Social Check-ins Add Marketing Meaning to Veterinary Appointments
By Judy Brown, Client Success Coach
Many parts of the Appointment Stage of the Customer Journey are individualized experiences. Appointment scheduling, front lobby greetings, and patient treatment occur one at a time, for each pet and client, influencing that client’s decision to bond to your practice. But there is something that happens in this Appointment Stage that can instantly help with bonding and retention of individual clients, advocacy and influence toward pet owners who are considering your practice, plus awareness to attract new clients: social check-ins.
Social check-ins go beyond engagement by enlisting your clients to promote your brand. When a pet owner physically visits your office, they can also virtually “check-in” on social networks, as well as post photos and tag your practice. Their friends can see these check-ins and posts, including those local to you. This is part of the “new” word-of-mouth marketing, which often takes place online rather than face-to-face. In real time, social check-ins can allow appointments to create positive buzz in your community for your veterinary practice.
Check Out What Check-ins Can Do
While a check-in can allow you to connect to current customers on a higher level, it can also provide a sense of authenticity associated with your practice for those looking for a veterinarian. To understand this, think of a check-in like a review, something 88% of consumers trust as much as a personal recommendation, not to mention that a recommendation from family and friends can carry more weight over any other source. When others see that check-in, they see someone who enjoys and trusts the services of whom they are seeing.
A check-in can potentially expand your audience by bringing who you are into the community of your followers, who may have hundreds of local friends that want to be a part of this experience as well.
Where Should those Physical and Virtual Check-ins Converge?
As 77% of all cell phone users have smartphones, it’s incredibly easy to access the right social platforms. And since check-ins mainly take place on those social platforms, they can even be fun!
In some form, check-ins and tagging can happen on several different online platforms. However, there are three channels that work best for veterinary practices for a few reasons: they’re heavily-used by pet owners, they’re simple to use, and their influence carries a great deal of weight. Therefore, you should be encouraging social check-ins and tagging from your clients on Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp.
Facebook Check-ins and Business Tagging
With Facebook there are two options: create a “check-in” post, or simply tag a business page in a photo or other post. This will help create engageable content for that Facebook user’s visit which you can later respond to, showing that the care you give goes beyond that visit itself.
Instagram Location Tags
Instagram does not offer a specific check-in option, but does allow you to add a location and tag a business account in a post, much like Facebook. However, Instagram users can also tag a business as a location. When adding a photo, your client can tap to add a location, choosing your practice.
Yelp Check-ins Can Lead to Reviews
Yelp, while not specifically a social channel, will prompt users to leave a review once they check-in to a business on that platform. This is a valuable way for your clients to show potential new clients why they should choose you for their “four-legged children.” Not only can this increase your visibility on Yelp, but it is also a great way to get reviews here since Yelp’s guidelines advise against actually asking for reviews.
Get Your Clients to Opt-in to Check-ins
So, check-ins are easy, fun, and valuable, but how can you - as the business owner - make those check-ins happen?
- Offer a value-add with something that could be low-cost to you but high-value to your clients. For example, you could offer a complimentary “gourmet” treat to patients during their visit when their owners check-in.
- Be creative by offering an “extra” with a much-needed service, such as additional “snuggle” time during boarding, or extended play time outside during daycare.
- Or simply ask! “Love us? Tell your friends!”
We understand that receptionists may have their hands full with ringing phones, clients checking in and out, and management of appointment flow. They can’t be solely responsible for asking every single client to check-in every single time. Thankfully, there are a few tools and techniques that can help provide that check-in reminder!
In your front lobby or exam rooms, consider the following:
- Window stickers, which can be easily obtained from Yelp or purchased through resources such as Amazon or VistaPrint.
- Signs with your social channel names and any hashtags you would like clients to use when they check-in.
- A lobby “photo booth,” decorated for current holidays or seasons. Make sure to use signs that clearly indicate the social platforms and hashtags you’d like clients to use for location posts and check-ins. Then let the fun happen!
Bonus: Tie these into your community involvement efforts by pledging donations to charity with each check-in or location tag!
- A chalkboard or dry erase board as a sign to welcome new patients by name, plugging in your social channels and practice name ahead of time.
- A TV or computer monitor, with a looped slideshow video. Add a slide asking clients to check-in, then update the video with slides to showcase previous photo and check-in posts.
No matter how you incentivize or ask for a check-in, be sure to have a hashtag that is memorable and branded to you on your signs, stickers, photo booth, etc. This will not only allow you to find these posts easily so you can engage later, but it also gives you a wealth of User Generated Content (UGC) that you can reshare. And with or without a hashtag, routinely search your own location on your social platforms as clients might not always tell you that they have checked in or posted about their visit.
Exposure through free publicity is important in driving potential new clients through your doors, and what better way to do this than with your own brand ambassadors, existing clients, and even new clients? Your existing clients can educate those who have not heard of you yet, while new clients are showing that the first step to choosing a veterinarian is easier than they thought. And all of this can happen during a single veterinary appointment!
While you’re working on checking in, don’t forget to check out GeniusVets on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, too. And be sure to join our Facebook Group for Veterinary Marketing Professionals, so that you can learn and share with marketers just like you!