A Conversation about Seniors and Social Media

OK. I’ve got a confession to make. Even though I’m only 59, and nowhere near retirement (like many Americans, for me that possibility is very remote), I’m a member of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons.

Maybe they wore me down with regular direct mail promotions, or maybe I fell for the idea of receiving big discounts on products and services; either way, I’m a member. Not a proud member, necessarily, but a member nonetheless.(And chances are I’ll stay one until the bitter end; hopefully taking advantage of big travel discounts for all those international jaunts on my Bucket List.)

As a card carrying, dues paying member, I receive a hard copy of the AARP Bulletin in my mailbox every month. Quite often I only glance at it, but the June 2013 issue caught my eye with this headline: Why You Need Social Media. Who can resist that? “Prove it to me,” I thought. “I don’t need social media. Or do I?”

Seniors, gently called Older Boomers by some, are not new to the Internet and social media. In fact, a 2013 report recently released by Pew Internet and American Life Project, Demographics of Internet Usersnotes that Baby Boomers and Seniors are steadily increasing their use of the Internet. Seventy-seven percent of those aged fifty to sixty are online; and fifty-four percent of those aged sixty-five and older are using the Internet. According to the study, the 74-plus demographic is the fastest growing among social networks. In fact, there are currently 39 million people aged 65 and older using Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, making them the fastest growing age demographic on these sites.We may be old, but we’re smart.

Let’s Ask a Few Questions

Since I’m certainly no expert on social media, I’m turning to Ashley Montroy, FrontRunner Professional’s Social Media and Marketing Manager, to answer some pivotal questions about how funeral firms can effectively connect with seniors online, delivering the kind of information on end-of-life options we’re looking for.

  • She’s the right age. Which means that  she’s got a real understanding of technology, and social media in particular, which comes from having grown up with it.
  • She’s also “grown up” in funeral service. As a daughter of a funeral director who owned his own funeral firm,  Ashley knows the profession inside-and-out.

So, what can she tell us about using social media to connect with older audiences? Let’s find out.

“What should funeral homes know about social media in general, Ashley?

“Social Media is an online channel to build relationships with families and individuals in your community–young and old alike. It gives funeral firms a way to engage their audience members in meaningful conversation, provide education and guidance, increase traffic to your funeral firm website and improve your search rankings. But it’s more: you can use these channels to create an experience for each member that you connect with in their community. It gives you the ability to show the human-side of your business and the people behind it, making you more approachable. Which funeral director doesn’t want to be more approachable?”

“As a gently aging Older Boomer, I’m looking for all kinds of support. And I’m not alone. How can funeral firms respond to this commonly-experienced all-encompassing need of senior citizens?”

“Seniors can live isolated lives, and social media gives them a way to feel a part of their community. It gives them a way to have and be a friend, to congregate without leaving the house, to not feel alone. This is a unique opportunity for funeral firms, pre-need planning consultants, financial advisors, estate planners and celebrants to deliver inspiring content, in small digestible portions, to a hungry audience.”

“What kinds of information do you suggest, Ashley?”

“In the live presentations and workshops I’ve held on the topic of social media, I suggest funeral firms host, and promote events of interest to the aging audience. Seminars on estate and pre-need planning, grief support events, or remembrance ceremonies come to mind. But I’ve also seen innovative events hosted and promoted by funeral firms online, such as art exhibitions, wine tastings, and tours of local historic–and perhaps haunted– local cemeteries. You really need to know your audience, though. And that means spending time online, doing the kind of research that puts your finger directly on the pulse of your community’s senior citizens.”

“But, what can they do to position their funeral firm as the preferred resource for area families? The “go-to” firm of choice?”

“That’s simple. How about “Q&A – Ask the Director Sessions’? With Social Media, it is common for businesses to have an “Ask the Expert, Friday Session” where the public can ask questions. A funeral home may want to have this every Friday or they may wish to encourage questions as often as they’d like with reminders every few days. They should also, and importantly, be using their website as their #1 resource for their community. They need to show them all of the great information it provides.”

“Hey, I just thought of this. Seniors with time on their hands–at least where I live–are very active in local charitable events and organizations. Can a funeral firm take advantage of this eagerness to serve ?”

“Yes!  If your Funeral Home is searching for the right volunteer to act as funeral service support staff, use your social media sites to spread the word and attract potential employees. Or, if you learn of remarkable opportunities for volunteer service in your area, promote them with social media. If you are attending a sponsored event, take a camera and post pictures from the event. Now, you have shown more than just the people who were in attendance that you were there. You’ve shown your entire online community, which is huge! All of these things position your firm as a pro-active change agent, working to improve life for everyone living in your community.”

“Just last month, three people in our little town passed away unexpectedly. Can a funeral home use social media to provide useful grief and bereavement information to a troubled audience of seniors?”

“Of course! Your funeral firm website should have this information on it already, and you can use social media to promote the content there. All you need to do is simply place the web page link into Facebook or Twitter and it will direct visitors to your website to read the full article or story. Also, make sure to post links to other insightful articles you’ve found online. (Here’s a tip. Set a Google Alert for those keywords your audience is interested in, and then mine the results for content worthy of distribution. And, as a bonus, all of these links that you are providing to your website is actually increasing your Search Engine Optimization too. How cool is that?”

“Any last words on social media and seniors, Ashley, for our readers?”

“Advertising Age recently made this amazing assertion, shared by Forbes staff writer, Todd Wilms, in the article, The Overlooked: Social Media Marketing For Senior Citizens.  “Every day for the next two decades, 10,000 boomers will join in the marketing wasteland of seniors. At the very least, brands need to start understanding social media marketing towards senior citizens before all of the Boomers retire—a demographic that will be more computer literate than any senior generation before. They need to have a focused target, engage with users, listen carefully, and commit to frequent use.” That’s the essence of any winning social media promotion.

The Millennial and the Aging Boomer Agree…

Social Media is one of the easiest ways for funeral firms to build a meaningful relationship with the seniors in their service area. And, getting back to AARP for just a second, this aging Boomer can tell you this: they do a really good job at connecting with their audience, and on close inspection, prove themselves a good role-model for your funeral firm.  Mr. Wilms writes, “The content on their Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts is targeted directly to their older members, with posts often referring to members’ grandchildren or offering helpful tips for staying healthy.” In other words, it’s meaningful, and intended to make my life better. Not just contribute to my growing sense of “information overload.”

How is your funeral firm connecting with seniors? We’d love to know!

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