My mom bought her first smartphone last month. I suspected she made the purchase when I noticed three days had passed since she last called me for driving directions. But my suspicion was finally confirmed last week, when she sent me a text message without any T9 mistakes…
As a Millennial, it’s easy for me to joke about the technological illiteracy of Boomers. After all, I spent my teenage years taking full advantage of that lack of understanding, using technology to hide all the mischief I didn’t want my parents to know about.
But it seems the joke is finally up.
Boomers are using technology more than ever before. They’re wise to the times. They’ve officially adopted social media, search engines and smart devices to find the information they want and stay in touch with everyone and everything.
And it’s about time senior housing marketers take notice.
Let’s look at the numbers. Approximately 72 percent of Internet-connected Americans ages 50-64 have a Facebook account, according to Pew Research. And these numbers are only growing; Boomers have repeatedly been the fastest growing demographic on Facebook for the last several years.
Google usage statistics are even more impressive. More than 84 percent of Boomers report Internet search as a tool for finding information, according to Google/Ipsos survey data. That makes Search the primary tool for gathering information, far ahead of TV, newspapers and radio. And that study was conducted in 2013!
Despite all this data, senior housing communities continue to dismiss digital marketing as something for us young whippersnappers.
In the December 2016 Senior housing News article Why Senior Living Still Struggles with Digital Marketing, author Tim Mullaney shared several alarming statistics from an American Senior housing Association survey regarding the state of digital marketing in Senior housing. One of the most notable statistics showed that survey participants, as a whole, considered direct mail, print ads and live events to be more effective than digital marketing. But the same survey participants consider community websites to be the most effective form of marketing.
The fact survey participants believe community websites exist in some kind of vacuum shows that Senior housing marketers have a poor understanding of how digital marketing works.
You can’t say your website is your primary marketing tool but write off SEO, PPC and social media. Countless studies show that less than a quarter of site visits come from direct traffic. The remaining 75+ percent come from organic search, paid search, social media and other online referrals.
In other words, many senior housing marketers credit their websites as primary lead generators, but fail to credit the sources driving website traffic in the first place.
That’s a serious disconnect!
And if it proves anything, it’s not that digital marketing doesn’t work for senior housing. Rather, it’s that senior housing marketers simply don’t understand what they’re missing.
Fortunately, we know how to change things for the better.
How to Kickstart a Digital Marketing Strategy for Senior Housing Communities
Most website visitors don’t reach sites by directly plugging URLs into browsers. They reach sites by clicking on links in a search engine, such as Google, or by clicking on links in a social network, such as Facebook.
Getting More Website Traffic Through Search
An overwhelming amount of website traffic starts with a simple Google search. Not surprisingly, the traffic received by senior housing websites is no different. Approximately 75 percent of Boomers say they found information on senior living options by first using search engines like Google, according to a 2014 survey.
What’s important to remember, however, is that there are two different ways users can be directed to a website after conducting a search. The first way is through an organic link, or a link that naturally appears in the search results. The second way is through a sponsored link, or a link that appears in search results because an advertiser paid to place it there.
Accordingly, senior housing marketers should use two different tactics to ensure that both organic and sponsored links appear in Google search results for their communities:
- SEO—Search Engine Optimization—is a digital marketing tactic that helps a website listing climb to the top of organic search. Marketers can make their websites optimized for search by creating pages that send positive signals to Google’s search algorithm. These signals can be anything from proper keyword usage in title and meta descriptions, to backlinks from other sites, to on-page content.
- PPC—Pay-Per-Click—is a digital marketing tactic that calls on marketers to pay for website rankings in search. This approach works best for new communities and communities that want quick results. And because you only pay for your ad when it’s clicked, a substantial ROI is pretty much a sure thing.
Be forewarned that both tactics require a lot of research and technical know-how if you want the best outcome. It takes time to identify optimal keyword and bidding strategies. And even when the initial research phase is over, you’ll still need to manage your campaigns on a daily—or at the very least, weekly—basis. If you’re crunched for time, consider hiring a fully managed PPC service.
Getting More Website Traffic Through Social
Google isn’t the only source of traffic for most websites. Social media feeds a significant amount of traffic as well. In fact, a 2015 study showed that social media sources fed more than 31 percent of website traffic on average.
As is the case with search engine traffic, social media traffic can be directed through both organic content and paid content:
- Organic social content consists of posts and pages that are spread via shares, likes, comments, etc. from actual social network users. In truth, this is far from the ideal strategy for senior housing marketers who want to generate traffic and leads. However, organic social content is useful in engaging current residents and will occasionally deliver a digital word-of-mouth lead through your residents’ personal social networks.
- Paid social content consists of post and page ads that selectively target audiences based on demographic information and interests. Without a doubt, this is the most effective means of reaching a particular demographic in marketing today. Social networks collect a ton of data on their users and marketers can use that data to deliver customized messaging with pinpoint accuracy. Want to target every Facebook user between the ages of 55 and 60 living in the Orlando with a pet dog? You can do it through paid social advertising.
Note that multifamily marketers can advertise their communities on whatever network they choose. However, in regards to senior housing and Baby Boomers, sites such as Facebook and Instagram will provide much more qualified users than sites such as Twitter and Snapchat.
Now that we know senior housing communities can reach Boomers through digital channels, it’s time to reorganize marketing priorities, create a new plan and put that plan into action.