How Emeritus Senior Living Tames the Social Media Beast: Part 1 [INTERVIEW]
This post is part of our Social Media Success Series, which features interviews with innovative and fearless socially networked senior living, home care, and LTC companies that are achieving positive business results using media and other social technologies. To have your organization included in this series, contact us.
Most senior living, long-term care, and home care companies across the country have either started dabbling in social media, or have at least come to realize that it’s something they must start thinking about. With boomers and seniors flocking to social networks, and sites like Facebook and Twitter being adopted by every demographic, these companies are being forced to go where no senior care provider has gone before.
But how can senior care companies leverage these tools to best serve their business interests and their customers? What tools work best and what strategies are proving to be most fruitful? To answer these and other questions, we go right to the very creative people and innovative companies in the industry, like Emeritus Senior Living, who are helping to define how social technologies work in the senior care space.
Emeritus Senior Living (ESL) is currently the nation’s largest assisted living (AL) provider with over 460 AL communities in 43 states. Their services range from Alzheimer’s and memory care, to skilled nursing, retirement living, independent living, and rehabilitation services. I recently caught up with Chris Kim, ESL’s eMarketing Specialist, and asked him how Emeritus leverages social media. Due to the length of the interview, I broke it up into two parts. Here’s what Chris had to say:
Q: When did Emeritus start using social media, how did you get started, and what were your initial objectives?
We started our initial social media efforts back in June of 2009. Like many companies utilizing social media for the first time, we first had to really organize our thoughts and brainstorm some ideas on how we can best utilize social media as a tool. I came on board with Emeritus as the online marketing specialist in July of 2009 and started putting together a general strategy around social media. We knew right off the bat that social media shouldn’t be used as a marketing venue to convert leads, but rather we took on an approach to use social media to engage with our customer. The questions we asked were “what kind of content do our customers like to see? How do we engage with our viewers? How do we take the feedback provided by our viewers and leverage to our benefit in creating marketing initiatives?
It took a little while to get things rolling but soon our objectives really became clear. Our main goal is to use our social media outlets for brand reputation management, build an online presence, and build a reputation of being an authoritative figure in the industry. If you look at our website, we’ve continually been building out our resource section with a glossary, guides, various resources to not only help residents and potential customers, but to draw in those who may be simply looking for some information. By utilizing our social media outlets to really promote these new resources, we were able to build a following.
Likewise, we found that our social media profiles created a great opportunity to connect with our employees out in the field, as well as build relationships with 3rd party partners who help promote some of our great content and resources we provide on our social media sites.
Q: What social media tools do you currently use? I see you have a corporate blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Do you have others? Do any of your individual communities have their own? If not, why not?
We are currently using Facebook and Twitter as our main social media venues. We do have a corporate blog that we update regularly with resources, events from communities, as well as our Brain Health Blog we run in partnership with Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a leading expert in brain health.
We also have a LinkedIn profile that is closely managed and run by our human resources department. This is to really connect with employees as well as 3rd party vendors who we may work with in various ways.
Likewise, our YouTube channel is something we recently started building in. In partnership with Dr. Vicki Rackner, an expert in doctor-patient relations, we are working towards creating a resource video library that touches on topics from care giving, health, and other topics. We also work with other departments at Emeritus to promote videos for employee candidates and to provide a visual look at our company culture.
As for Facebook and Twitter for our AL communities – We currently encourage all of our communities to use our corporate Emeritus Facebook Page instead of creating their own. We found that we get great engagement from viewers when we post more localized resources and events on our corporate Facebook Page. It really provides for an online community that is not just for corporate marketing purposes, but does a great job of reaching out to the local markets as well. Likewise, we realize that Facebook and Twitter provide many ways for current or previous customers and employees to respond to occasional negative feedback on our services. We want this to be as open as possible. We feel that by having a centralized profile where anyone can write their experience, we can address these issues openly and really show that we care about the feedback. We manage our social media outlets closely to make sure all issues are addressed.
Q: There seems to be quite a bit of fan participation on your Facebook Page. How do you make that happen?
When we first started our Facebook page, our main goal was to get our fans to participate and give us feedback as often as possible. We found that something as simple as directly asking our fans to give us feedback on various topics definitely helped. On any given resource, news article, or event we post, we try to ask what their thoughts are on that topic. For example, we provide a brain health assessment test on our website that gives visitors a quick assessment on how healthy their brain is. What we’ll typically do is promote the brain health assessment test on our social media sites and end the promotional statement by asking participants to share what score they received. Our viewers are genuinely interested in what we post, our job is to get them to tell us what their thoughts are on what we post. By doing so, we’re actually able to adjust our strategy accordingly by posting topics that we’ve found are more popular.
Another thing we strive for is being current with our communities’ events and being timely with our updates. Being timely is very important as we receive great participation and engagement from our fans after an event at a community. For example, say a community hosts an Alzheimer’s related event. We’ve found that people who attend the events follow our Facebook Page and are happy to see photos and event details – and they will often engage with us.
We also run contests on our Facebook page pretty regularly. On a seasonal/quarterly basis, our marketing team creates a contest around a topic that we feel are seasonally appropriate. For example, we had a very successful contest this past Valentine’s Day by asking participants to share a story of how they or their parents met each other. We had some great stories with that one! It is such a great way to get fans to engage with us, and it also doesn’t hurt that its free! We usually get a nice kick in number of fans during these contests.
Q: Who manages your corporate social media accounts? Do you have a social media team? How much time per week do they spend on SM?
Our social media accounts are all managed by me. We do not have a specified social media team but I work very closely with our marketing team, as well as the communities to obtain the best resources, events, and news stories to post on our social media. Social Media is really only a small part of our online marketing initiative so I don’t spend too much time on it. Perhaps a few hours per week. It really helps that I have the support of our marketing team to always provide photos and fresh resources to provide!
In Part 2 of the interview, you’ll learn about ESL’s total online reach, lead generation results, ROI, SEO, how social media enhances ESL’s traditional marketing efforts, social media downsides, and policy issues. Be sure to subscribe to our blog via RSS or email to make sure you don’t miss it.