Everyone (well almost everyone) is using the Internet to market their senior communities!

Assisted Living and Continuing Care Communities are perhaps the most sophisticated users of electronic media marketing and Skilled Nursing Communities the least sophisticated and least effective, with independent living someplace in the middle. For all of that, it is not clear that any community or company has found the magic bullet that allows them to dominate their market place through their web and email presence.

I recently spent some time looking at a number of web pages for senior housing communities and here are some observations:

1. They All Look More or Less The Same – If you spend some time looking at the web pages of communities in your local area, you can not help but quickly realize they all use the same language, have the same kinds of photographs and offer the same services. There are perhaps only three useful pieces of information: levels of care and services offered, pricing and location.

For all of this, websites are extremely important because if you don’t have one people will either not find you or will notice that you do not have a presence and react negatively to your community.

2. Some Sites are Embarrassingly Bad – While not having a website puts you at a huge disadvantage, having a website that sucks can cost you thousands of dollars per month.

Some of the most common problems I see are misspelling’s, bad grammar, photographs that make no sense and broken links (links to another page that does not exist). Perhaps worst of all is stale information. . . an invitation to the 2010 Christmas party, or press releases that are old. (Yes you should audit your web pages for this problem. It is something I have seen even with high end communities and professionally designed websites.)

3. No Facebook Page – There is some disagreement about what kind of presence a community should have on Facebook. Some companies worry they will not have adequate control and will only allow a corporate page. It makes sense to have some strong guidelines for an individual communities content, but a corporate page does little if anything to help with the marketing of an individual community.

4. No LinkedIn Page – Today having a community LinkedIn page is less important than having a Facebook page. Yet you can never tell where people will look for information on you community or just stumble across your community on accident.

Next week I will get begin to address content marketing specifically, talking about emails, blogs and website content.

A final important tip: Even if you don’t think you will ever use it. . . You should establish a Facebook page, LinkedIn Page and perhaps even a LinkedIn Group for both your company and your communities. You should do this so that when you are ready to go it will be available to you. Right now if you were to search for Senior Housing Forum on Facebook or LinkedIn you would find placeholder pages and a discussion group at LinkedIn. Those represent valuable real estate and should be protected.

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Finally: If you know anyone who is looking at emergency call systems I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about Vigil Health Solutions.