Professional Comment

Social Media Strategy For The Care Sector: Valuable Lessons From Watermark Retirement Communities

By Alex Wedderburn, Senior Customer Account Manager, Hootsuite (

Social media marketing is no longer a new profession; it has evolved into a vital business function across all industries. While sectors like residential and nursing care have been slower to adopt this key channel, the industry is increasingly recognising the importance of leveraging social. And in today’s challenging economic climate, the focus is on ROI.

For Watermark Retirement Communities, this meant creating a social strategy that supports brand consistency across all of its communities, whilst ensuring employees have the skills and confidence to share residents’ stories on social media.

Realising brand consistency on social media

Watermark owns and operates over 70 award-winning retirement communities in the U.S., with services including independent and assisted living, and memory care. The communities’ core tenets are purpose, possibility, and joy, featuring programmes such as the Watermark University. But this message just wasn’t getting across on social media.

With each community co-managing its online presence, it was challenging to ensure consistent messaging across all channels and users. Watermark faced a common challenge: employees had varying levels of social media skills, with limited resources and cumbersome approval processes. And they needed to rethink the way their distributed social presence was managed to set employees and residents up for success on social, while also shining a light on the voices of their 70+ communities. Watermark’s Social Media Manager, Diane Demers, oversees Watermark’s corporate social media channels and Facebook pages for all communities and saw an opportunity for change — now, she manages everything through Hootsuite’s social media management platform.

Amplifying the voices and stories of ‘less social’ communities

Social media is often associated with younger generations. But with such a wide reach, it is the perfect place for retirement communities to showcase their outstanding services – providing vital information and facilitating engagement with families of both current and prospective residents. For Watermark, the first step was setting up the Hootsuite approval flow to help communities feel supported in creating engaging, on-brand posts that follow best practices, overseen by Diana.

Then, Watermark provided training to further improve the communities’ social content – photography tips, writing techniques, and other lessons to ensure employees felt confident using social media.

After receiving training and support, each community posts directly to its own Facebook page, shaping its social media footprint and audience growth. And the results speak for themselves — since partnering with Hootsuite, Watermark saw a 91.4% increase in engagement rate on social media; a 3348% increase in impressions; and a 1118% increase in social media posts.

But what’s really special is Watermark’s use of social media to share content that changes the way people think about life in retirement communities. Recent posts feature Watermark University’s cooking classes and beekeeping lectures, as well as heartwarming news that two of its residents, who met there, just got married.

The impact on audience engagement is clear, with one Facebook comment saying: “I love seeing all these posts. I came for a tour with my father and I’m so excited to have him be a part of the community.”

Lessons smaller businesses can learn

Watermark is challenged with maintaining brand consistency across 70+ retirement communities – but it’s a challenge that faces businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re a small or large business, here are four tips that will help you maintain a consistent and engaging social presence:

• Research your audience – A social media strategy will be ineffective if you don’t know who you are creating content for. Take the time to research your target audience before investing in any social tactics.

• Build brand guidelines – Establishing brand guidelines early on will ensure all employees are creating social content that is in line with key messaging and business goals.

• Establish approval workflow – To mitigate risks of off-brand content being released, it’s important to establish workflow approvals that allow for the opportunity to review and edit all content before publishing.

• Test, iterate, and measure – Once you have a social media strategy in place, don’t rest on your laurels. Review your social media metrics to see what is and isn’t working, and constantly test and iterate new ideas to keep up with the fast pace of social media.
By following these steps and making use of the right tools, care sector organisations can unlock the business benefits social media has to offer and highlight the important voices in their communities.