By Susan Saldibar

Remember, back in the early months of COVID when everyone was kicking their social into high gear? It was the perfect conduit to connect people on both sides of your doors. Facebook visitors were treated to posts of staff wearing their PPE and scrubbing down surfaces, photos of window visits and other socially distanced activities. Communities desperately needed to show all the great stuff they were doing to stay safe and still provide person-centered care. And families of residents desperately needed to see it. 

Fast forward to October; seven-plus months into the pandemic. Things have changed.

I spoke recently with Debra Gawet, Social and Digital Content Strategist Supervisor for SageAge Strategies (a Senior Living Foresight partner), who told me that they are seeing the once lively, consistent social postings slowing down. Some have even slumped back into a pre-COVID “once-a-something” timeline. 

What’s happening?

Families and Prospects Need to Connect via Social Now More Than Ever

“When the quarantine was taking place, many senior living operators increased their focus on social efforts and sent photos and videos for processing quite steadily,” Debra tells me. “But there has been a decline. Which is troubling. Because, when photos were being sent consistently, metrics increased greatly.”

And yet the drop off is understandable. Staff is being pulled in so many directions these days. Social media is time-consuming, and it’s hard to stay consistent. But for families and potential prospects, all those photos and videos are the closest thing they have to actually walking in the door. 

No one understands this dilemma better than Debra. She gets the frustration. And yet their records show that the consistent posting of photos and videos increased engagement dramatically. Tapering off did the opposite.

The solution, she says, isn’t that hard to achieve. The key is to carve out social media as an integral part of the daily work of your team, she explains. In other words, it is no longer a “nice to have”. That means communities need to re-commit to bringing their social media back up to prior consistency. And then they need to keep it there.

If All This Sounds Like Your Community, Here Are a Few Ideas

  • Copywriting: You don’t need more than 1-4 sentences, so keep it simple. Most visitors are viewing your posts from their mobile devices. Copy gets cut off after the first few lines. 
  • Images: Go for quality versus quantity. Make sure your images are well lit (outdoor lighting is best), and that they depict residents in a positive manner. Look at facial expressions, clothing, hair, and overall neatness. 
  • Videos: If you want greater engagement, shoot more video! Before you do, however, identify what the goal of each video is to determine the best plan of action for each.
  • Content: This is where a little creativity can take you a long way. Debra shared a few “social worthy” content themes that can be integrated to complement your existing social strategy:
    • September: Share photos of residents as children and their favorite “back-to-school moments” or school year memories.
    • November/December: Spotlight some of your residents and staff family holiday traditions.
    • May/June: Highlight resident and staff favorite memories of their moms/dads for Mother’s and Father’s Day.
    • And more of your own ideas.

Debra also reminds marketers not to forget to follow the “rule of thirds”. Roughly one-third of your posts should be more promotional, positioning your own community favorably. Another third should be shared content from reputable sources. Finally, one-third should focus on interactions with visitors to your social pages; ask them questions, encourage more engagement. Debra explains that following the rule of thirds can actually make your job of posting easier, as you don’t have to come up with organically produced content every day of the week.

Budget Season Is Here — Make Room for an Active, Consistent Social Media Presence

Preparing budgets for 2021 will be more challenging than last year. Debra urges senior living communities to make sure they either allocate a portion of the budget to work with a third party (such as SageAge) to maintain a strong social presence or that they commit to freeing up time for individuals within the community to handle social media.

It’s harder than ever to foresee what the months ahead will bring. But we do know that social media has the power to keep people connected. You’d be wise to keep it rolling.

For more social media tips and other information, please visit the SageAge website.