Struggling With Social Media? Here’s Why You Should
11 years ago‘My friendships with those who aren’t on Facebook has suffered.’ That was an honest comment a friend made a few months ago when visiting Sydney. At the time I thought it a little harsh, but recently I’ve noticed that the relationships that are flourishing in my personal and business life, are those with whom I have most contact. This should not come as any surprise at all. When we befriend someone, whether it is at university, work or holiday, the common theme is proximity. We do not usually choose our friends then move close to them. We choose our location and then we build relationships locally based on common traits and values. The Facebook phenomenon adds a new level of complexity as it allows relationships to be formed, develop and flourish without the need for physical or ‘in person’ contact. Leading a life that straddles both the UK and Australia I can testify to that and I’ve noticed that a subtle shift in my network is occurring. I am developing interesting and unexpected relationships based not only on the use of Facebook, but also on Twitter, Skype, YouTube, Vimeo and LinkedIn. Also forums such as DVM 360 and VetPol. My world is gradually dividing along two lines, the ‘social media haves’ and the social media ‘have-nots’. The distance from which I run a UK based business pretty much demands it! So what does this have to do with vet practice? Well since launching the Double Bay Vet Clinic social media website I’ve also noticed that the clients that follow us on Facebook and twitter are not necessarily those that I’ve known the longest, or indeed that their pets have been the sickest (and hence most frequent visitors to the practice). They are however the people and pet’s with whom I feel the greatest personal bond and who tend to ask to see me specifically. They are also the most likely to drop in for treats and chats because they were passing. And why is this? Simple, it’s because each interaction between people has the effect of deepening a relationship. It doesn’t matter if you are talking or tweeting. What matters is that you are being you and you are helping people. Clients are just regular people like you and me. As humans we have a natural tendency to reach out and connect, build relationships and form communities. In Britain and Australia we often hear about the breakdown of community. Perhaps that is true, or perhaps we are looking for community in the wrong place. My personal community is not localised by geography, but it is linked together by technology. I’m thousands of miles away but feel completely part of the life of everyone who I interact with online – whether they are new friends I met travelling, or old ones from school, university or my London life. If they are online and using social media then I’m connected, bonded and the relationships are strengthening. If they are not, then the relationships are standing still in time. As vets we have always had a privileged and respected place at the centre of our local communities. Globalisation will not help our businesses grow as we have a product that will always be made and consumed locally (Internet clinical exams cannot and do not work). Our prosperity depends on maintaining strong local relationships. So it is essential that we recognise that our community is changing the way it builds and interacts. Perhaps this is even more prevalent or necessary in rural, geographically disconnected areas than in cities. Yesterday we picked up the phone. Today we email. Tomorrow we use social media. It may be a technology with which you are not familiar or even scared, but if you want to remain relevant and central to your community (and you must develop relationships to do so) then it is time to learn a new skill and overcome a conservative fear of change. Social media is not the exclusive preserve of teenagers (though Gen Y was the early adopter). Social media is not about selling or doing business directly. The clue is in the name. SOCIAL media is about building community and relationships with more people than was possible before, one tweet at a time. Business only ever prospers on the back of strong trusting relationships. In this regard, interactions on Facebook can help veterinary practices a great deal. The digital age is here and it needs engagement from all walks of life. It is high time for us vets to take our place at the heart of these (or should I say our) new online, local communities.
30th September, 2010 14h36
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