YouTube, Facebook, Twitter…Smart Providers Are Reaping Benefits
 What’s happening in the world of social media? What exactly is social media? And why is it important to senior living providers? Broadly speaking, social media refers to various kinds of user-generated content and the growing number of websites and applications that allow people to connect, interact, and share information online. It includes social networking sites (e.g., Facebook and LinkedIn), microblogging sites (e.g., Twitter), bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg and, video-sharing sites (e.g., YouTube), video-chatting sites (e.g., Skype), photo-sharing sites (e.g., Flickr), and website-sharing communities (e.g., StumbleUpon and ShareIt), as well as corporate and individual blogs and numerous other types of sites and applications that facilitate interaction between and among site owners and users.
 “The first thing to know about social media is that it’s not a fad,” noted Beverly Macy, Managing Partner of Y&M Partners in Beverly Hills, California, a strategic advisory firm, and CEO of Gravity Summit, which produces high-impact seminars that focus on educating the business community about social media marketing tools. “As of July 2010, Facebook had some 500 million profiles worldwide—nearly twice the entire population of the United States,” she pointed out, “and the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is baby boomers—a group that has become very Internet savvy.” For senior living providers, those baby boomers represent prospective residents; and right now, they are influencers in the care of their elderly parents.
 Other popular social media channels are also showing amazing growth. Twitter, for example, had 75 million accounts at the end of 2009 and continues to grow at the rate of about 6.2 million new accounts per month (or 2-3 per second!). LinkedIn, a professional network, had 75 million accounts in April 2010, mostly businesspeople boasting an average six-figure income and with an average age of 41. And some 32 million people have signed up to share photos on Flickr.
 So how do senior living providers get involved? The first step is to define the wants and needs of the organization and the target market; then, determine the most appropriate social media channels to accomplish those objectives. Is the intention to use social media as an amenity to improve the quality of life for residents, to announce events and share news and information within the community? Or is it to project the facility to the surrounding community and thereby attract potential clients and donors? Social media can also serve as a new or alternative method of finding suppliers and business partners, recruiting new employees, generating leads and referrals, and more.
 “Social media allows you to find and be found,” said Macy. “That’s a major shift from earlier times on the Internet, when people were primarily concerned with privacy and security. Now, without a social media presence where Google can index your content, people won’t find you—and you can easily fade into obscurity.”
ACTS is on board
“Social media is certainly growing, and more and more senior living providers are getting into it…including us,” said Michael Smith, Corporate Director of Public Relations at ACTS Retirement-Life Communities in Pennsylvania.
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