a little “explainer” slide to help tell people how to pause a story – so make sure to include that after the “We’re Open” slide. (For more detailed instructions, check out our Story How To Guide here)
Tip: If you have your Instagram account linked to your Facebook Page, when you post a story on Instagram you can share to Facebook right from Instagram. This can save a bunch of time.
Alternatively: If you’d like to create your own graphics, they should fit in a 9:16 aspect ratio (1080 pixels wide x 1920 pixels tall). You can also use the app itself to take pictures or record videos, and add your own text and graphic overlays.
Add the story to a “Highlight”
Although stories are designed to only stick around for 24 hours, you can actually make them a permanent part of your profile by creating a Highlight.
Highlights function as little collections, and you can add any story to one. So, for example, let’s say you wanted to regularly share updates about how your practice is handling the COVID-19 crisis. If you create an “COVID-19” highlight, you could add any future stories, and they’ll all be collected in one place. Then, if a client was interested, they could dive in to all the stories you posted about that topic. (You could do something similar with photos/videos you share of cute animals in your practice too)
In the Instagram Story folder in our resource kit, there’s another folder labeled “Extra”. In there, you’ll find a special graphic created just to be used as the Cover Image for a highlight.
How To: Check out our Highlight How To Guide for instructions on how to do this.
Stagger the posts
If you want to post all these messages quickly, you can certainly share them all on the same day. However, if you have a little more patience, one thing that can help your message sink in better is spreading out the posts over the course of several days or a week.
For example, on day 1 you could update your Profile Photo and share your Story. Then, a couple days later, you share the swipe-able post on Instagram. Then, a couple days after that, share the carousel on Facebook.
Why spread them out?
In advertising, there are concepts called reach and frequency. To make the biggest impact, you want to be showing your message to as many people as possible (reach) – however, most people won’t take action on a message the first time they see it. So, you need to show it to them a few times before your message will sink in (frequency).
By spreading out your posts, you increase the frequency at which a client might see your message (if they follow you on all the social platforms). Whereas, if you post all the messages at the same time, even though they might see the message several times, it won’t have quite the same impact.
Promote your posts
Research from past recessions has found that businesses that continue advertising during an economic downturn have better odds at surviving in the long run than businesses that cut all advertising.
So, something to consider is using the “Promote a post” feature of Facebook and Instagram. You can set small budgets, and it’s a great way to get your policy updates in front of more of your existing clients, as well as possibly reaching new clients who might need your services.
If you’re promoting a post that contains a lot of text in the images, Facebook may not show the post as often. So, you may want to experiment with boosting different types of posts.
We’re all in this together…
If there’s something that’d help your veterinary practice during these crazy times, please reach out! We’re dedicated to adding more free resources and budget-friendly solutions to help veterinarians get through this crisis.
If you’d like to hear when we add more resources – like shareable FAQs for your clients – make sure to sign up for updates.