Why ‘Social Marketing’ Doesn’t Just Mean ‘Social Media’


Marketing Matters is brought to you by Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design. Working together, Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design give you the analytic and creative synergy to develop unique solutions and achieve optimum results for your senior living community, providing management, operations, marketing, and sales consulting services. 

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram — the list goes on of all the social media sites senior living providers are looking to tap for marketing purposes.


But what if an expert said those channels don’t necessarily make a provider a successful social marketer?

In fact, that’s just what Amber Naslund, senior vice president of marketing at Sysomos, a social media analytics company, told attendees at the 2014 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago.

“A social business is not one that is on Facebook; it’s one that applies social principles to its own operations,” she said. “How you work with one another, how you communicate, how you reward and recognize your employees — that comes together to create a better customer experience.”


So contrary to popular belief, “social” starts inside a company, not online.

What Social Really Means: Creating a Community People Want to Belong to

Customer expectations have changed dramatically over the years, and part of that is fuelled by the wealth of information available online.

Nearly three in four American adults use social media. And 2 billion users are on social networks worldwide, meaning that about 30% of the world’s population is connected digitally.

With the emergence of social sites like Facebook and Twitter, marketers can now tap into the wisdom of consumers like never before. But the same is true for consumers: They can afford to look more critically at marketing because more information — unbiased, organic, unfiltered information — about companies is readily available online through social media.

“Having [social presence] is a means for people to have level-set conversations that are not directed by a brand or a company. It’s kind of the Wild West of the Internet,” Naslund said. “But it creates more than just a conversation for people. It creates an experience and a community that people want to belong to. It starts to teach us a few things about how we relate to people.”

Roughly 75% of search results in any given online search are social media-based content, such as blog posts, e-books and tweets, according to Naslund.

But providers should resist the temptation to invest all their marketing resources into the lure of social media, because it’s not the tool, itself, that truly impacts a marketing campaign. Rather, it’s what a provider can learn from it that means more than any tweet or status update.

“Social is not the answer,” Naslund said. “Instead, social is the question. It ought to get us asking better questions about the way we work.”

For example, providers should ask, “Is my organization culturally self-aware?” This awareness is critical in grasping what drives an organization emotionally, and being aware of the impact that emotions, feelings and culture can have on business, work and relationships, Naslund said.

“Social media is far less about operational revolution; it’s a cultural revolution,” she said. “Having a really good handle on the culture of your organization is imperative, … [because] social media is a window into the culture of companies.”

This includes the culture of recognition within an organization. Are senior living leaders providing informal, spontaneous ways to recognize staff for accomplishments? Do staff members know their work is important?

Making small tweaks within an organization can make a big impact, especially on residents and their families.

“Customer stories and experiences are the most important [marketing content we have],” Naslund said.

And by using principles of social media, senior living providers can transform their organization into one that creates an unrivaled resident experience.

“In an era in which information is completely overwhelming, what we have to do is turn all of this social philosophy in on ourselves and create an organization that serves our customers better than anyone else — and that’s the best marketing we can do.”

For more information about Solutions Advisors and Retiring by Design, visit solutions-advisors.com.

Written by Emily Study

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