The days of launching an advertising or marketing campaign and expecting immediate buy-in from the targeted audience are long gone. The rise of the Internet has resulted in a major shift not only in consumer buying behavior but also the consumer’s influence on the buying behavior of others. In fact, consumers today wield a power that can make or break a company. The result: Companies need to monitor and manage their online reputations carefully.
Studies shows that consumers are more cynical than ever when it comes to advertising. In a Long-Term Living webinar presented Monday by G5, a provider of digital experience management software and services to senior living owners and operators, shared research showed that 75 percent of people don’t believe that companies tell the truth in advertising and that consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from the business or manufacturer.
Other research presented by G5 reveals that 86 percent of baby boomers go to search engines first for general information, while 16 percent of boomers age 50-64 go to search engines first for information on long-term care. Twenty-six percent of boomers use reviews as a social sharing tool and 89 percent of Internet users say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions.
“The digital voice is getting louder,” said Stacy Case, a training specialist at G5. “Your message is being discussed online, and in many cases [this discussion] is drowning out your own brand message.”
So what can LTC communities do to manage the message? Here are five steps G5 recommends to owners and operators.
1. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Monitor and claim online profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, YouTube and Google+. Claim, optimize and maintain local pages for search engines. Google’s search share is 65.3 percent compared to 15.2 percent for Yahoo and 14.8 percent for Bing. Google has logged five million business listings and Google+ local pages are viewed millions of times a day, according to company data.
Google+ permits companies to provide a great amount of information with calls to action. However, Case advised, remember that although owner-generated and viewer-generated content are displayed together, the customer’s voice has more weight and credibility to visitors than the brand’s. “You can’t just set it and forget it,” Case said. “Keep an eye on it and keep it fresh.”
2. MONITOR THE CONVERSATION
Set up accounts and alerts at all major review sites including Google, Yelp, Yahoo and others, Case suggested. Check your Google+ local page regularly for new posts/reviews and check other industry review sites. “Senior living directories and review sites are more popular as an element of the decision-making process,” Case said. Also, monitor social media conversations on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “A lot of these mentions will appear in Google alerts, so setting them up to monitor is important.”
Look for and record trends in the conversation, Case advised. Identify areas where the resident experience can be improved and create action plans based on what you find.
3. ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION
“Sometimes people who post negative reviews can become your best advocates if you respond positively and proactively,” Case said. When should you respond? When it’s on a channel that your brand controls, when it’s a positive review (acknowledge and thank the poster), when it’s a complaint for which you have a solution or remedy, and when it’s a question that you can answer in a timely and concise way.
When should you not respond? When the comment obviously is spam or an advertisement, when profanity or offensive language is used, when you suspect it’s fraudulent, and when the comment is overly aggressive and emotionally charged (thus requiring an offline conversation).
Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when responding to reviews:
- Do thank people for positive reviews.
- Do offer solutions publicly to any problems raised.
- Do reach out personally to the person who posted the review.
- Do propose solutions to improve service going forward.
- Do be professional and courteous.
- Do be transparent, open and honest.
- Don’t respond to positive reviews with just “thanks.”
- Don’t be defensive or sarcastic.
- Don’t write a long-winded public response.
4. TAKE OWNERSHIP
Case recommends LTC operators create a strategy that includes systematic and regular monitoring of sites, a regular response plan, an approach and method for engagement and active participation in social media sites.
“Ask for positive reviews,” Case suggested. “You might be surprised how many people would be willing to offer a positive review.” Case went on to recommend asking for positive reviews after solving a problem, after getting positive feedback from a resident or if you’ve received a referral.
5. CREATE AMAZING EXPERIENCES
“If you don’t change what is negative about your organization, no amount of clever marketing will change the conversation,” Case said. “The only way to change the conversation is to change the experience. How? Create amazing experiences at every digital touch point. You want to create amazing experiences that capture prospects and turns them into leads.”
The bottom line, Case said, is that a strong online reputation allows LTC operators to increase revenue and occupancy.