Senior Living Providers Buy Into the Internet, Wary of Social Media

Senior living providers won’t argue with the power of the Internet to drive leads, but most are still wary of interacting with social media.

During the National Investment Center (NIC) for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry’s regional event in San Diego, Calif., panelists described their hesitation with using social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, but some are starting to dip their toes into the water.

Elmcroft Senior Living is taking a cautious approach when it comes to social media. While the company has a Facebook presence, it’s used less as a way to drive leads and more as a way to keep families informed about the community.


“Our use of [Facebook] is in its infancy, but it will evolve over time,” said Pat Mulloy, CEO of Elmcroft. “Facebook is great; it has a role, but we are going to take it very carefully.”

Baby Boomers—who are often the decision makers for where their parents will live in their later years — are one of most active and growing users of Facebook and social media in general. According to Nielsen, Baby Boomers represent a third of all online and social media users with another third being “heavy” Internet users with 8 million of them spending more than 20 hours a week online. Despite such strong numbers, some senior living providers doubt that social media will ever be a real force when it comes to driving leads.

Brenda Bacon, CEO of Brandywine Senior Living, said she isn’t convinced providers will ever see residents come into their communities from Facebook or Twitter.


“There will be people who are going to say something whether we want them to or not,” said Bacon. Utilizing social media is more of a way to address things said about the company, a defensive measure, she said. “[Social media] is a risk for us, more than an opportunity.”

Others, such as Benchmark Senior Living, are diving in head first. Benchmark recently hired an employee who is dedicated to managing the company’s social media presence full time. The company is making an effort to embrace the comments and reviews often found on social media sites, whether they’re good or bad.

“We are trying to build a culture of transparency,” said Stephanie Handelson, president and COO of Benchmark Senior Living. “We’ve had [things posted on Facebook showing] service failure, but we’ve also posted how we fixed the situation.”

By addressing negative comments head on and fixing the problem, Benchmark was able to create a more engaging experience for the family and resident. While the industry is wary of social media in general, everyone is seeing the power of the Internet to grow their business.

Cascade Living Group said that roughly 20% of all their move-ins are coming from organic search engine optimization.

“Our SEO platform has grown exponentially year over year, while seeing a decline from traditional print media,” said Tom Stanley, founder and principal of Cascade Living Group.

Written by John Yedinak

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