Balance Marketing & Advertising to Up Your Vet Practice’s Social Media Game

Advertising and marketing are essential tools for any veterinary practice that wants to succeed in the marketplace, and social media is a crucial launching point for your brand’s journey. It’s where you can start putting out great content for your target audience to spark curiosity and cultivate interest that can, over time, grow into a long-term relationship. But failure to understand the differences between marketing and advertising could be preventing your business from growing like it should. As important as it is to advertise, you need to know when and how to do it. If you’re advertising to people who are just learning about your brand for the first time or who aren’t fully committed to or interested in what you have to offer, selling to them won’t just be pointless—it’ll be costing you time and money. Does this sound like a problem you’re having? Step back and take a good look at what you’re doing to promote your business. Even the most successful brands keep looking for ways to improve their message, because the marketplace is constantly changing and consumers are more in control than ever before. People want brands that are willing to go the extra mile to earn their business.

How are Advertising and Marketing Different?

Glad you asked. When you advertise, you’re calling a product or service to the public’s attention with the use of paid, non-personal announcements. In simpler terms, you’re generating curiosity about your brand’s products and/or services and influencing buyer behavior. Marketing is about convincing people that your products and/or services are exactly what they need, and that your brand is worth their time and attention. You’re working to gain a following and earn trust from your audience so they’ll want to learn more, engage with your company, and eventually become a loyal customer.

Does Your Vet Practice have a Social Media Presence?

A social media presence is sorely needed for today’s veterinarians. If you’re starting from scratch, take some time to explore Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and other channels before setting down your roots. Do your homework and see which platforms are best suited to marketing and advertising your products and services. As you’re settling into your social media presence, evaluate your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Who’s your audience? What’s your brand voice? Social Media Examiner’s insightful social media marketing style guide can help you create the blueprint for a winning social media marketing strategy.

Why You Need a Social Media Platform (or Two) for Your Practice

Social media platforms aren’t just a soapbox for your practice to stand on. They give you the opportunity to build trust with area pet parents and provide value in the form of helpful tips, engaging stories, quick lessons, attractive infographics, video testimonials, and more. Social media is the first step in the audience experience. It’s the stage at which your practice has the opportunity to deliver the right content to the right people. You’re not making sales just yet–the followers you gain will probably not be in a buying mindset. People don’t use social media to be pitched to by businesses looking to make a sale. The sale needs to come later, when you’ve gained the trust of a committed audience that is willing to sacrifice its time, attention, and personal information to stay connected to your practice.

What Kind of Content are You Delivering on Social Media?

If your veterinary practice is already established on the appropriate social media platforms, consider what kind of content you’re producing for each. While social media makes it easier for brands to reach their target audience, it can’t create your content for you. Not sure whether you’re creating the right content? Reevaluate the messages you’re putting out. Are people eagerly responding, or giving you the cold shoulder?

You Might Be Over-Advertising to Your Audience

Advertising supports your marketing efforts and helps to generate curiosity about your practice. But if you’re focused ­only on advertising, you’re missing the opportunity to engage with people who might not know about you or who might be on the fence. No one wants to know your brand’s life story right off the bat (don’t take it personally); they want to know what you can do for them. If you don’t show your audience that you have the solutions they’re looking for, they’ll look to someone who can.

How to Market on Social Media without Alienating People

The right social media marketing campaign gives you the opportunity to show your audience how you can solve their problems and make life better. Appeal to their needs—not yours. Your content should demonstrate how well you can relate to their struggles and give them what they need to overcome them. Recognize that by benefiting your audience, you’re also giving your brand a boost and positioning yourself as an authority in the veterinary industry. As a veterinarian or practice owner, you know why you’re in this business–you care. A lot. And that level of caring needs to shine through in all of your social media posts and marketing efforts.

Provide Value without Trying to Sell

One major way to do this is by providing value to your audience through information. This can include tips for keeping your pet safe, ways to tell if a pet has an allergy, or anything else that is relevant to your audience’s needs. Lay out a clear 3- or 4-step plan to show how your brand can aid them in their journey to a better life, and give them an easy way to connect with you if they want to know more (this is where the hard-hitting call to action comes in).

Make Your Audience a Part of Your Story

The best stories brands can tell are the ones in which people can see themselves. We all gravitate to brands that fit into our world; they share in our beliefs, understand our struggles, and appeal to our personal tastes. In a sense, they are an extension of ourselves. Marketing should never be a one-way street; every successful business puts considerable effort into creating outstanding content that inspires conversation, interaction, and loyalty. Here are some popular marketing campaign ideas to try:
  • Instagram stories, which can feature lifestyle tips and tricks about pet care, or they can educate your followers about solving common pet-related problems.
  • Leverage user-generated content to increase your brand’s authenticity and strengthen your connection with your audience. People love being acknowledged and having the chance to share their own stories and experiences. Plus, engaging with your followers is a great way to start a conversation, build connections, and show that you care.
  • Create and share interactive graphics and videos to convey information without turning your audience into passive consumers. On the Web, the consumer has control, so you need to make sure that your content is appealing directly to their interests. Offer yourself up as the guide they didn’t know they were looking for. Help them see themselves in the stories you share.

Combine Advertising and Marketing for a Cohesive Veterinary Social Media Strategy

Let’s recap. Marketing is how to best speak to your target audience and convey your value in meeting their needs. Advertising allows you to strategically show the audience that your products and services exist. You can use your marketing strategy to do several things: Gain followers, generate leads, and maintain an ongoing relationship with your existing followers and clients. It’s through your advertising efforts that you should work to convert leads into legitimate sales, and, hopefully, lifetime customers. What you need to get your social media marketing and advertising off the ground:
  • A comprehensive social media strategy that incorporates both marketing and advertising (your advertising materials should include a clear CTA).
  • Post consistently and frequently enough to keep your audience engaged, but don’t agonize about posting content every day. Create a schedule that you know you’ll be able to stick to.
  • Distribute your ad campaigns across multiple social media channels, but avoid posting duplicate content. Make small changes to the content to keep it fresh.
  • Invest in evergreen content that you can update regularly so it stays relevant and capable of attracting new followers.
  • Don’t be too much of a penny-pincher. While putting out ads on social media can certainly cost money, you need to consider the long-term benefits. If your ads are hitting the mark time and again, you can expect a hefty ROI. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
  • Share compelling, interactive content. Videos and surveys are extremely popular, but you can also create quizzes, polls, infographics, and more to shake things up and get people interested.
Advertising and marketing have little effect if one is favored over the other. To get the sales your veterinary practice needs, you have to build an overarching strategy that seamlessly combines both.