It is my great pleasure to introduce Merrily Orsini, a colleague and friend who is a wealth of information on social media marketing. Merrily owned and ran private duty agencies for many years, but in the last few years has given this up and developed a company devoted to social media marketing for home care. I think you will find, as I do, some very valuable information in the article she has so graciously agreed to write for us.
With the veritable onslaught of new and ever-changing technology of the last decade, businesses of all types and sizes are being forced to reevaluate the efficiency and ROI of their marketing strategies. Think about it: when someone wants to find something, where does he go first? He SEARCHES on whatever device he has handy. Mobile phones, iPads or computers are now the door to products and services, and the smart home care agency owner will understand this, and create and integrate marketing efforts accordingly.
Those who have embraced web and social media marketing are seeing some amazing results in brand recognition and customer loyalty. Why? With Facebook’s usership at 750 million people worldwide, YouTube at the top of the world’s search engines, and the recent arrival of potential game-changer Google+, companies are finding that when they integrate the web and social media into their marketing strategies, they are able to virtually “hang out” with an enormous customer base. And who is it that is searching for home care? It is usually the adult child of a frail elder, and that adult child is probably between 45 and 65.
As more people turn to the Internet to search for what they need, including care for their aging loved ones, home care agencies need to make their presence on the web a priority and take advantage of the benefits of social media marketing. While the task of overhauling an agency’s marketing strategy might seem daunting, if not a little bit frightening, having a plan before diving in will make the transition much easier.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn allow users to create and interact with a community of colleagues, co-workers, and potential customers, but, from a marketing standpoint, it’s crucial to be sure to get the most out of these often overwhelming sites. Starting small with a well-planned strategy will make the social media integration process less cumbersome. For a home care agency, the power of being educational and informative about issues for which people needing care will be looking is perfect for social media.
Set goals. First off, a list of goals to accomplish should be created as part of the social media marketing plan. In addition to educating on issues relating to those seeking home care, the agency’s goal should be to create awareness of the agency, interact with potential customers, other agencies and senior care related organizations on Facebook and Twitter, and maintain a certain number of posts per week or obtain a certain number of fans within a given time period. Laying out all of the goals upfront will help the agency owner determine exactly what is needed to achieve them.
Make time. Across all industries, static marketing is rapidly being integrated with dynamic social media and web marketing. Called inbound marketing; basically, this means those marketing efforts that allow someone searching for something to find an agency’s service. And it takes time to use these new, highly interactive marketing messages. They require constant attention and updates. Agency owners will want to dedicate time and manpower to make sure the information stays fresh and relevant. From creating new content for posts, updating the information on search engine listings or answering questions from Facebook fans or Twitter followers, social media will keep users on their toes. But making time to do the job right will pay off in the end. It is not a silver bullet, however, so it needs to be just ONE component of overall marketing that is all integrated and works in tandem.
Join the discussion. After setting aside the time and personnel for the job, it’s time to create a presence online and engage in conversation with the agency’s client base. Waters should first be tested on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter with some informational posts and agency videos, working on establishing the right tone. Questions should be asked of followers, and responders should always be followed up with promptly.
Analyze. Between each step, it’s important to review the process and analyze what is and is not working. It may take time to see true results from efforts, but analysis programs like Google Analytics or HootSuite can help track marketing ROI.
While social media is all the rage in the marketing world these days, users should keep in mind that tweeting is not the only way to market an agency online. In addition to social media, a well-balanced Internet presence includes three fundamental elements that help present the intended message and give an agency exposure on the web.
Beef up the website. An agency’s website is the main source of information for existing and potential clients. A well designed and functional website gives the agency a professional look and a leg up on the competition. Hiring a web designer, developer, and search engine optimization (SEO) professional to create or revamp the site not only improves the look of the site, but can also increase its visibility on search engines, driving more traffic to the business.
Become a blogger. More and more businesses are integrating blogs into their marketing plans as a way to provide helpful information and connect with their customers. Blogs are simple to set up and manage, and posting relevant content like how-tos, videos, or industry insights on a blog will keep customers and clients engaged. They are also a good way to boost a website’s overall SEO. However, just as with Facebook and Twitter, blogs need to be updated on a regular basis with fresh and interesting content, so it’s imperative that agency owners make sure to dedicate time to their agency’s blog each week. Plus, to have a good blog, one needs to be a good writer and enjoy writing. Blogging is not for everyone.
Get listed. There was a time when the only way to find a local business listing was to thumb through the Yellow Pages. These days, with the ubiquity of computers and smart phones, nearly everyone can access the information they need with the click of a button 24 hours a day. So it’s important to consider: if someone were to Google “home care” in a particular agency’s area, would that agency’s name and information show up? The best way to make sure it does is by utilizing local listing accounts like Yelp, Yahoo Local Listings, and Google Places. These profiles are free to set up, easy to manage and can give an agency a boost in search engine listings.
Agency owners don’t need to let the complexity of the Internet keep them from reaching their full marketing potential. Starting simple when integrating web marketing, planning out your steps to keep from being overwhelmed, hiring professionals when needed, and most of all, having fun with it can bring about incredible results. Interacting with clients online can give them a whole new perspective on an organization. It’s simply a matter of taking a few deep breaths and diving in!
About the Author: Merrily Orsini, MSSW, is managing director of corecubed, an Internet marketing communications company that specializes in the home care, home health, and hospice industries. She is an 18-year veteran of the private duty home care industry, serves as Chief Strategic Officer for Private Duty for NAHC, is immediate past chair of the Private Duty Homecare Association, and recently served on the board of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. Orsini is a frequent national speaker, has been active in Internet marketing since its inception, and leads a team of excellent web designers and strategic marketers. For further private duty and marketing information, Merrily can be followed on her blog at http://merrilyorsini.com/, or on Twitter @MerrilyO.