Social Media and Senior Living
If your senior care organization doesn’t have a social media presence, it’s time to get one set up.
Over the past decade, life in America has changed significantly. Since Facebook registered its 350 millionth user in 2009, the social media behemoth has only scooped up more users and has come to dominate many aspects of life.
Senior living facilities are not immune to the pull of social media. “The adoption of technology and the use of social media has grown so significantly over the last ten years, it’s difficult for a senior living community to ignore it,” says Kristin Puckett, senior director of social media strategy at Brookdale Senior Living.
As such, “senior living communities that aren’t on social media are missing an important part of the digital media mix.”
Social media is important from a marketing perspective. It helps build awareness of your facility, and also helps keep friends and family members of current residents informed about what’s happening at your facility and feeling engaged in their loved one’s everyday life there.
Getting Started on Social Media
If you’re not already using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms, where do you start? Puckett says the process should begin with a little introspection.
“Each community needs to determine what a social media presence means for them and which channels are right for them, depending on the amount of time, effort, and resources they have available to manage both outbound content and inbound messages.”
Once you post something, followers will comment. Sometimes they ask questions or use the service to message your company directly for more information or with a complaint or concern. Having someone available to respond knowledgably in a timely manner is crucial to making social media work for you.
It’s also important to develop content that your followers want to see and engage with, Puckett says. “Engaging content is important and distributing it on different channels can make all the difference in getting your audience to know your community and what it’s like to live there.”
What to Post?
What content should you be posting? Puckett says developing a strong content strategy also requires a bit of introspection and determining which aspect or elements of your community you most want to highlight to the rest of the world.
“The best content must be relevant to your audience, highly engaging, and authentic,” she says, noting that a data-driven approach can help you better understand what type of content resonates best with your audience. Take a look at what other senior living facilities in your region are posting. What’s important to them and their audience, and does your facility or community have a comparable or better element it can highlight?
Think beyond just text-based status updates to photos, videos, and resources. “Content can take many forms,” Puckett notes, so try a few things out and see what engages your audience and drives views, comments, and even more importantly, shares.
Posting content featuring residents and staff is permissible only if you have valid, signed waivers on file.
When to Post?
“Understanding the frequency of posting as well as time of day your audience is online will significantly impact how your content performs,” Puckett says.
If your intended audience is the adult children of residents, posting in the evening when they’re likely to have a little more downtime to scroll through their feeds and see your content might be a better option than posting first thing in the morning when they’re trying to get themselves ready for work and the kids off to school.
Puckett also advises that when launching a social media strategy, you should realize that “maintaining a strong and engaging social presence isn’t a part-time job. It can take a team of dedicated people and the ability to continually monitor the social conversation about your community.” Some facilities solve this problem with in-house staff, while others outsource the task to a PR or social media management firm.
Still others use a combination of in-house and external resources to build their social medial presence. No matter what mix you use, make sure someone is available to respond promptly to comments and questions.
Five Tips for a Better Social Media Presence
- Do your research. Puckett notes that launching a social media presence for your senior care facility or brand is vastly different than signing up for a personal Facebook or Instagram account. Knowing which channels your target audience is using may take a little research, and you need a strategy for posting relevant, engaging content on an ongoing basis.
- Once you determine which channels seem like the best fit, “make sure you follow each channel’s rules, regulations and community guidelines. If you make a mistake establishing your presence, it can be difficult to change it later,” Puckett says.
- Test, understand, and evolve. Puckett says it’s important to evaluate current trends and understand what data you find. “Once you establish your presence, be ready for change because platforms change on a dime. Just when you think you have it figured out, there’s something new that you need to quickly adapt to,” she says.
- Leverage scheduling. One great feature about social media platforms is that they give you the ability to schedule posts in advance. So if you know you have an event coming up, you can create several posts in one sitting, but have them post on a predetermined schedule to help promote the event at times that would be most effective. Leveraging this capacity can help keep your brand in front of prospective residents’ (and their families’) eyes in a steady and consistent way.
- Think long-term. Social media is a marathon, not a sprint, so Puckett says it’s important to “pace yourself, be strategic, play the long game and be prepared for the unexpected, both good and bad. Make sure you have team members who understand the value of social media and are eager to participate.”
- Showcase what matters. In the end, it’s the people who make your facility what it is, and social media is brilliant at allowing you to highlight this human element in ways traditional print or broadcast media can’t. Plus, you can control the message and bring attention to the deserving staff members or interesting residents that make your facility the unique place it is. Figure out what makes your community special, and share those elements with the world.
Elaine K. Howley is a freelance journalist for various publications. An award-winning writer specializing in health, fitness, sports and history, her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including U.S. News, AARP.org, espnW, SWIMMER magazine and Atlas Obscura. She’s also a world-record holding marathon swimmer with a passion for animals and beer. Contact her via her website: elainekhowley.com.
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