Are you using social media to create awareness for the services you offer?
Keep reading as I reveal how a nursing home used social media to build a loyal local community.
Nursing Homes and Social Media?
Nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and rehab communities are not known for being active in social media—yet.
But changes in Medicare mean communication with patients and families and the employees who care for them is more important than ever.
“The way that we’re going to be paid and the way we’re going to be gauged is changing; it’s evolving as we speak,” said Scott Unverferth, director of operations at HCF Management in Lima, Ohio.
New pay-for-performance models are on the horizon for managed care companies such as HCF.
HCF has 27 facilities throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania that provide skilled nursing care, rehab care and assisted living. They have approximately 3,200 employees and have been in business since 1968.
In April 2012 they made the leap into social media and haven’t looked back.
Here’s how they’re making it work in the new healthcare environment.
When HCF decided the time was right to get into social media, they knew they needed a trusted partner. “We really had zero experience,” said Unverferth.
For guidance, HCF turned to Jessika Phillips, president of NOW Marketing Group of Lima, Ohio, based on word of mouth in the community. HCF and NOW agreed to a pilot program for seven facilities, eventually adding 17 more.
After a two-month discovery process, NOW launched the first Facebook Pages last spring. “We wanted to understand their business and their audience as much as possible,” said Phillips. NOW also uses a HubSpot goal-setting template to help set SMART goals for each quarter, as well as longer-term goals.
NOW and HFC developed a plan to increase community awareness of the brand, reach decision-makers and engage employees.
#1: Be Hyperlocal
There is no HCF Management Facebook Page. Instead, there are 24 individual Facebook Pages for the different HCF facilities. The same is true for Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and Pinterest pages (added spring 2013).
During the discovery process, NOW realized that HCF needed to focus more on engagement than follower numbers. Creating Facebook Pages for each facility means they can post more engaging content for each site.
“We want to create brands where the feel on the Page is that they are cheerleaders for the community,” said Phillips.
“We create that kind of feel that we’re definitely engrained in the community and very supportive of it, and that tends to get really high engagement,” she added.
NOW uses Scoreboard Social, a competitive social media analytics tool, to track their engagement, which aggregates all the Pages into one report for easier monitoring.
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#2: Reach Out to Decision-Makers
“In our business, the people who make the decisions are not necessarily the people who are having the service provided,” said Unverferth. A common scenario is that a person’s mother or father will go into the hospital and learn that they can’t go home. In two days, their family will have to find a nursing home. “We want people to know who we are before they have to make that decision,” Unverferth said.
On Facebook, posts are designed to educate, entertain, engage or show their expertise. Phillips also explained that they make sure to mix in general-interest posts so prospective decision-makers don’t feel like outsiders.
One of HCF’s most successful social media efforts has been a series of virtual tour and staff introduction videos on YouTube. Phillips said they have been a great tool for the HCF social workers and patient-relations representatives at the hospital.
She recounts one account manager’s story of a family that was looking to choose a nursing home for their mother. At first, some of the out-of-state siblings were recommending a different nursing home. But the sibling who lived nearby took a video tour of an HCF facility and then sent the link of the virtual tour to her family. After viewing the tour video and staff videos, the other siblings felt comfortable having their mother placed in the HCF nursing home.
Another unconventional way HCF used YouTube was with a series of “Harlem Shake” videos.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something unexpected?’” said Phillips.
The first video, shot at Van Wert Manor, received over 10,000 views in its first week, also spawning coverage on two local TV stations and two newspapers.
Van Wert Manor’s “Harlem Shake” video got over 10,000 views its first week
“For us, that’s amazing,” added Unverferth. “We could never have 10,000 customers look at our building in a week’s time… We are starting to reach some of the people who are going to be decision-makers. Maybe they’re not today, but I think they will be in the future.”
#3: Reach Out to Employees
Communicating with employees using the same social channels that you communicate with customers may seem counterintuitive. But in managed care, it makes sense. Relationships grow between staff and residents over what can be years of care, and social connections are important.
“It’s just so important that [staff] are involved and they know what’s going on,” said Unverferth.
Since employee satisfaction will figure into new formulas for payment, bringing employees into the social media mix makes good business sense as well.
To foster staff engagement on social media, HCF focuses on Facebook, an email newsletter and newly added Pinterest pages.
NOW introduced an email version of the printed newsletter that is distributed to residents. They ran a contest between facilities for the most signups, giving a pizza party to the winners. Over 2,200 employees and family members now subscribe.
NOW also launched Pinterest pages to offer craft ideas for internal activities directors and wellness resources for families.
The Power of Social Media in Managed Care
When the Roselawn Manor Care Community (an HCF Management community) got on Facebook, an administrator noticed a certain person liking and interacting with their daily posts. Shortly afterwards, that person referred a resident.
“After talking with this resident,” the administrator said, “she had mentioned that our Facebook Page and our daily fun and caring posts are what led her to our care community!”
When it comes to social media in the managed care arena, Phillips said,
“It’s important to take a risk and try it out before you’re trying to play catch-up.”
What do you think? How does this story resonate with you? Have you seen similar uses of social media to create awareness? How else can social media benefit industries like this one? Leave your comments and questions in the space below.