The use of social media by veterinary professionals is on the rise, and veterinary students being able to use it in a professional manner is becoming an important. After all, it’s a critical skill for new veterinarians.
Along with learning your anatomy and pathology, it’s a good idea to start learning the skill of using social media while you’re still in veterinary school. By starting in vet school, you can make good habits, find your voice and build a following.
Most students in this generation have a good understanding of the different social media platforms, and they have personal accounts on many of them.
But how do you begin to make your professional profile and assure that your content is portraying your true self in an appropriate, professional way?
I’ve got a few tips for finding your professional veterinary voice online.
1) Protect your Personal Accounts
Most veterinary students already have personal accounts on some form of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Getting into vet school means choosing to enter a respected career, and therefore your actions online can reflect on yourself, your school, and the profession.
For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of what you make available to the public online. Even if you aren’t going to make a separate professional profile, you definitely still need look into the privacy settings on your different social media accounts.
Facebook: You shouldn’t have to give up this great personal social network; you just need to set some boundaries. Being familiar with the privacy settings in Facebook is important, because they tend to change quite frequently.
- Make it a habit to check your privacy settings each semester.
- Utilize the “View profile as…” function. (Here’s how!) It allows you to view your profile as a member of the public you’re not friends with (like maybe a professor, potential client or potential employer), and then you can see just how much you make visible to those you don’t know.
- Remember that things like your cover photo cannot be made private!
Twitter & Instagram: You might want to consider making your Instagram and Twitter profiles “protected,” which means people need to request to follow you to get access to your content. If you’re using Instagram to document your partying habits or amateur underwear modeling, or if you have a habit of using profanities on Twitter, you might want to consider this “protected” setting. A good rule is if you post things you wouldn’t want your grandma or a potential employer to see, protect your account.
Lastly, don’t let the word “protected” lull you into a false sense of security. Nothing on the internet is ever fully protected or deleted, and you may never know how your online material is being shared.
2) Start fresh with a professional profile
Alright, so your personal social content is now more private, and you’re ready to make your shiny new profile. Once you sign up for an account, the site will often walk you through the beginning steps.
Pick a “professional” username: Usually the first thing you need to pick is your username or your “handle.” When people want to interact with you they can type @YourUsername to tag you. You want something fairly short, descriptive, and spelled correctly.
It can be as simple as your first and last name, or your name with “DVM” on the end, or DVM Student. You can be creative as you want, but this is one thing that people will remember about your profile so that they can interact with you! So maybe @JustinBiebersWife isn’t quite right for this purpose… plus it’s probably already taken!
Choose your most vet-tastic profile pic: Next will most likely be a profile picture, which is a great opportunity to use a snappy shot of you in scrubs, coveralls or lab coat, or interacting with your beloved pet.
Just remember that if the animal in the picture isn’t yours, you have to have consent to share that picture… this goes for any teaching animals at school!
Your profile picture will be its best if it:
- Looks like you
- Is not shot from too far away
- Does not have multiple people in the picture
- Shows you looking natural, relaxed and confident
Have a descriptive, professional bio: Last but definitely not least, is your bio. Keep it short and concise. This is your time to use keywords that can help people find you in order to follow you. Use words like “veterinary student,” include your school’s name, your graduating class, or your particular interests if you have them (like “equine” or “dairy”).
You can also include your location which will help geographically close users find you. There is often space to include a link in your bio, so this is a great spot to link to a blog or your LinkedIn profile.
Be honest and informative, and don’t be afraid to spend some time on this! Your bio is one of the first things a potential follower will see, so you want to let them know what you’re all about so they know you’re worth the follow!
3) Know your vet school’s social media policies and philosophies
Hopefully the first 2 steps are fairly easy for most capable millennials! The difficult part comes when you need to add some bite to your bark. What should you post? Better yet, what are you allowed to post? This is worth some investigation.
Your best bet is to start searching for other veterinary students and veterinary professionals and see what kind of stuff they are posting. This can give you some ideas for how to get creative. (I think I may do a post on this at some point! So stay tuned…)
I strongly suggest you look into what your school is up to on social media. Find out what platforms they are on, what they’ve been posting, and who is in charge of the accounts. Look into your school’s policies on social media, client/patient confidentiality, and sharing of photos or videos. Once you are fluent in these things, you can start to find inspiration by looking for things you can share!
It also helps to know where your school stands on getting students involved in social media, and where you might be able to share your stories.
I talked to a few communications officers at different vet schools in order to give a more diverse look at various philosophies about vet students on social media.
I sincerely hope this post inspires you to begin creating your own professional spot on social media, and gives you some helpful information on how to start! Follow me on Twitter @SFinnDVMStudent and I will enthusiastically follow you back. If you want more stuff like this, check out my post about Twitter on my blog. And look out for more posts here on SnoutSchool.com
A special thanks to Ontario Veterinary College’s Instagram (@OntVetCollege) for the student photos used within this series.