Welcome to the community, social media

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Adam Gomes
Adam Gomes

Back in the day (2003), the launch of the first-ever, large-scale online networking service changed the way we communicate with each other. MySpace allowed people to create a personal social profile, giving the users the options to write a biography, upload photos, and tell everyone your emotions through a status update. The trend was fun for a while; until everyone had enough of reading their friends' status updates that said they are currently brushing their teeth before going to bed or walking the dog on a sunny day.

By 2008, Facebook stole the No.1 spot in popularity, simply because their strategy shifted to using social media for more than just an online vehicle to communicate with friends. In short, Facebook helped small businesses grow by offering the business page option. A Facebook business page gets the message across while establishing a digital footprint. The constantly changing social network initially targeted college students and eventually the entire 18-35 age bracket. Today, most new Facebook users are between the ages of 50-64.

For some time, we have been seeing this trend spill into the senior living arena. Families are shopping online, looking at Facebook pages and websites, before deciding where their loved one will move in. By now, your community Facebook page has to be up and running, promoting all that it has to offer, not just through the biography.

Does your community offer memory care? Skilled nursing? Fine dining? Each post needs to be tailored to your community's specialties. Your social media manager should also be following online trends, exploring new ways to strengthen the online image as well as keeping followers in the loop with events. And yes, there should be a social media manager.

A business page on Facebook can be beneficial for both the consumer and the community operator. From an operation standpoint, you want to make sure everything from staff to policy is buttoned up or else you might receive a bad public review. On the other side, consumers are able to write reviews based on certain experiences at the community, either positive or negative. These reviews provide potential prospects insight about the community before they schedule a tour.

As a digital media specialist, I will say it is quite rewarding to see a resident coordinating plans with their family member via Facebook to attend a community function. So ask yourself, how does your Facebook page set itself apart from the competition?

Facebook is the most popular social media outlet out there; however, Twitter and LinkedIn are a close 2nd and 3rd. Twitter's 140-character message keeps readers' attention by getting to the point faster. There are many things going on in our lives that easily distract us, so reading shorter messages that get to the point across makes Twitter easier and quicker to read. Senior living professionals will eventually use Twitter to communicate with business partners and clients, if they aren't already using it.

For staff and administrators, LinkedIn is a great outlet to create a name for yourself and the community. Each staff member should connect his or her personal profiles to their employer's LinkedIn, which will reinforce a strong online image. If you're recruiting for a senior living community, you can search for candidates on LinkedIn as well as post job opportunities. Job seekers can then find those jobs and tie them right back to the community page. By adding your community or association to LinkedIn, your brand will be recognized on the most popular and professional business-networking site.

Overall, make sure staff, family and friends interact on social media. Have family and friends write reviews about their experience. Upload pictures and videos from events and make sure everyone knows about activities going on in the community. With time, residents, family members, staff and even prospects will be tweeting, posting and connecting!

Adam Gomes is the national digital media specialist at Bild & Company.

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