This morning, I read a blog post from the Senior Housing Forum and it got me thinking about my personal recent experiences on social media. At Live 2 B Healthy®, we have embraced the use of social media throughout our company. We have mainly gotten into it because we know that all the people our company reaches, from our Personal Trainers to the seniors who participate in our classes, hear our message of wellness through different channels. Some may see a YouTube video that catches their eye, others may see an inspiration message on our Facebook page, while others may see one of our banners in a Wellness Certified Community or hear about our classes while touring a community. We know that, as many individuals as we touch every day with our message of wellness, there are as many ways of communicating as there are people.
Recently, as part of my job as Marketing Director, I have been tasked with researching and connecting with senior living communities through their Facebook Pages in certain areas. We always have followed and “Liked” the communities that we partner with and hold classes in, but we recently have begun connecting with communities that do not have our classes as well as a method of researching and finding out what their residents and management value. I have been regularly surprised by what I have found as I am going through prospecting lists in various cities across the US when it comes to Social Media – particularly Facebook.
- Some communities have very active and engaged Facebook communities online.
- Larger management companies have Facebook Pages, but their individual communities do not have their own Facebook Pages (I imagine this is mainly due to the challenge of maintaining 10s or 100s of different accounts)
- Many communities have Facebook Pages, but they seldom post anything, and only have a few followers.
- Some have absolutely NO Facebook Page, and I have even found a few in each city that do not have a website!
In my personal life, I was recently asked to help research a senior living community for my Grandmother, and I also have parents and friends with parents who are beginning to research senior living options. Of course, location and cost are two very big factors in how we narrow down our searches. But, above all other, we want to find a community that is socially open and inviting. And, what better way to gauge the true value a community places on inclusion and socialization than watching their Social Media communications?
Based upon this criteria, if I were searching for a senior living community in a particular community, this is how I would evaluate communities, based upon the above findings:
- Some communities have very active and engaged Facebook communities online: I would choose to consider these senior living communities first. I believe that communities that have active engagement on their social media channels, especially with participation from their residents, are going to be providing the type of social interaction that will help keep my loved one engaged on many levels. Even if my particular loved one is not on social media or does not own a computer, I would still see this active social engagement as a sign of a healthy and forward-thinking environment. In other words, not a place where my loved one will be placed in front of a television and left to live out their remaining years in stagnation. I would also notice that this community is not going to be so strapped for resources at every junction and need to be making choices based solely on monetary considerations. If they have someone on their staff who has enough time to maintain some social interaction with the community, then they clearly value socialization of their residents above monetary considerations.
- Larger management companies have Facebook Pages, but their individual communities do not have their own Facebook Pages – If I have been used to living my life in a corporate structure, and feel safer within that structure, or, if my loved one is used to this, I will consider this space as well. I know that this corporation will be safe and will provide an active lifestyle for my loved one. Basically, as a corporation, they probably place value on socialization or they would not bother with Social Media. However, often times what the management company values is more difficult to impose on their individual communities. What the individual communities gain is access to greater variety, but they also may be more likely operating under stringent guidelines. They may be staffed at the local level by staff who feel either unempowered (because of excessive corporate control) or unmotivated (because they are under so much pressure to meet “numbers” or “it’s not my job”). If the Corporate Page features posts by individual communities as well as just corporate-wide information, these communities are probably ideal, because the management companies have found a formula for management that allows for individual expression as well. This is probably the best of both (1.) and (2.) combined.
- Many communities have Facebook Pages, but they seldom post anything, and only have a few followers. These communities are sending up a red flag in terms of the level of their care. Either their staff is so strapped for money that they are unable to pay an Activity Director or Marketing Director to maintain a Facebook Page for their community. Or, else they do not value changing social trends in society. I would be suspicious of these communities that they might be employing out-dated care for my loved one or be too short-staffed to notice if my loved one needed extra attention. This is not to say that I would not consider the community, but rather that I would not schedule a tour if there were other better options (1.) or (2.) that fit my location and financial needs.
- Some have absolutely NO Facebook Page, and I have even found a few in each city that do not have a website! These communities would not even warrant my attention. Particularly if they had no online presence at all, in the form of even a website. I would assume that there was some reason for their lack of visibility, and this would signal to me that I should research them through channels such as newspaper articles, health inspections or abuse notifications.
I realize, of course, that not all communities fit into these tight boxes that I have outlined above. But, certainly, with all of the options available today for choice in senior living, it seems that consumers have their pick of choices. If location and cost fit within their search parameters, taking a glance at their Social Media presence might just be able to help your narrow down your search, or at least streamline your tour schedules.