Pets, vets and automobiles on social media

Social media can help businesses with online presence

According to a recent study, 1 in 10 pets in the UK have a profile maintained by their owners on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. Continuing the theme, more than half of pet owners in the UK share photos of their pets on the social media and it is has even been suggested that in aggregate, “Animals” is a more popular subject than “Celebrities” on Social Media. This is staggering when one considers the colossal success and size of sites concerning Lady Gaga for example.  On top of all this, many of the biggest Internet video virals and adverts have been based on the antics of cutsie animals and there are even popular social networks aimed exclusively at pets. But what has all this got to do with local business you ask?  Or you should be asking if you run a chain of local veterinary surgeries (Vets)

In theory, setting up an account on a social media such as Facebook or Twitter for your pet is a violation of the user agreement for the site. But this has not stopped millions of pet owners from doing precisely this. Whether some of the interacting humans even think that they have just “Friended” a real pet rather than a human acting as a pet is not known, but Facebook are not overly happy about the situation because it means that their attempts to profile real individuals in order to sell advertising is somewhat compromised by these antics. In theory, this is why there are so many social networking sites that have been set up specifically to allow pet owners to pose as, or with their animals – without violating user agreements.

But it does not stop there. For some reason humans are very apt to personify objects that they care for in their life. So for example, it is possible to find Facebook sites dedicated to an individual’s motor car, sailing dingy, even garden shed. (The latter is a spoof site- I think!).  All of these are in contravention of the social network’s user agreement and could be taken down without notice.  But as a smart business owner – it should make you stop and think. How can you take advantage of this?

Starting with the obvious. Many vets still do not have a social media site for their business. Relatively few veterinary surgeries have good social media sites. Most have poor or neglected sites, but given that that is where their customers are spending much of their free time, surely it is a no-brainier to set up and maintain a good quality Facebook and Twitter site? Vets should easily be able to maintain a strong supply of good quality human interest stories for their blog and Twitter feeds and they have more than enough side-line income opportunities around pet feed and pet care items to make it more than worth while. A vets surgery is a video blogger’s dream!

I guess that many vets are just too stuck in their ways, but increasing competition is forcing many vets to cut prices. I think that they should instead consider an increase in advertising – and specifically using social media to increase footfall (pawfall?) through their business.

Meanwhile, if the owners of classic motor cars feel they need to run a Facebook site to tell the world about the exploits of their “baby”, perhaps those business that supply classic motor car parts and service should at least be visiting the sites and Friend them? (If only so that they might have a chance to sell something to them?)

If Facebook had their way, all of these sites would be Facebook Business Pages, (what used to be called Fan Pages – and you can see their point). But there is something charming about all those pet, boat and car owners that do not consider themselves to be Fans of their pets, boats or cars (or garden sheds) and they are clearly not Business Page sites. While we wait to see if Facebook can work out what to do with them, it is an opportunity for  smart business owners not to be missed.