Social media and the Internet are recognised as the fastest growing forms of communication over the last decade and their growth shows no sign of slowing down. Despite this, many care providers fail to take full advantage of the wide-ranging benefits that social media can provide, often at minimal cost.
Household names such as Facebook and Twitter and the more business-orientated site LinkedIn, are often dismissed as being distractions from the core activities of running a care service by traditionally ‘hands on’ managers but used selectively, each of these sites can provide cost-effective and timely access to a wide range of useful information.
Read on to find out more about how to use social media to improve the performance of your service, increase awareness of the good work you do and save money at the same time.
How to Reap the Benefits of Social media
Deciding what you want to achieve through the use of social media is a useful starting point before signing up to any of the familiar platforms. Consider if you aim to use them as a tool to market your service, to communicate with relatives and family members or to keep up to date with news and events within social care. Take time to see how services similar to your own use social media and learn from what works well for them. There is no harm in ‘lurking’ for a while before you take the plunge!
5 Steps to Get the Most from Social Media
- Set up a Facebook page to publicise details of your news and activities including photographs (with consent of the people involved), showing successful social events and celebrations. Family members who can’t visit regularly love to see what’s happening between visits and potential residents will have the opportunity to get an up-to-date picture of current events within your service. A skilfully used Facebook page can provide a much more up-to-date and interesting snapshot of your service than a brochure or website which is static and rarely updated.
- Explore Twitter as a source of news, opinions and good practice. At first, Twitter can be confusing to new users but, with a little research, has even more uses than Facebook. A good starting point is to ‘follow’ key organisations and individuals working within social care who tweet regularly. These include the Care Quality Commission (@CareQualityComm), National Skills Academy (@NSASocialCare) and the Relatives and Residents Association (@relresuk), all of whom provide regular updates and announcements via Twitter often before they are published elsewhere. Twitter also provides the opportunity to follow key individuals, such as the CQC Chief Inspector of Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe (@crouchendtiger7) who often tweets in an informal capacity and frequently responds to tweets from her followers.
- Use your Facebook page as a medium to thank staff, highlight achievements and qualifications and to recognise outstanding performance. Posts on your Facebook page have the potential to reach a far larger audience than signs on your noticeboard or a mention in your newsletter.
- Register on LinkedIn to connect with your professional contacts and other businesses working within your field. LinkedIn is an excellent way of keeping in touch with people in your business network with whom you might otherwise only speak to occasionally. It’s also an excellent resource for developing relationships with the many recruitment agencies, using it in order to fill vacancies within your service.
- Consider posting details of any staff vacancies on your Facebook page and encourage your staff to ‘share’ these statuses. Carers know carers and nurses know nurses, which means that news of opportunities within your service will often spread rapidly (and for free!) via this route. Used well, Facebook offers the potential to reduce your recruitment costs through building word of mouth recommendations.