Mar 06, 2018

Why aged care providers should care about social media

Social media aged care - HelloCare

The aged care industry is facing increasing levels of competition, becoming far more consumer-orientated and undergoing reform (Consumer Directed Care, introduction of the Increasing Choice in Home Care measure, etc.).

As in any other industry, there is an increased need (and expectation) that providers understand their target audience and engage in social media as a marketing, outreach and customer service tool.

How we communicate in the digital world continues to evolve

Organisations are using tools such as social media to build communities and engage in dialogue – moving on from simply putting static information on their websites. Seventy-six per cent of Australian large businesses use social media for communication with clients and contacts.1

The elderly and their families are increasingly using social media to communicate, receive news, research and engage with brands. In the United States, 62 percent of over-65s used Facebook in 2016, up from 48 percent in 20152. In Australia the trend is similar with 20 percent now using social media at least once a day, up from 5 percent in 2011, and 7 percent using it to follow or find out about particular brands of business in general’, up from 1 percent in 2013.

However, while aged care customers are moving onto social media platforms, the industry itself is still learning how to make effective use of this technology and has historically avoided engagement due to concerns around staff skills, budget and the belief that activity increases risk.

Understanding customers

In a competitive market, the challenge for aged care providers is to identify and meet the needs (and annoyances) of their customers. A sophisticated social media program with a rigorous monitoring and reporting framework will help to identify customer desires and concerns and respond accordingly. Furthermore, insights derived from social media can be integrated into a broader digital strategy to gather business intelligence and differentiate and best position the brand.

Engaging staff

Social media is no longer considered a workplace distraction but a tool for empowering employees. Leading social media programs the technology to not only connect with their customer base and develop important stakeholder relations but also to improve culture and morale amongst internal stakeholders.

Word-of-mouth messages from employees often beat corporate messaging in being the most powerful marketing tool. Increasingly organisations are encouraging staff to promote their professional expertise, knowledge and experience, and build their own personal brand on social media. There are numerous ways that aged care providers can go about this; utilising the professional networking potential of LinkedIn, developing a blog, or creating or joining an online community group, for example.

From a personal well-being viewpoint, social media provides an opportunity for carers to interact with people experiencing similar challenges, connect and seek support from others within the community.

To control risk, organisations must develop and communicate their social media use policy and educate staff about the need to respect information disclosure, appropriate conduct and regulatory expectations. Employees should be empowered but also supported on social media.

Reasons to ‘do’ social media

  • Established participation: social media is already a ubiquitous element of our daily lives, and this has increased in intensity and maturity with each passing year.
  • Social research: immediate family members and children are likely to be the key researchers through social media, either actively or passively.
  • Cost-effective: there is no cost barrier.
  • Flexible: content options range from simple text to high-quality multimedia and video.
  • Highly targeted: narrowcast the audience to advertise specifically to age, geographic location and interests (or a combination thereof) according to campaign or content purpose.
  • Multi-way communication: receive instant feedback and correspondence between the customer and provider; turn negative experiences into positive ones.
  • Community-building: Create a community of customers, including families, to stay connected.
  • Brand-building: share the passion, values and personality of your organisation.
  • Sales targets: create new business value and increase sales conversions.
  • Enhance existing initiatives: add value to traditional services and existing marketing channels.
  • Gain a competitive advantage: know what peers are doing and let your audience know what differentiates you in the market.
  • Activate and mobilise staff: create a network of brand champions to promote their (and your) brand and credentials.

Setting the strategy

Social media’s ability to enable people with similar experiences to connect and provide anonymous (or semi-anonymous) feedback makes it a vital source in maintaining operations, service quality and standards.

A well-structured social media program is critical for providers to manage clients, stakeholders, the public and the media in the digital world; the strategy is a cornerstone of this success. Unfortunately, ad-hoc program management is all too common across corporate Australia. While it may deliver short-term wins, systemic risks or external causes may prevent a thriving program.

A leading-edge social media strategy will define what the organisation is seeking to achieve and will outline the supporting processes, key success factors, reporting and performance indicators. To achieve best practice outcomes, the social media strategy needs to strike the right balance between aspirations and internal realities.

Five steps towards social media success

In highly competitive markets, organisations need to be open and engage in dialogue with staff as well as customers. Progressive social media programs provide a strong competitive advantage in the contemporary digital landscape. As a modern-day ‘shopfront’ for customers and the general public, social media also gives individuals unfamiliar with the company an opportunity to connect with a provider and begin a path to purchase.

Leading social media programs balance strategic objectives with best-practice risk management principles, have appropriate business buy-in, and importantly, are true to the spirit of social media. What’s needed is a willingness to engage and interact with audiences and not rely on one-way marketing or broadcasting.

  1. Strategy – Do you have a working social media strategy in place?
  2. Engagement – What is the customer experience for people engaging with your organisation on social media?
  3. Intelligence – Are you aware of what your customers and stakeholders are saying about you?
  4. Issue management – How do you use social media to manage issues and resolve crises?
  5. Support – Do your staff have the resources, skills and tools to succeed?

Being active in social media is important in the new media landscape – if you don’t direct your brand narrative, others will.

Permission was given to republish the article. This content was originally published by KPMG.

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