Aged care providers should be using social media to create online communities that provide an authentic view of life within their facilities and the quality of care provided to residents.
Consumers were now using platforms like Facebook to gather information about companies before making purchasing decisions, social media guru Matthew Lee told providers at the Aged & Community Services national summit last week.
“People are using social media to get information and to help validate their decisions,” said Mr Lee, a digital strategist with One Fell Swoop, a research and marketing consultancy.
While organisations traditionally used their company website to market themselves and provide information about their services, consumers had a level of distrust towards corporate websites and questioned their authenticity, he said.
“This is the new way of marketing,” Mr Lee said. “Traditional marketing has been a one-way conversation – you telling consumers why your service is best. Social media has changed the dynamic and put the power in the hands of consumer; they drive discussions now and you can create a place for them to have discussions.”
The percentage of Facebook users in Australia aged 45 to 65 doubled in the past six years – from 14 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2016, Mr Lee said. Facebook users in Australia aged 65-plus increased from 104,000 in 2010 to 950,000 in 2016.
Some residential aged care providers were successfully using Facebook to post regularly about the activities and lifestyle programs being delivered, illustrating how staff and residents were interacting and providing a glimpse into life within the facility. He said:
“A lot of people are time poor but they want to be able to pop in to see what’s going on in the lives of their loved one, see how staff are taking care of them. One interesting way to solve that issue is to create a virtual community, and take what’s happening in the physical environment and put that online.”
By using Facebook to transparently and authentically post about life in their facilities, some providers had successfully created online followings of family and friends who regularly commented online, shared posts and helped build the virtual community.
Fear of negative comments
Many aged care providers were reluctant to engage on social media platforms such as Facebook for fear of receiving negative comments.
But Mr Lee argued this shouldn’t stop providers from creating online communities.
Negative comments were often posted online regardless and it was better for providers to be part of the conversation so they could respond to issues, rather than it happening behind their backs.
“Facebook gives you the ability to monitor your brand online,” he said.
However, it was essential that the organisation appointed a community manager to post regularly, to monitor comments and respond to complaints when appropriate.
“You also need to establish the tone of how you’ll respond to issues. When you get legitimate complaints it’s important to have the community manager who can respond quickly and publicly,” said Mr Lee.
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