Affinity Programs, Social Media and Senior Living or Should We Say Coupons, Party Lines and Community

Looking through my wallet I find a rewards card for Kroger, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest Airlines, United, BP Gas, Chipotle, American Express, My salon, Crate and Barrel, Pier One, Pottery Barn, City BBQ, Cheryl’s Cookies, Hertz, Lowes Home Improvement, Stein Mart, Kohl’s, National Car Rental & Hollywood Video! I have a whole stack back at the office that I don’t carry with me.

Reward Card

Points, Passwords, Cards and emails all get tracked and calculated in order to better understand me and reward me for my loyalty. I am not alone and this is just the tip of the ice berg. My mother 73, and Grandmother 91 both also have Kohl’s cards and use the discounts and senior days to shop religiously! I also “like” the companies that I trust in Facebook for all to see in as a mini testimonial to my 584 friends in my network.

As much as you think Facebook is for teenagers, it is not now. It used to be, but when their moms started getting on (me) and tracking and interacting with them and their friends, they thought it was lame. But when their Grandma got on and had no issue posting something embarrassing to them instead of doing a private message the exodus commenced to Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and other Online chat vehicles.

From the internet research :) In 2011 Facebook users age 55+ grew by 923%. 17 out of 24 sites (71%) have more female than male users. The most female utilized sites was Pinterest (79% females). The average Facebook user is 40.5 years old which is the second highest average age behind LinkedIn.

LinkedinIf you’re familiar with LinkedIn you know how the connections work. This is very similar to the neighborhood I grew up in. When my mom was not home and we thought we were getting away with something but we never did. She would state that “God told her” but I found out later it was her deep network of connections not unlike LinkedIn.

They were all connected to a common purpose to keep all of the neighborhood kids on track. Everyone was everyone else’s business and expected to “stay vigilant” when the other parents left the house for anything that was not approved. Calls would be made and rarely did we ever get away with anything. The community was the key.

This was the group that grew up with their parents having party lines and everyone knowing their business. For those of you that don’t know what a party line was it was like a phone line that was like Facebook. Everyone could hear or as in Facebook see what you were talking about and to whom. The concept is really not all that new now is it….?

On my LinkedIn Account I am connected to 1358 people which gives me access to 10,538,135 people in my network. If I send out a link it shows up on 1358 LinkedIn connections + 584 Facebook friends plus my twitter account and so on. The reality is with one click I can touch millions of people. Now what if these folks were your target market? Women 55 and older, the eldest daughter of a living parent?

She’s on Facebook, maybe Pintrest and possibly LinkedIn by the data. She has as many reward cards as I have if not more and you remain silent. You show no love, no interest, and no care in her daily burdens. You do not reward her or the resident for their loyalty or trust. They actually feel shunned because everyone and anyone will give them a loyalty card and try to make them feel special.

The banks used to give a toaster, Hotels will give a free bottle of water, gas cards will discount and American Express will give you free gifts, big ones! How much does it cost you to fill a new building in marketing and lost revenue? If you have renovated what do you give to the existing residents to ease the pain and disruption? We have become brainwashed to believe rewards programs are the standard yet in senior living the affinity programs and difficult to find.

I propose a new beginning. If you rent the largest 2 bedroom you get a wonderful bathrobe, slippers and boutique shampoos etc. monthly free. You get invited to a Platinum club once a month for a special dinner. Whatever the reward, make it special. We all want to feel it. When they forget my free water at the hotel I am hurt. I know it’s only water but I like to feel like I did when I thought my mom loved me most out of all the kids and only did the special stuff for me.


Develop an affinity program that encourages brand loyalty and makes your residents and decision makers feel special. Don’t treat everyone equal. In private pay they don’t all pay the same so why is the only difference in amenities related to the square footage of the room? We are not talking ADL’s here. We are talking true customer service and loyalty programs. The kind that make a Mercedes customer buy only Mercedes and feel that no one else can do it as well and knows you as intimately.

CheerleaderSo where does the social media fit into all of this? Affinity programs are built on the backs of grass roots, guerrilla warfare techniques. Start with your best cheerleaders and reward them, then have the social media set up to capitalize on them liking you and spreading the word. Offer tips and help vs. just selling and being a taker. Start an online chat group for caregivers at home to reach out to each other and help them with providing direction to associations that can assist such as the Alzheimer’s association.

Be with them in their daily challenges prior to them showing up at your doorstep asking for a tour. Do the prep work needed with social media and networking so that they show up as friends vs. untrusting strangers. Social networking and affinity programs go hand and hand to help both parties to have a win/win. Everyone wants to be treated special and think that someone gets them. Why should your residents be any different?