Social Media for Communities

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Social Media for Communities

Posted on June 14, 2010

In addition to direct benefits to residents, which we’ll cover shortly, social media can bring a very interesting mix for retirement communities on an image & marketing aspect.

Word of mouth is a powerful influence. When we have direct contact with someone, we tend to have more trust in what is said because there is some form of relationship there. In today’s market “word of mouth” now includes social media to connect with seniors, families, and professionals.
The key to effective use of social media is to stay focused on the objective: Building relationships. Social media use should fall under a layered marketing program driven by strategy, and strategy is always defined by the question: “Why?” Are you using social media for visibility? Sales? Recruitment?

How well do your audiences know your community and its benefits? Why are those audiences using social media – and what are they hoping to learn, discuss or share? After determining the whys, move on to the hows. Create a social media policy that spells out the sites suitable for your content. Spell out who can post content either on your blog or other sites. Determine the types of allowable content and the process for ensuring that content is aligned with approved messages and strategies.

It’s always useful to make sure your content has the right key words and is easily found through Web searches. Also, get approvals before using any residents’ comments in social media outreach, and be wary of using any confidential information as content.

From the sales side of things, because senior living is a multi-faceted and often emotion-filled service, prospective residents and their families appreciate that we know when to listen and when to talk. That should apply to social media as well. While social media offers the potential to talk more, it’s still more important to listen first. And be prepared for the risk that not everyone will respond positively about your community or your services in online forums.

From the professional outreach side of things, mediums such as Twitter and LinkedIn can get like-minded professionals connected quickly and frequently. Similarly, mediums such as Facebook are great tools for assisting human resources departments with recruitment.

Social media can amplify the word-of-mouth method for exchanging information and may be the first, second or 20th encounter, given other tactics in the marketing mix. This is all the more reason to think through the “Why” to drive the “How” strategy, and provide audiences with a consistent experience.