You may be under estimating the power of consumer review sites, but you shouldn’t.

Earlier this month Senior Housing News published an article titled “Senior Living Review Sites Gain Momentum, But How Important Are They?” The article left the reader with the obvious impression that while these sites may have some value; they are not likely to ever have real and significant value in the way that a site like TripAdvisor has for hotels. The article missed mark in a big way.  This is not terribly surprising when you look at the history of naysayers in the world of technology innovation.   

Here are some other “miss the mark” predictions:

  • Telephones have no value to humans
  • X-Rays are fake
  • Computers are not for the home
  • There is no chance the iPhone will gain any serious market share

The big point the article misses is that choosing a senior living community is a life altering experience up there with getting married, having your first child or having a spouse or child die.  To compare it with selecting a hotel for a night, a weekend or longer vacation is at best barely comparable.  

Defensive or Strategic

In May Blair Carey of and I did a presentation about online reputation companies like at ALFA.  The sessions had a combined audience of more than 200 senior housing professionals.  I wish I felt confident that these providers showed up because they are seeing on-line reputation services as the next great marketing opportunity, but I suspect, most showed up either because they have received a bad review or are afraid of getting a bad review and want to know what to do about this problem or risk.   While you should have a plan or at least some notion of how you will manage a bad review, the more important, the more strategic way to view these sites is as powerful marketing tool that will allow you to tell your story more effectively than your competitors.  This is phenomenally important because if we are honest most community websites and brochures look about the same, use the same language and the same messaging.  

Consumer Review Powered Marketing

In talking with my friends at their biggest frustration and surprise continues to be that senior communities:

  • Don’t claim their listings
  • When the listings are claimed they are not populated with good information and photos.

I share this frustration.  In a few weeks I will be doing another breakout session on consumer reviews at the Oregon Healthcare Association and expect to have a pretty decent sized audience.  My fear though, is that I will give a good presentation, people will take a bunch of notes and that those notes will end up on a desk, in a file cabinet or in the trash and that most people, most communities will not actually make use of that information to improve their market position. In order to make consumer review sites work for your community you need to have positive reviews.  Getting positive reviews is not all that difficult and in part 2 of this series I will provide some specific step-by-step suggestions and tools for getting those reviews.  

Creating Value Out of Your Reviews

Once you have a series of reviews posted you should point out those reviews to every single prospect to with something as simple as this:  

“We are of course going to say great things about our community,

but we are really proud of what other people are saying about us at”  

I would also have a printout of those reviews to hand to them.  What you are really hoping they will do is go to the review site check out your reviews and check out the lack of reviews at your competitors listing (I know it is weird to hope your prospects will check out the competition).  

How successful have you been at getting reviews?