By Susan Saldibar

Social media was tailor-made for this moment in time. When COVID-19 hit and we began to quarantine ourselves, what did we do? We reached for our phones or laptops and began pawing through our social media channels, some of which we may not have visited for a while. We found ourselves whiling away the hours liking and sharing funny videos on Facebook, even tapping that new “hugging heart” emoji to show everyone how much we care. Even my cynical sister got a Facebook account. (I’m still shaking my head.)

And, yes, there are numbers to back all this up. According to DataReportal’s 2020 Digital Report, 47% of users in surveyed countries say they are spending more time on social media. And, 23% of them report a significant increase over pre-lockdown usage. In short, social media usage is up by 8% over last year at this time. And, given the numbers, that’s a big jump.

You Better Show Up for Your Target Prospects

I asked Debra Gawet, Social and Digital Content Strategist Supervisor for Sage Age Strategies (a Senior Living Foresight partner), to weigh in on this spike in social activity. Unsurprisingly, she is not only aware of it, but she’s urging marketers in senior living to take this rare opportunity to get in front of prospective residents and families. 

She shared a Pew Research Center chart with a demographic breakdown of social platform usage you might find interesting:

Sage Age Demographic Chart

As you can see, for middle-aged and older folks (your target prospects), the most popular platforms run neck and neck between YouTube and Facebook, with Facebook taking first place at age 65+. And, many of these folks are adult children seeking living options for their parents, if not now, in the near future. So, the odds are that they’ll be checking out your Facebook page to see what your community is doing to keep your residents healthy and engaged during COVID-19. 

This leads to a few key questions Debra is asking senior living operators and their marketers these days: Are you where you need to be on social media? Are you consistently sharing messaging and content that engages visitors and builds your brand? How you answer those questions might have more serious consequences than you think. 

What You Do Today Will Impact Where You’ll Be After COVID Subsides

Here are some of the benefits Debra points out for senior living community marketers who are ready to make the effort to ramp up their social engines now:

  1. Increases brand awareness. Since, according to Pew, your target demographic is visiting social media multiple times a day, you have numerous opportunities to connect with them.
  2. Humanizes your brand. Creates a more direct connection with prospects, residents, caregivers, the local community.
  3. Establishes your community as an expert in your care field. “Operators who are not posting relevant content consistently will not appear as knowledgeable, in the eyes of prospects,” Debra says.
  4. Gives you better reputation control. Using social, you highlight positives and address negative issues before they turn into crises.
  5. Provides a tool for crisis management. You can use social media to properly and effectively respond to a crisis in a meaningful way.
  6. Helps get you more reviews. And, assuming most are positive, this is a huge benefit. Facebook reviews are looked at by so many consumers prior to taking the next step.
  7. Helps increase website traffic. By sharing community-specific content, it drives individuals from social channels back to the website.

And, Debra reminds us, social media helps build top-of-the-funnel leads. “Even if the social leads do not move forward, it helps raise awareness that can lead them on the path to later converting to a full-fledged lead down the line,” she says. “Furthermore, it nurtures and guides the lead through the customer journey funnel.”

The Bottom Line

So the bottom line is that numbers don’t lie. Social media, especially Facebook, is where your prospects are going in greater numbers to dig deeper into your community. How will you seize the moment? Because it won’t last forever, Debra warns. Which is why she urges operators to get out there now and start sharing what your community is doing during the pandemic to keep residents connected and healthy.

Do it now and you’ll be glad you did when we move beyond COVID-19 and normal activity begins to resume,” Debra says. “Then, don’t stop. Use what you’ve learned to keep your social engine going!”

For more information on Sage Age Strategies, please visit their website.