I live the senior housing industry from morning to night. This means almost every week I am in several senior communities and almost daily I am looking at the website, Facebook page, twitter feed or corporate website of dozens of senior communities. I also spend considerable time talking to senior communities about how they are using social media.
It is startling how random or scattered their use of social media is (with one or two exceptions). Facebook gets attention for a while, then it doesn’t; Twitter gets attention for a while, then it doesn’t; the community website gets updated then for weeks or month nothing changes except maybe the activity calendar and often not even that. Someone gets to thinking they should pay attention to consumer reviews and there is a burst of activity, this it gets forgotten.
I talked with Adrienne Mansfield who is the director of client services, traditional & online media for Sage Age Strategies about how senior living communities can be more strategic . . . more deliberate about their social media use.
The Big Picture
- First your social media strategy should be an integrated part of your total marketing program. You need to have a strategic plan that includes social media but is not just social media. This means your community events and outreach activities need to be viewed in the context of how they fit into your social media strategy. This includes more than just the obvious marketing events. Social media becomes a vehicle take virtually anything positive that is happening in your community into a marketing opportunity. It becomes a way to supercharge your marketing efforts.
- The goal is to become the “go to” resource for all things related to senior care and senior living. This means a shift from an “advertising/event mindset, to becoming an educational resource for the community. This includes, as painful as it might seem, having resources that might under specific circumstances point away from your community.
- Your social strategy then becomes the vehicle for reinforcing the awareness of you and your community as the “go to” senior resource.Your social media strategy is not ultimately just about getting your name into the marketplace. It is about getting prospects to visit your community and to ultimately choose your community as the best option over other communities or staying at home.
When Sage Age works with their clients to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy including social media they specifically see social media as a vehicle to accomplish the following goals:
1. Build Credibility - Even if never spoken, families have two questions: Will dad be safe here? Will mom be happier here above all other options? When social media is effectively implemented, it will build credibility and trust. It will rarely if ever be something as simple as an advertisement or a pitch. It will be a story or a picture that builds confidence.
2. Story Telling - Story telling is the oldest and best form of marketing that exists. It grabs the heart; it builds credibility and is most powerful when it is a resident or their family member that is telling the story. Social media is the only effective way to tell fresh stories to a big audience.
3. Crowd Sourcing - This is a fancy term for viral marketing. Tell compelling stories and provide useful information and the crowd will tell your story for you. They will pass the stories on to their friends; to people you might never be able to reach directly.
4. Content Marketing - This one is tough because finding time to write, knowing what to write and actually writing is for most people a big challenge. Yet creating valuable content on a consistent basis is a powerful way for you to stay personally connected with your prospects, your family members and your referral sources. If you need to, employ the services of a senior housing writer.
5. E-mail - E-mail is the tool that supports and reinforces the first four tasks. It is how you get the word out.
6. Assess – Finally you need to be assessing your effectiveness and making tweaks or radical changes based on your assessments.
Finally, it takes time. The first article you write or story you tell, will be read by just a handful of people. The first post I ever published at Senior Housing Forum was read by about 50 people and that included family members which probably accounted for more than half that number. Today thousands of people read the blog every week and articles get shared over and over again. Perseverance and good content will make your community best known and most trusted senior care community in your marketplace.