Many practice owners and managers are understandably worried about what the future holds for the practice. Facilitating a steady stream of appointments may be one way to ease worries about the practice’s health and ability to support its staff, plus ensure we can continue protecting the clients and pets we all care for.
Even before the pandemic, online appointment bookings were an important part of how a practice filled its schedule. Now, more than ever, online offerings are essential. One study found that 70% of pet owners preferred to book online, and an estimated 40–52% percent of veterinary appointments are booked when the practice is closed. When offering online bookings, a practice is available to take appointments 24/7, for a total of 168 hours a week. A typical practice that restricts appointment makings to business hours, however, is only available to take appointments 54 hours a week.
Further, we know that when marketing anything on social media or digital platforms, we are competing with a ton of other content, as well as limited attention spans. You don’t want a client to see your post and be inspired to take action, but then have to 1) close Facebook; 2) open a browser window; 3) search for your practice and hope to find the right one; 4) click that link, and wait for the site to load; 5) find the place to book the appointment; or 6) have to find the phone number to call, only to discover that the practice is closed.
Instead, you should make it as easy as possible, save them those 5 or 6 steps, and drive them directly to that appointment booking spot so they can conveniently and efficiently book an appointment. Here are four tips to increase your online appointment bookings.
#1: Know your link
First, you must know your appointment booking link! Links, also known as web addresses or URLs, are specific to each webpage. For many practices, the appointment booking link might look something like:
Some practices may also have a new telemedicine page that has a specific URL, like yourvetclinic.com/telemedicine. Whatever appointment type you’re trying to drive, ensure you have this specific URL.
Don’t have a link but still want to facilitate online requests? No problem. Create a free Google form, like this one, from the hospital’s Gmail account. Publishing it will create a URL. It won’t be as pretty or branded, but it doesn’t need to be for this purpose!
#2: Spread it around
Once you have the link to your online appointment booking, you need to take a few minutes and update all of your online platforms and profiles. If your practice’s links have changed, or you’ve added new appointment types, or you’re simply not sure, this is an effort that promises to pay off. Be sure to check your:
- Your app
- Google Business account
- Yelp for Business owners account
- Other social, review, or appointment booking sites (e.g., DemandForce)
Many of these platforms only allow for one link, so if your practice has different links for different types of appointments, use the one you’re trying to grow the most, or is most important for your practice.
#3: Use your captions
Don’t forget to insert your links into your social media post captions. You don’t have to spend any money, or do anything fancy, just include the link at the bottom of the post.
So many practices are doing a great job of using their social media to show off what they’re doing. If you’re spending time taking great photos or videos, posting them, and describing what’s going on, make sure you’re also including that appointment booking link so clients will see it and be inspired or reminded to act. Make it easy for them! You don’t want them to have to leave Facebook, open up a new browser, search for your practice, get to the website, and then find the link, right? You want to take them right there—make it as easy as possible, insert that link, and drive your followers to where you’d like them to go.
#4: Spend (a little) money to make money
Use your direct appointment booking link in paid Facebook or Instagram boosts and ads. A small investment can increase your social media reach and engagement.
Paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram costs as little as a dollar a day, with no minimum duration required, and offers several advantages:
- You can add a clickable call-to-action “button” to the bottom of your posts, like “Book Now,” “Call Now,” “Learn More,” etc.
- You’re able to change the link to fit the post. You can edit the link that the button drives to. So, if you’re posting about your practice’s new telemedicine offering, you can use the direct telemedicine booking link.
- You’ll take up more real estate in the newsfeed. A paid post will be slightly taller with the addition of the button and gray box underneath.
- You can target your ideal audience. Rather than throwing your post out there to “everyone on Facebook,” you can target your post to be seen by dog owners between the ages of 25 and 55 who have an interest in Barbox and who live within three miles of your practice. If you have an email list of your existing clientele, you can even create a custom audience to ensure your current clients are seeing your posts as well.
Paid advertising will allow you to refine who sees your post and improve the likelihood of it resonating with social media users, which will hopefully convert them into appointments!
When you make it clear, accessible, and easy for clients to access your booking tools and connect with you on the platforms they’re already using, you increase your connections to the clients and patients who make your business thrive!
Dr. Caitlin DeWilde
Dr. Caitlin DeWilde is a practicing veterinarian graduate from the University of Illinois and is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm devoted to helping veterinary professionals learn, manage and grow their social media and online reputation. She has taken on a new role as Social Media Coach at Vet2Pet, working to help Vet2Pet practices with their social media strategy and goals. She can be reached at email@example.com.