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Social Media and Senior Living Marketing: Putting Faces with Names

Member to Member Solutions is an ALFA member benefit that draws from allied members’ expertise and unique perspectives to educate ALFA Provider Members. If you would like to write an article or read past articles, please visit alfa.org/membertomembersolutions. ALFA makes this information available as a service and in no way endorses the products and services discussed below and in no way ensures the accuracy of the information. Please contact the company for complete information.

By Michelle Seitzer, Senior Blogger at SeniorsforLiving.com

Love it or hate it, social media is part of our world now. And it has changed everything.

Every day, more senior living providers are “going social,” adding badges to their websites and assigning status updates, photo uploads, and link-sharing duties to staff. But simple as it seems to “Like” a page on Facebook or “RT” a useful link on Twitter here and there, successfully adding a social media arm to your brand can be a complicated process.

So how can you use this tool to your advantage? First, know the facts.

Fact #1: Your digital footprint and online reputation is just as important as your offline reputation.

First impressions are still tremendously significant and hugely influential in a person’s decision-making process. With so many people turning to their iPhone or laptop to start the senior living search, your website, blog and social media profiles are the medium by which you’ll make that momentous first impression – no matter how friendly your caregivers, how delicious your meals, or how lovely your courtyards and common rooms.

Fact #2: Social media evens the playing field.

Using social media is (mostly) free, which means that senior living companies with a tiny marketing budget can easily surpass the reach of amply-resourced organizations… if they have a substantial social media presence.  So it really doesn’t matter if you’re a large national provider operating thousands of communities or a small, family-owned company with a handful of homes in a tri-county area. Because when a prospective resident’s granddaughter, son, or spouse finds your company on Facebook or follows you on Twitter, they will judge accordingly.

Fact #3: Using social media can be risky business.

Spammers, bots, misusers, and abusers – they’re all out there, lurking in Twitter streams, masquerading as Facebook fans, and prowling to disparage the good names of individuals, organizations, and businesses playing in the social media sandbox.

If you’re going to engage in social media, you can’t entirely avoid these hazards. But you can be smart about deploying strategies that, a) put your brand in a positive light, b) draw people in and encourage them to visit your community in person, c) give family members peace of mind about the place they’ve chosen for a loved one, and d) maximize the potential for priceless word-of-mouth referrals.

Making Social Media Work for Your Community

So what’s the best way to get your name to the social media forefront, make a great first impression, avoid spam, and keep your solid reputation as a senior housing community or senior care provider both online and offline?

  1. Have a real person dedicated to your social media efforts. Depending on the size of your business, you may need an entire team devoted to social media. Those are decisions you will have to make within your organization, but the bottom line is this: Be very intentional and clear about your social media strategy in the same way you’re clear and intentional about your marketing strategies – because it’s all connected. 

  2. Devise a social media strategy. Take these efforts seriously. Don’t rush the process, setting up a Facebook profile before you know who will be updating it, and don’t be careless, tweeting event info without first checking the community calendar. Social media networks operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; this is not to say you need constant coverage, just dedicated, deliberate coverage by an individual who knows what’s expected in terms of turn-around on post responses, #FF recommendations, etc.

  3. Go for quality rather than quantity. This goes for postings and updates as well as the number of social media accounts your company manages. Don’t get in over your head just to have all the right widgets on your website or an impressive number of followers. Over time, you can add things and expand on your profiles – it’s easier (and looks better) to go forward, not backward.

  4. Be professional and personable. Experienced social media users can usually tell when a tweet has been arbitrarily sent. There is nothing wrong with scheduling tweets now and then, but make sure your updates don’t sound robotic. Spell-check posts and tweets. Make sure shared links take people to the right site. And when there is a complaint or off-color remark made, address it professionally and responsibly.

  5. Create a community of caring and sharing. Encourage residents’ family members to share photos and thoughts on the wall. Engage with the social media personnel from other senior living communities, retweeting useful information they’ve shared or liking an inspirational post – all of these simple actions foster goodwill for your company.

What You’ll Get from Responsible Social Media Use

If you’re successful in implementing these guidelines, you’ll reap long-term benefits. Because as web visitors and social media users get to know a “real person” associated with your senior housing community and your brand (and as regular visitors and followers develop a relationship with that individual), your company goes from “XYZ.com offering widgets A, B, and C” or “senior living provider based in Seattle” to “that really helpful senior housing expert who knows all about the challenges of caregiving” or the “great people at Grandma’s assisted living home.” And that’s a beautiful thing.

Michelle seitzerThe “real person” behind SeniorsforLiving’s social media outreach, Michelle Seitzer spent 10 years filling various roles at assisted living communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, then worked as a public policy coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association in PA before settling down as a full-time freelance writer. Seitzer also served as a long-distance caregiver for her beloved grandfather, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2009. She has blogged for SeniorsforLiving.com, which provides information on assisted living, home care, and Alzheimer’s care, since November 2008, and is the co-moderator of the first #eldercarechat on Twitter, held every other Wednesday at 1pm EST. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Member to Member Solutions

Allied members, do you have advice you would like to share with other ALFA members? Submit your article proposal for inclusion in ALFA Update through ALFA’s new Member to Member Solutions column.

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