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Social media and long-term care: Three lessons from Vetter Senior Living’s success

It’s never been more important for long-term-care organizations to monitor their online presence.

Older Americans are already social-media savvy, and as the population ages, more and more of them are going to be digital natives: 22% of Facebook’s users are 55 and older.

That figure’s not likely to decrease. Middle-aged adults who are helping their older parents search for care (and even those older parents themselves!) are going to be more present and vocal online. They’re also going to be more reliant on online reviews to guide their decisions.

It’s the future of digital consumerism. LTC organizations should prepare for it.

Vetter Senior Living, a large LTC organization with 30 communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas, did just that—and saw extraordinary success in their efforts.

Here are three lessons they learned along the way.

Lesson one: Systematize online reputation monitoring

For organizations like Vetter’s, with many communities under their management, reputation monitoring presents a logistical hurdle as much as a technological one.

Each community has a unique online reputation, and tracking those separate reputations across an entire corporate chain can be demanding. Lines of communication frequently break down.

Karl Bieber, Vetter’s corporate public relations and communications coordinator, will attest to that.

“We relied too much on Google Alerts,” Karl says. “We asked administrators at individual communities to watch their reputations, and let the corporate office know if issues came up.”

But Google Alerts didn’t catch everything. Staff members didn’t always have the time to check how consumers talked about their care. “As a result, we missed a lot,” Karl says. Sometimes months would go by before a member of Vetter’s team would notice a negative comment about a community.

By using NRC Health’s Reputation Monitoring tool, however, Vetter was able to centralize all these operations. The platform passively monitored more than 40 third-party websites and immediately alerted Vetter’s corporate staff if a consumer left a negative review.

“Our staff loved how it took the burden of reputation monitoring off them. It doesn’t have to be at the back of their minds anymore,” Karl says. “Personally, it saved me two hours every week of scrolling through different social-media reviews.”

Lesson: Systematize—and centralize—to save staff time and energy.

Lesson two: The service-recovery “rapid response team”

Of course, it’s not enough to just watch comments come in. When a negative review arises for a facility, organizations must be equipped to intervene. For Vetter, it was immensely helpful to have a process in place, should dissatisfied consumers leave a negative review online.

DaNita Naimoli, a marketing and graphic design coordinator at Vetter’s corporate office, recalled one incident in which this process served Vetter’s flagship community, Brookstone Meadows, very well.

“We had a resident’s family member at Brookstone who posted a one-star review because she misunderstood what a long-term-care organization provides for residents,” DaNita says.

Reputation Monitoring alerted Brookstone’s staff immediately. The PR team’s response is a testament to how well Vetter had prepared its team. “Brookstone’s PR team called the patient right away,” DaNita says, “and they had an extremely constructive conversation.”

In fact, the conversation went so well that the family member—without being asked—went back online and changed their review from one star to four, even going so far as to thank the staff member who reached out:

Lesson: Have a clear, quick process for fielding service complaints.

Lesson three: Learn, then expand

Finally, Vetter knew that though they now had a strong reputation-monitoring process in place, they shouldn’t rest on their laurels.

“The future of our industry is happening online,” Karl says. “The lines between social media and traditional word-of-mouth are blurring all the time. Organizations have to push forward to keep up.”

Confident in their ability to monitor and manage the feedback they see online, Vetter has encouraged individual communities to expand their digital footprint.

As Karl says, “Reputation monitoring defanged social media for us.” It removed the hesitation that some Vetter staff members felt about cultivating a stronger online presence.

For the first time, Vetter’s corporate leadership has allowed communities to build out their own dedicated Facebook pages. They’ve also begun to train nursing staff to solicit online reviews from residents and family members—adding to the pool of credible online reviews.

“The best part is that it’s other people, not us, who are out there putting the word in for us,” says DaNita. “Those customer voices are more compelling than any sales materials we can produce on our own.”

A chance to learn more

As important as these revelations were for Vetter, they only tell one side of the story. They didn’t just elect to monitor third-party websites—they also chose to use NRC Health’s Transparency solution to publish reviews themselves.

This initiative had an outsized effect on Vetter’s business, and brought even more important lessons for LTC organizations who want to transform their online operations.

If you’d like to read about it, this free case study contains everything Vetter did to maximize their success, and everything they learned from the process. It includes:

– Common obstacles to digital development (even for high-performing organizations)

– Tactics for improving online engagement

– Specific metrics and benchmarks to watch

To see Vetter’s story, and how it might apply to your organization, click here.