Making Social Media Work Out for Older Adults

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Older adults expect that technology will help them live longer and better lives and keep them connected to family, friends, co-workers and, eventually, healthcare providers… Online marketing messages that help them build on their connections – and foster other online relationships – will get their interest.
-eMarketer, January 2010

Making Social Media Work Out for Older AdultsJust as eMarketer was making this prediction in January, Media Logic was ramping up a strategic social marketing effort with Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program® that would help prove its validity and demonstrate how social media can effectively engage the older adult crowd. By implementing a collaborative marketing approach and launching a site specifically designed to encourage information sharing in a safe, supportive online older adult community, SilverSneakers witnessed active engagement on its Facebook page grow from fewer than 500 fans in December 2009 to nearly 12,000 fans today.

The success of our work with SilverSneakers supports the upward trend of social media adoption among older adults while highlighting the value of social media as a marketing tool enabling conversation-centric, two-way models of communication for membership-based organizations.

Working Social Marketing Into a Mature Network
As far as membership organizations go, the award-winning SilverSneakers Fitness Program was thriving – offered to Medicare Advantage plan members through their health plan clients at more than 9,400 participating fitness and wellness centers across the country, SilverSneakers provides an innovative blend of exercise classes, health education and social opportunities to help mature adults maintain active, independent lifestyles. Studies have even found that older adults who participate in SilverSneakers are admitted to hospitals less frequently, have lower overall healthcare costs and experience a significantly reduced risk of depression.

SilverSneakers was already a hugely popular program, but the strategic use of social marketing has provided the organization with new and effective ways of connecting with potential members, and perhaps more importantly, encouraging loyalty to the program, ongoing member participation and involvement.

“The program is an inherently social experience,” according to our client and Healthways’ senior manager of Member Engagement Marketing, Michelle Eckert. “Introducing social media has allowed our participants to further enhance their social connections by sharing stories, photos, tips and notes of encouragement to others. Our experience supports the research that shows older adults citizens will adopt social media and participate, provided they see content and groups dedicated to their needs and interests.”

Managing Social Media Without Breaking a Sweat
While SilverSneakers began experimenting with social media late last year, the program needed a systemic approach, guidance, and support to create stronger interest and active participation. In January, the organization partnered with us and deployed Zeitgeist & Coffeesm, our social media management suite specially designed to help organizations ramp up their social media marketing efforts, making them more effective and easier to implement and sustain.

Since implementing Zeitgeist & Coffee, SilverSneakers has realized…

  • A significant spike in Facebook fans
  • A dramatic increase in fans’ levels of engagement
  • More fans who are potential SilverSneakers members visiting the Facebook page to learn about the program
  • Friends and family members of SilverSneakers participants are joining the Facebook page to lend support and enthusiasm

SilverSneakers’ experience with Media Logic and Zeitgeist & Coffee has meant the difference between having a Fan page and having an active community.  By providing the methodology, marketing expertise and technology to fully leverage social media as a marketing a tool, we’ve made it easier for organizations to engage older adults and foster a meaningful social presence with the mature audience.

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