We read an interesting white paper today from DNA13, "Listening 101: Tips to Integrate Social Media into Your Day-to-Day Media Monitoring," that got our wheels turning about the value of social media. You're probably familiar with the story of how Comcast used social media to transform customer service. (If you're not, read about it now on MojoSocial.) There are dozens of other customer service success stories just like it. Social media marketing for assisted living

You've also heard much about how social media is impacting search, with an increasing importance placed on Facebook shares and Twitter retweets. (You're not? Check out this post from SEOmoz on the topic.) What you don't hear much about, however, is the value of social media as a market research tool. In assisted living, nursing homes and other residential care settings, there's a lot of competition and a lot of emphasis on meeting customer needs. But we're often so focused on the value of building followers, providing value and engaging conversation, we might forget to listen.

Listen to uncover hidden opportunities

If you're new to social media, you should start by listening in on the conversation that's already underway. Google your company name; it's likely that people are already talking about your assisted living community, somewhere across the web. Don't you want to know what they're saying? You might learn that most of your residents' caregivers are members of the sandwich generation. What activities or events can you plan that would appeal to the whole family? Maybe they're baby boomers with no plans to retire in the near future. How can you make their role easier? You might find out that there's something members of your community are wishing for--why not give it to them, if it's within your means?

Don't just investigate yourself, though. Check out your competitors, too. Even if your organization focuses solely on assisted living care, there's much to be learned from investigating skilled nursing facilities and independent living communities in your area, too. Find out what's missing and fill in the void. Learn what they're doing and do it better. Uncover problems and offer solutions. This is where the engagement comes in. Once you've identified topics of interest (by listening!) you can seamlessly join the conversation. Because you already know their hot buttons, what information they're seeking, and their common problems, you're prepared to deliver exactly what they wanted to hear--at exactly the right time.

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