The Power of Social Media in Healthcare… Positive and Negative

By Wallis Shamieh, PR & Integrated Media Specialist

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. While we log on to catch up with family and friends or see what the latest trending topic is, the truth is that we are also viewing many advertisements.

Social media has quickly become an easy way to reach a wider audience. But, social media marketing is not just for big companies and brands anymore. It has evolved into an effective tool for healthcare and senior living marketing.

But social media marketing is only effective with millennials, right? False. This is a common myth that can discourage senior living providers from utilizing these tools. The truth is that seniors are already online just as much as tech-savvy youngsters. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 data, 64 percent of adults ages 65 and older use the internet. The same study also found that 34 percent of older adults use social media, which is up from just 21 percent in 2013. This should be a call to action to begin cultivating a robust social media presence and even targeting this population with social media ads.

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By using social media to connect with the older adults, you can provide streamlined content that will educate and entice your audience. You also have the ability to decide between casting as wide of a net as possible, or being more selective about who you’re targeting with Facebook’s ability to filter users by demographics and interests.

A well-maintained social media presence is a natural extension of your on-campus atmosphere and culture, and can help increase overall traffic to your social pages and website. However, it is important to remember that social media users tend to log in to get updates and communicate with friends and family, not your organization or community, so it is important that you don’t post too much content and clutter their newsfeeds.

Crisis Communication

Crisis communication plans are a must for any business, but are especially important for senior living providers, as there is the external audiences include residents’ families and loved ones. There are many reasons to use social media during a crisis, perhaps most important being the ability for direct communication with external audiences. Interested individuals and even news outlets can then share your statement(s), ensuring that what you want to say is being released.

Search Engine Optimization

Another important aspect to consider about a social media presence in the senior living industry is that most seniors use Google to search for senior living providers, so it is important to think about how you can optimize not only your website, but your social media page to rank higher in their search results.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t take social media directly into account in its ranking algorithm, evaluating social signals rather than social profiles. This means that having relevant, highly shared and liked content on your social media sites will help boost your rank in the search results. Google+ pages, though generally less visited, have the advantage of being ranked as webpages, which means you can use keyword optimization and traditional SEO tactics to boost your ranking. It can take time to grow an audience that engages, so it may take some time for your page to jump in rank.

Online Reviews

How important are ratings and reviews online? The short answer: more important than you might think. Essentially, reviews are free feedback on your services, and can help your online presence. Positive reviews and high star ratings will help boost the number of times people see your posts in their Facebook news feed, in addition to simply boosting your reputation when people see that others value your services. However, it can be difficult to generate reviews because people are often not compelled to leave a review unless they’ve had a really wonderful or really horrible experience. By prompting prospects to leave a review on the back of a business card after a tour, for instance, you create the opportunity for feedback.

The downside to Facebook and online reviews is that all reviews are made public—including negative reviews. However, negative reviews create an opportunity for you to showcase your community’s excellent customer service. Respond to negative comments by addressing their concerns on the original review, which will show other prospects that you value others’ concerns and feedback.

So, is a social media presence necessary for senior living communities? We say yes! Your appearance online can positively or negatively influence how prospects view you; in fact, many may even use your social page as a base for eliminating you off their list while “shopping around,” as most searches begin online today. Seniors want to be able to see themselves in your advertising, and, if done well, it indicates that you understand their perspectives and desires.

No longer can the assumption that seniors aren’t using social media be a reason to not utilize the medium, or to only use it to market to adult children of seniors. Older adults are rapidly becoming a major presence online, and your marketing efforts should reflect that change.

For more information on the importance of social media in today’s market, please contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 or Rick Hunsicker at 214-906-3801.

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