Are you new to using Twitter for your veterinary business? Twitter is a great social media tool that you can use to represent your animal hospital or veterinary industry company. It’s not all just for fun, though! The Bayer Usage Study found that the hospitals actually seeing an INCREASE in visits had a social media presence!

Twitter allows you to connect directly with individuals and brands in a format that resembles texting. Twitter is like having the most complete list of contacts in your phonebook ever! It’s a powerful networking tool, as well as a great easy way to contact veterinary clients directly without having to give out your cell phone number.

Each message you compose on Twitter is called a “tweet.” Like Facebook, Twitter has a feed, and it’s composed of tweets from those who you can follow. You can follow a huge variety of Twitter users, from other veterinary professionals, to news organizations to Oreo. (Yum!) Everyone on Twitter is represented by their username, which is called a “handle.” Each handle starts with the “@” symbol. For example, my Twitter handle is @DanielleSNOUT. However, there’s a few things you should know before diving into the Twitterverse!

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DON’T: Link your Facebook & Twitter.

An understandable rookie mistake that a lot of Twitter newbies make is linking their Facebook & Twitter. Sure – it sounds like it’s going to save you time, but why did you start a Twitter if you’re going to share the same content as Facebook?

Keep each social media platform a little unique. It might take a bit of extra time, but it will help you to succeed in the end.

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DO: Start Following People & Companies

Pretend you’re walking into a veterinary conference where you don’t know anyone. You have to go up to people and introduce yourself, right? When you’re starting on Twitter, you’ll need to follow others – that’s your introduction! To follow someone, you simply go to their profile and click the “follow” button. See here:

veterinary twitter profile

When you follow another veterinary professional on Twitter, they will get a notification. They will have the option to follow you back or not. Increase your odds of your new Twitter friend following you back by sending a tweet to say, “Hello!”

You can follow me, @DanielleSNOUT, by clicking here. It’s actually the best way to get in touch with me!

Need some other ideas of who to follow? Here are links to a few of my favorite Twitter users in the veterinary industry:

1.) @OnTheFloorDove: The main Twitter for veterinary training & CE website, On The Floor at Dove. Cool tip: Most members of the Dove team have their own Twitter. @MeganAtDove, @MonicaAtDove & @RonAtDove are just a few of the Dove accounts that you should check out!

2.) @PetPlan: This pet insurance company knows what they’re doing on social media! Check out how they’re using Twitter to get inspiration for your veterinary business’ social media strategy.

3.) @DrAndyRoark: Dr. Andy Roark is a veterinarian that shows his personality on social media. Follow him for a laugh!

4.) @VMDTechnology: Great resource for updates on all things technology-related in the veterinary industry

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DON’T Forget to Check Your Notifications

veterinary twitter profileOnce you do start following people, you need to be ready to respond! Twitter is all about response time, so make sure you have good etiquette by checking up on your notifications a few times a day.

This is especially important if you’re using Twitter to represent a veterinary practice or company. Ignoring a tweet from a client is equivalent to not answering a phone call!

On mobile, you check your notifications at the bottom of your screen. There’s a small bell symbol. On desktop, veterinary professionals can find their notifications at the top of the screen, where you can click a link that says, ” @ Connect”.

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DO: Use The “@” Symbol to Message People

Want to write a public tweet directly to an individual or company? Write the “@” symbol, followed by their Twitter handle. After that, you can write out your message. They will get a notification, and you will be able to start a conversation. If you have something more personal to say, you can use the direct messaging feature.

Not sure what I mean? Here’s an example of me sending a public tweet to Ron from On The Floor At Dove:

on the floor at dove twitter

After I wrote that tweet to @RonAtDove, he got a notification. He has now been warned that I might steal his pug.

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DON’T: Start Your Message with @ If You Want Others to See

Sometimes you’re writing a tweet to someone, but you want EVERYONE who follows you to see it. For example, maybe you’re writing an answer to someone’s question. Maybe someone else has the same question, so why not make it available for all who follow you to see!?

Here’s the problem: If you’re responding to someone on Twitter or trying to message them, you’ll likely start your tweet with the “@” symbol, just like I did with that message about @RonAtDove’s pug. However, starting a tweet with “@” will prevent your other followers from seeing the message, unless they follow the same person or company you’re tweeting to. If people don’t follow @RonAtDove, they didn’t see me threaten to steal his dog. They don’t know I’m a potential puppy stealer!

Tip: Start your tweet with a period! Writing a simple “.” before the “@” symbol will ensure that your tweet shows up in everyone’s feed. Here is an example:

Veterinary Tweet  Example

Now that I wrote that tweet to @TheSocialDVM with a “.” before her handle, everyone that follows me can see that important tweet about the Bayer Usage Study’s findings, even if they don’t follow @TheSocialDVM.

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DO: Use Hashtags

Twitter not only allows you to message people with the “@” symbol, it lets you track topics through the “#” symbol, called a “hashtag.” Different events & discussions will have a hashtag.

For example, if you’re at the Western Veterinary Conference, people are using the hashtags #2014WVC or #WVC2014. If you write those in your tweet, people who are tracking either hashtag will be able to see your tweet. This is especially useful if you’re a veterinary industry company or flying solo at a conference. You can jump in on the conversation at a conference very easily!

To track tags and see what people are talking about, you just type them in the spots highlighted below and hit “enter” to search! Then you will see the results, which look like this:

western veterinary conference twitter

See how that works? Now you could hit the “reply” button, and shoot a tweet to anyone else at the conference!

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DON’T: Go #Hashtag Crazy

Don’t go insane with your hashtag use. No one wants to #read #a #tweet #that #looks #like #this. One or two on each tweet is enough!

You can create your own custom hashtag by just typing it! (It just can’t include another symbol within it, like a $ or !. So #VeterinariansAtWestern could be a good hashtag, but #Vets@WesternVet wouldn’t work. The tag would stop at the @ symbol, so your hashtag would just be #Vets.) But there’s a downside to making your own hashtag.

Making your own hashtag isn’t always the best solution. For example, if you’re at a veterinary conference, you should stick with the most popular hashtags for the conference. If you make up your own, you might miss out on being a part of all the great conversations other veterinary professionals are having. Remember – you’re using Twitter to be SOCIAL!

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DO: Use Photos

Photos recently started to show up in the Twitter newsfeed. Bring your tweets to life with an image! This is especially easy when you’re using the mobile version of Twitter on your phone. Think about tweeting update photos on the patients you have in your hospital that day. Wouldn’t a nice pet photo be nice for worried clients to see?

Tip: Your Twitter profile photo is important, too! Make sure you upload one so that people can identify you when they’re scrolling through their busy newsfeed.

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DON’T: Forget about Sizing

Twitter crops images to be wider than they are tall. You can click images to see expanded versions, but that cropped version shows up in the feed. I have seen many companies not think about this, resulting in VERY awkward images in the feed. Look – @NFL made a headless football player with this tweet:

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It’s not hard to fix this issue! If you’re on your mobile phone, you’ll have the option to crop your photo to be sized correctly. Creating original content? I find a size of about 450 pixels wide & 225 pixels tall generally works.

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Twitter can be the most social of all of the social networks, if used correctly. Follow these tips, and you should be a veterinary social media star in no time! Want to learn more? Follow me on Twitter, then join the Snout School email list below to get my exclusive tips via email. As a bonus for joining, you will get:

– An invite to my most popular webinar, The 3 Mistakes Veterinary Hospitals Make on Social Media – And How to Avoid Them!

-A copy of my upcoming e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Facebook for Veterinary Hospitals.