Walker Marketing recently released the results of a study investigating how online and social media trends influence decision-making among unpaid caregivers. The survey population consists of 210 completed surveys by unpaid caregivers who cared for an ailing family member or friend within the past 12 months. Most participants have incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. Specifically, researchers were interested in learning how social media impacts home care decisions.
Walker Marketing's findings are consistent with that of Pew Research, which found that social networking use among the 50+ population is rapidly expanding -- increasing from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May 2010. Walker Marketing found that 92 percent of respondents indicated that they consider the internet to be either "very valuable" or "somewhat valuable" as a source of healthcare information. Sixty-five percent indicate that they regularly read internet news sites or blogs.
More than half (61 percent) of respondents indicated that they were either "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to communicate with other caregivers utilizing home health services in a social networking medium, such as a forum or social media site. Slightly less (53 percent) of respondents who have used home care in the past say they use the web regularly to search for caregiving-related information.
It's true that physicians largely drive healthcare referrals. However, 91 percent of respondents indicated that they were "somewhat likely" or "very likely" to conduct their own research of a company after receiving a referral from a professional. Further, 78 percent said that while they do rely on professional recommendations, they would ultimately make their own decisions based on research.
There are two clear takeaways from this research. First, it's clear that social media is now a core component of word-of-mouth marketing. Home care providers should closely monitor their online reputations and target attempts to send a consistent marketing message. Second, it's imperative to offer a comprehensive resource for website visitors above and beyond standard company information. With more than half of caregivers seeking caregiving-related information online, providers who offer robust resources will be best positioned for converting visitors into solid leads.
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