What are the pitfalls of social media for the practice?

Social media has its benefits and pitfalls for veterinary practices, but there are ways to minimise damage caused by negative comments online

26 March 2018, at 3:53pm

Social media has revolutionised the way we do business online and you are probably already using some form of it to market your practice. With more customers than ever using online searches and reviews to choose who they go to for animal care, an effective and positive social media presence can be key to winning and retaining customers.

Negative social media comments can damage your practice’s reputation, but you can limit that damage by having an effective online risk management and response plan in place and knowing your legal rights.

An unhappy customer has posted a negative review about my practice – what is the next step I should take?

Great practices are all sometimes subject to customer complaints, but even if you have an almost perfect satisfaction rate, it only takes a couple of aggrieved customers (rightly or wrongly) to change this.

Most reputable review websites offer you a right to reply. If you are considering writing a response to a negative review, don’t rush it. Ensure any response is solution orientated, rather than defensive, and do remember that your response could be reposted anywhere online.

A great customer service response from you, which makes it clear that you take responsibility and work quickly to rectify any problems, can turn a difficult situation to your advantage.

One of my employees has posted a defamatory comment about my practice online – what can I do?

Employee misuse of social media can be devastating to your practice, both legally and from a PR perspective.

A properly drafted and enforced policy on the use of social media by your employees is your most effective tool in protecting yourself against legal liability and harm to your reputation.

It’s crucial that parameters are established for the safe and effective use of social media and it is made clear to staff that you have the power to take action if they contravene that guidance.

What are the consequences of posting animal images online?

If you are the photographer – none. Pets are legally considered belongings and so do not have a right to privacy. Nonetheless, you will need to make sure that you respect your customers’ rights to privacy and comply with data protection law. This means you will need to remove any personal information of a customer from an image.

If you are not the photographer of the images – be careful! If the picture is taken by a third party or posted to your Facebook page by a customer, you cannot use it unless you have the permission of the photographer. The person who takes the photograph owns the copyright in that image; if you then use that image without their permission, you will be infringing on their rights.