PVMA Keystone Veterinarian Fall 2021 - 13

Social Media:
A Double-Edged Sword
By Heidi Rizkalla, Practice Manager
Johnstown Veterinary Associates
I recently read somewhere that " a happy customer tells a
friend; an unhappy customer tells the world. " While we don't
necessarily deal with customers per se, but with four-legged
patients that are accompanied by their human parents, we in
the veterinary field understand this all too well. In the past, prior
to Google (1998) and Facebook (2004), word-of-mouth was
all you needed to grow a veterinary practice. And while wordof-mouth
is still relevant and the primary source of new client
acquisition, a practice's social media presence is more important
than ever before.
Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword. Who can
ignore clicking the " like " button for a cute puppy or kitten
picture? Or how can you not share with your closest 1,000
friends a chart that shows all the various poisonous plants to
pets? After all, this harmless interaction is not only engaging
and positive but informative. However, with the steady rise of
social media usage including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
(to name a few), the veterinary team is under a constant
and overwhelming microscope that can lead to harmful
cyberbullying.
I can confidently say that no one works harder than a veterinary
professional. At any given time, the person answering the
phone will most likely move on to dispensing medication,
admitting or discharging a patient, and/or completing the
service transaction. Likewise, a technician may juggle a couple
of cases and appointments at one time. The veterinarian, too,
is busy triaging, analyzing, diagnosing, and treating. And while
they go about their day, they are expected to always be patient
and pleasant. The majority of the time, this is relatively easy
for them because they all love what they do and have amazing
clients and adorable patients-otherwise, they wouldn't stay in
this career.
But the sad truth is veterinary professionals are not always
snuggling with newborn kittens or taking cute selfies with
Siberian Huskies. Instead, we're busy responding to Google
reviews that call us " heartless " because we refused to see a
patient, accuse us of misdiagnosing a case, or claim that we
didn't give their fur baby enough attention and are afraid. One
thing that all veterinary practices have in common is that they
have all been subjected to cyberbullying. And while defamation
and abusive language should never be tolerated, that is the
other edge of the sword. Sometimes the sword is so sharp, the
stress and lack of appreciation is so scathing and overwhelming,
that veterinary professionals succumb to it and may take their
own lives.
Identifying Types of Cyberbullies
There are different breeds of cyberbullies in the veterinary
world. One of the most disturbing bullies is the one that involves
a non-client of the practice-an imposter. A person who never
stepped one toe in the practice but decided to give their opinion
about how we run our practice. This happened to us. A nonclient
provided a review of the reviews we had received, and
based on our responses to the feedback, decided not to join our
practice. They told everyone else not to join as well. How is this
trolling remotely acceptable?
Another breed of cyberbully that can be easily identified by their
use of explosive and abusive language is the one who blames
the veterinarian for their lack of proper pet parenting and
expects miracles to happen without having financial resources.
This breed will use words and phrases like " heartless, " " overpriced, "
" uncaring, " and " money-hungry. " Typically, this type
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Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association | 13

PVMA Keystone Veterinarian Fall 2021

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