Social media for skilled-nursing facilities: Here’s what you need to know
For any business, crafting a social-media strategy can be initimidating. That may be especially true for skilled-nursing facilities (SNFs). Declining censuses and vigilant consumers have raised the stakes for anyone hoping to manage an SNF’s online reputation. A social-media slip-up can easily become a costly mistake.
In light of that, it may be tempting to avoid engaging in social media altogether. Why risk alienating consumers?
Renee Pruzansky, CEO of AristaCare Health Services, pointed out that this avoidance would be a mistake. “If your community’s not on top of social media, your competitors will be, and your organization will fall behind,” she said. Renee understands, though, why some communities might hesitate. “The fear comes from a lack of control,” she said. “If you don’t know what to do with social media, it’s scary. That’s why I tell people to take as much control as they can. Don’t create anxiety—create a strategy. Failing to use social media means missing out on a lot of opportunity.”
In a recent webinar for NRC Health, Renee taught SNF leaders how to build a social-media strategy that works. Here are some highlights.
New Age Consumerism
First, Renee explained how important it is for SNF leaders to embrace transparency. “It’s New Age Consumerism,” she said. “That means we’re in a direct-to-consumer era. People don’t think that applies to healthcare, but healthcare has become a direct-to-consumer industry.”
Consumers are approaching healthcare in the same way they might approach other purchasing choices. They’re not content to just accept what they hear; they’re proactive about performing research themselves. And what’s the first thing that consumers want to see when they’re conducting that research? Ratings.
“I call it the ‘ratings mindset,’” Renee said. “Ratings are the first thing people see when they look for providers, the place where their eyes naturally go. For example, on Amazon, I’m not going to buy anything under four stars. Similarly, why should I put someone in my family in a low-rated facility? When we’re talking about transparency online, that’s what we mean.”
It’s not just performance
SNFs, then, should focus on getting those online ratings as high as possible. Giving residents a great experience is a crucial and key component, but Renee pointed out that improving service isn’t enough.
“Remember: it’s not just about performance,” she said. “It’s about perception of performance. It’s the perception that’s going to help your online reputation the most.”
She cited one of AristaCare’s communities as an example. “A year ago, one of our facilities had a two-star rating on Google, and that’s not because we were a bad facility!” she explained. “It’s because we didn’t have that control over our online reputation.”
By planning and executing on an effective social-media strategy (including making use of NRC Health’s Transparency Solutions), Renee and her team were able to bolster AristaCare’s numbers from a 2.7 average Google rating to a 4.1 average—in under a few months.
How to get started
But how exactly did AristaCare do it? What should the day-to-day work of social-media management look like? While Renee believes this will vary between communities, she did have some suggestions for where to start.
“First, you have to have a social-media team,” she said. She recommended having a few Millennial-aged employees take on the tasks of publishing updates to social-media profiles, or else bringing on interns from local universities. “Make sure they’re meeting regularly, generating those positive care stories,” she added.
She doesn’t believe, however, that efforts should stop there. For a social-media strategy to take off, the entire workplace has to get behind a new culture of transparency. “Communication is key,” she said. “You have to build this network of messaging to get the word out there. The good news is that this doesn’t have to break the bank. You can make smart use of the resources you already have.”
This means shifting ad spending away from print and toward digital, as well as encouraging staff to talk to residents about the kinds of care experiences they’re having. These can be invaluable fodder for social-media updates and reviews.
With new stories on hand and a team dedicated to telling them, SNF leaders should then turn their attention to the major social-media spaces. Renee shared her thoughts on each of them.
“Ninety-two percent of people Google a facility before making a decision,” she said. “But getting a positive rating on Google is the most difficult, cumbersome part of social-media management. It takes a monumental amount of effort and time.”
This is where she says NRC Health’s services were the most helpful. “With NRC’s help, we were able to put up ratings from our own website, and have those juxtaposed against Google’s ratings when people search for us,” she said. “That was a game changer for us.”
Renee believes that the importance of Facebook can’t be overstated. “Facebook dominates the caregiver and senior sector of social media,” she said. “This is a dated statistic, but last I read, 40% of all Facebook users are 55+. That’s the target market for senior care.”
She recommended that Facebook be the first place SNFs direct their ad spending, as well as the bulk of their social-media management work. “It’s a great place to take control of your identity and give people a flavor for what you’re offering in your community,” she said.
As a bonus, she noted that Facebook also happens to be the easiest place for seniors to place reviews, so it’s a good idea to have engaging Facebook classes as part of your regular activity schedule—and to remind residents to leave a comment if they’ve had an experience they enjoyed.
In Renee’s opinion, LinkedIn is an underappreciated avenue for reputation management. “Not everyone thinks of it,” she said. “But transparency is 360 degrees! You can’t ignore any angle.”
Aside from what potential residents might see, LinkedIn also proves to be a valuable means of professional association. “It’s crucial for maximizing referral source exposure, building that goodwill with other providers in the community,” she said.
These last social-media services skew toward a younger audience. Renee believes that, for now, that makes them slightly less valuable for SNFs. “For our space, these shouldn’t be the priority,” she said. “That said, be open to what your local community needs. The activity on some of these other networks could surprise you.”
A parting note
Finally, Renee observed that, in the end, all these efforts amount to giving current and future SNF residents what they’re asking for and deserve.
“It’s time to redefine customer service,” she said. “The world has transformed. Transparency has been the catalyst to a sharper focus on customer needs, and this includes family members as well.”
The future, she said, will reward organizations that can “get their heads out of the old culture, stay open, and embrace something new.”
To get to that level of openness, a coherent social-media strategy and focus will carry SNFs a long way.