People eat first with their eyes, and they also have an appetite for social media. Digital platforms let nursing homes and senior living communities share their foodservice story. From delicious food images to valuable dining program information, your message gets directly in front of the eyes that need to see it most.
Winning people over with food is so important, you make it part of guest visits and tours for prospective residents. You put your dining program front and center on communications—flyers, brochures, mailers, billboards, publications and broadcast media. Proactive operations even share their food at community events, like fundraisers, festivals, cooking competitions and job fairs.
Now it’s time to start thinking digital. It’s a top place for people to engage, including older adults. Pew Research statistics show 70% of adults 65 and older use the internet. That number will grow as the population ages, so finding the best ways to connect online will be key to reaching patients, residents, families, employees and the local healthcare network.
Know your audience
A lot of businesses feel pressure to be on social media, but it only works if you know your audience. “Just do it” is a great slogan for selling shoes, but a poor strategy for social media marketing, says Gordon Food Service Digital Marketing Specialist Luke Ferris. Ask these questions before jumping in:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What are the messages you need to share?
- What are you trying to get people to do?
“When you know these answers, try to do one or two social media platforms really well,” Ferris says. “It’s worse to be on 20 platforms and use them poorly than it is to be on one platform and do it really well.”
What platform works best?
Choosing the right platform depends on your needs and your comfort level. Consider a platform that’s likely to be around for a while. As technology evolves, platforms with a history are well equipped to adapt with capabilities to meet your needs. Here’s a brief look at four major social media players.
“Facebook is foundational. It has adapted over the years, and it’s not likely to go away,” Ferris says. “The audience is going to be an older demographic—current clients or potential clients.”
If they’re not already using Facebook, operators should start by creating a business page with updated information. That includes an address, phone number and link to a website.
Once established, make sure to post regularly about events, services and updates. A Facebook page is a place to interact with people inside and outside the community:
- Share curated content, post videos, invite people to events.
- Followers can share your posts easily.
- Encourage “follows” and “likes.” This increases visibility and alerts that person’s friends.
- Videos and photos get preference on Facebook news feeds.
- Use Facebook Live to showcase culinary demos or events.
“Sharing meal images and tagging the operation is a great way to build relationships with people and the place where they live and eat,” Ferris says.
Instagram reaches a younger audience—people mostly under age 45. Because it is a cousin of Facebook, there is a way to connect the two platforms so you can cross-post. Ferris recommends utilizing Facebook Creator Studio. It offers a dashboard to customize your social media presence on Facebook and Instagram.
Among the platform’s capabilities:
- Use Instagram Stories to share real-time updates.
- Remember, the Story feature only lasts for 24 hours.
- Share high-resolution photos, short videos and promotions.
- If residents or families create posts, you can repost and share them.
- You get free insights when using Instagram for Business.
It’s an image-driven platform, perfect for luscious food photography. It also requires a higher social media skill set, Ferris warns, making it a nice “if-you-want-to” option today. However, 15 years from now, the Insta-generation may be an audience your messaging needs to reach.
For most operators, Twitter is going to have the lowest value when it comes to food’s visual appeal. It’s still a useful business tool.
“If there’s an article written about your operation, you can retweet it to other organizations,” Ferris says. “If you have news to share or updates from your director, those are good to post on there.”
Although your residents’ families aren’t likely checking Twitter to follow your operation, your partnership audience might be. Use the platform to:
- Post new information about your dining program or community.
- Interact with other businesses, organizations or the media.
- Post or reshare frequently (do so with care: once it’s live, you can’t edit).
- Add hashtags to reach a wider audience (#foodie, #goodfood, #communityname).
This is another platform for engaging partners and professionals including current and potential employees. LinkedIn is a great resource for posting job openings.
You also can post information about business activities or employee-centric events, like training activities or offering to-go meals that busy employees can take home.
Start by setting up a business page. Then, make sure employees list you as their employer.
“If I’m a prospective employee and I see there is a head chef opening, I can find out a lot about your business” Ferris says. “And if your employees are linked, I might recognize someone I used to work with and get a referral.”
In addition to recruitment, LinkedIn also allows you to:
- Create a business page to share information and build your brand.
- Have employees create professional profiles and connect with others in the senior living or healthcare community to promote your dining.
- Invite connections to join your marketing email list.
- Join groups relevant to your demographic and actively discuss culinary and nutrition topics.
Your social media presence matters
Food is a big part of everyone’s day. People look forward to favorite dishes and spending time with friends around the table.
Done right, social media enhances your brand. Showcasing your food builds appetites. Promoting your dining space and amenities sparks interest. Highlighting your team builds loyalty.
All of those add up to a dining program that strengthens guest satisfaction and occupancy.
For more ideas, ask your Sales Representative about Your Food. Your Story. — a guide to making your senior living dining program your best marketing tool.