5 Reasons Senior Living Can’t Ignore Social Media

While social media might not have the metrics to prove it’s leading to move ins the way traditional sales leads do, providers today say they simply can’t ignore the added benefits it can deliver elsewhere.

The 65-plus population may not be spending their waking hours Tweeting on Twitter and Pinning on Pinterest, but that doesn’t mean social media channels aren’t doing work for the companies that engage with them.

Here are five reasons senior living can’t afford not to be on social media.

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1. You could become invisible.

Ignore social media, and you could become invisible online. Almost 40% of Emeritus’ leads stem from the internet, says Jayne Sallerson, executive president of sales and marketing at Emeritus.

“If you don’t learn how to leverage the internet, eventually you’re not going to show up,” says Jayne Sallerson, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Emeritus. “The goal of including social media is to engage people and get them thinking of what your company is about.”

In recent years, technology has become increasingly popular among older adults, with 53% of Americans age 65 and over now using the internet or email, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

As more older adults surf the web, more are also using social media as well, with 45% of internet users age 65 and older now using Facebook, tripling from just 13% in 2009, notes a December 2013 Pew Research Social Media Update.

2. You might miss another shopper: the adult child.

More often than not, the adult child is the person hopping on the internet looking to find information on senior living and making decisions on what communities to visit or tour, says Sallerson.

This demographic may be using Facebook to find out this information, or at least use it to aid in their search process more so than any other social media platform.

Compared to their parents, 60% of adult children—those in the age 50-64 range—are Facebook users, as noted by Pew Research. For this age group, Facebook is the social media network of choice compared to other sites like LinkedIn (24%), Pinterest (14%) and Twitter (9%).

But even with Facebook appearing like the most preferred method among its social media competitors, it’s not the only avenue through which adult children are obtaining their senior living information.

Others might still use Twitter and LinkedIn when researching senior living, but as the times continue to change and are spurred by the pace of technology, one thing is for certain: adult children aren’t relying on the Yellow Pages these days, and providers aren’t either to drive referrals, Sallerson says.

3. The media: it’s on social media.

In senior living, a social media campaign can be a way to not only attract prospective web-surfing seniors and their adult children, but can be a valuable tool in grabbing the attention of local media outlets.

Emeritus, which saw a 21% increase stemming from online leads in 2013, drove new customers to its social media pages by doing campaigns that advertise activities or events any of its communities are doing.

When the company embarked on a “National Nutrition Month” campaign, giving away 10,000 meals nationwide in 60 days, it caught press from local news outlets.

“Just social media is not going to drive the business, but it does give a different way to promote the organization,” Sallerson says.

4. Social media is 24/7/365.

Social media can also be a medium to expand a company’s geographic reach both nationally and on the web. One spend grants 24/7 access across the states and across the globe.

Visual aides on a social media page, like photos and video clips, can offer some

But first, it might be wise to beef up that social media page with visual aides, like photos and videos.

“The ultimate goal is to capture a bulk of the geography, so when someone searches ‘assisted living Seattle,’ not only does the website show up, but maybe there’s a video that shows up, too,” she says.

5. It’s the future.

While social media may not be the axis around which a company’s marketing campaign revolves, the largest senior living providers are taking notice of its effectiveness as a supplement to their marketing and branding efforts.

In a fourth quarter and full-year 2013 earnings call this week, Brookdale’s CEO T. Andy Smith discussed the company strengthened its national branding campaign through several measures, such as improving the company’s website and placing a “higher level of social media engagement.”

“When we talk about a higher level of social media engagement, what we mean is that we want to go beyond just the clicks, likes and follows,” said Brookdale’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Brand Will Clark in an email to SHN. “We are interested in creating a real dialogue and real community through social media.”

Brookdale has seen the use and impact of social media grow in the past year, predominantly with the development of the company’s Facebook page, as well as its use of YouTube and Twitter, he said.

The company’s Facebook page boasted 11,970 likes as of Monday, while its Twitter channel has attracted 2,837 followers.

Moving forward, the company expects an expanded presence with other social media venues, including LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Senior living, though it has the potential, has yet to catch up with other housing industries in terms of social media’s effectiveness in lead generation, said Clark.

“There is evidence of social media’s effectiveness in other industries, such as multi-family housing and we think it’s just a matter of time until there is a more defined metric for senior living,” he said.

On February 20, Brookdale and Emeritus announced they would merge in a transaction valued at $2.8 billion.

Written by Jason Oliva

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