A new study by the Conversation Research Institute (CRI) confirms something senior housing/ healthcare owners and operators have suspected for a very long time.

“The research shows that those looking for care for a loved one do not understand the various types of care options available in the market today.  Rapid progress has apparently outpaced the public’s ability to keep pace with developments in the industry,” says Cambridge Realty Capital Companies Chairman Jeffrey A. Davis.

He says CRI describes a nontraditional type of market research project that uses social media and online conversations to focus on the purchase and use of senior care facilities and services. Long-term care, independent living facilities, assisted living, and nursing homes emerged as conversation segments, with the majority of facility conversations (66 percent) falling into the nursing home category.

The Institute suggests that the lack of understanding of product offerings and types of facilities available likely contributes to this imbalance.

In an important finding, CRI reported that the senior care industry is severely under-represented among Hispanic consumers.  With the Hispanic population base expected to double by 2060, this segment could be severely underserved by the industry, Mr. Davis said.

CRI gathers and analyzes information from existing social communities like online forums and message boards such as Facebook.  The Institute analyzes social conversations at five major intervals in the buyer’s journey: realization, selection, enrollment, experience and change.

Realization is when the consumer sees that their loved one may need care beyond the home setting.  Selection occurs when they start the consideration process, and enrollment is when a loved one is actually moved into a care facility.  Experience is the post-enrollment period of actually dealing with the new servicer care facility, and change is when the loved one’s circumstances warrants changing from one type of care facility to another.

According to CRI, company websites and search engines are the most critical digital marketing assets in the consumer’s decision-making process.  Even though potential buyers do not rely on branded social media to consider or choose senior care facilities, they do point to social media communities as important support mechanisms for handling the understanding of the selection process and coping with the emotional stress of placing a loved one in care.

It is this emotional nature of aiding a loved one’s transition to care that spills over into the tone of conversations that swirl around senior housing and care.

The CRI report notes that while the sentiment of the conversation is mostly neutral (56 percent), there exists more negative conversations (32 percent) than positive (12 percent).  This can be attributed to a variety of factors, like the stress of moving a loved one out of their home and the memories accumulated there.

Mr. Davis says the CRI research indicates that consumers are under-informed about product and service offerings, and are being underserved by the senior care brands in critical decision-making phases of the selection process.  What this suggests is that the opportunity for senior care marketers and brands to connect with prospective customers, clients or patients is “ripe.”

This lack of knowledge about the healthcare and housing marketplace presents a real opportunity to fill a vacuum, the report concludes.

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