Digital Marketing for the New Normal (Part 1)

Digital Marketing for the New Normal (Part 1)

Digital Marketing for the New Normal (Part 1)


Mike Peacock: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Cosmic Soup. Thanks for joining us again today. You know when we think about the concept of digital marketing and its related fields, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not social media and vice versa. As it turns out, however, the two are more closely intertwined than many of us have been led to believe. That’s why we’ve invited our two experts to join us in the soup today to discuss the ways in which these areas are inextricably tied and how they work together to create highly effective and truly epic marketing campaigns.

Please welcome to the show Digital Marketing Manager Trish Mayer and Social Media Director Anna Rose Warren. Thank you both so much for joining me here today.

Trish Mayer: Thanks, Mike.

Anna Rose Warren: Thank you, Mike.

Mike: Yeah. Trish, why don’t you give us a quick blurb about exactly what it is that you do? A sneak preview here, Trish is bionic. Not only is she an accomplished digital marketer but she’s currently getting her master’s degree at the same time – epic.

Trish: Epic or crazy.

Mike: Yeah, right?

Trish: Yeah, I’m the digital marketing director. Thank you, Mike. I’ve been at 3rdThird for about six years now and I direct all things digital marketing at the agency. Basically, day-to-day, I work on a strategic level with the account and creative teams. We help create the digital marketing strategies for our clients and then we work day-to-day to implement them with things like paid search, search engine optimization, Web development. We work with the designers and then the account teams to execute and optimize those projects throughout the month. That’s kind of what I do, in a nutshell.

Mike: How about you, AR? Equally epic in your job duties, tell us what you do.

Anna Rose: Thanks for adding that in. I’m certainly no bionic woman like we have here, but I am the social media director, which means my team manages client accounts—I think it’s across something like 80-plus channels right now—to run strategic, organic, and paid campaigns. While I come from a more organic background, I’m currently only really overseeing organic operations but I’m in the trenches on the advertising side, some programming and optimizing campaigns there, mostly through Facebook.

Like Trish, I’m kind of a buffer for our creative team with clients. I love just getting yelled at from all sides. Like you, Mike, I come from a restaurant background where I was a manager, so I’m very used to getting yelled at by the kitchen and the front of the house.

Mike: Yeah.

Anna Rose: I feel like that’s a little bit how the agency operates too.

Mike: Sure. How did each of you get started in the industry? Why don’t you tell us your origin stories?

Trish: I actually started out in the industry as a waitress at a senior living community in my little hometown of Thunder, Washington. I was an absolutely terribly waitress, so that didn’t stick.

Mike: [Laughter]

Trish: [Laughter] I remember the shifts were only like 4:00 to 6:45 and, somehow, that felt like an eternity when you’re like 16, so I would just forget to take people their dinners.

Anna Rose: [Laughter]

Trish: There was this one resident who would win candy bars in bingo. Then she’d invite us to her room to eat them. We’d still be on the clock just going to her room for the Snickers bar.

Mike: [Laughter]

Trish: It was terrible, but I had a great time; bonded with a lot of seniors.

Mike: Awesome. How about you, AR?

Anna Rose: I came to the industry and 3rdThird a magic three years ago. I realized pretty quickly that there was this opportunity that the industry was kind of missing the boat on for senior living communities to really connect with their older adult prospects through advertising and to connect with all their disparate audience members that make up their communities across all these demographic differences, so age, cultural, et cetera., like employees, prospects, current families, all of those different types of people. I realized everyone gets stoked about cute pictures of grandma with a puppy, so who doesn’t love that? Who doesn’t want to engage with it?

I’m not sure you asked this, but I also thought about what my favorite part of this, of my day-to-day, would be. For me that’s, outside of the numbers, to see those real reactions people have, like the joy we bring to those family members and all those audience members, especially, of course, right now when we can show what’s going on and showcase activities at the community level and see those comments like, “It’s so good to see my mom having a good time with her friends,” and stuff like that.

Mike: Oh, awesome. At a glance, I would say people might be thinking that your two fields being digital marketing and social media are completely unrelated but, really, they’re actually in the same pot and you two play off each other constantly in the workspace. What are some of the ways that digital marketing and social media do tie into each other?

Trish: I think they’re inherently tied together. I know Anna Rose and I talk throughout the day every day about client campaigns. I think just the nature of marketing online, you have to have things that are coherent across the platform.

For me, that means we’re launching our website and that has a certain messaging and campaign that we might be pushing out. Then we want to make sure, if that person then clicks through to Facebook or vice versa, they see a Facebook ad and they come to the website.

You need to be consistent and you need to be asking the same types of calls to action and driving the same kind of responses from the people. I think, even if we wanted to be separate, we couldn’t be.

Anna Rose: Do you want to be separate from me?

Mike: [Laughter]

Trish: No.


Mike: What’s your take on it, Anna Rose?

Anna Rose: My take on this is Trish does digital marketing and I also do digital marketing.

Mike: Okay.

Anna Rose: That really sums it up that it is all integrated. I think we see a lot of clients who say, “Yes, I want digital marketing. I want retargeting. I want banners. But social media, I don’t want that.” To us, that’s just one more important process of digital marketing.

Mike: Okay. Trish, there’s a word that I recently came across that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m curious. Let’s talk about AdWords marketing for a second. What is AdWords marketing?

Trish: Oh, sure. AdWords is Google search marketing, which when you go to Google, you do a Google search for whatever, “assisted living in Washington state,” for example. Those three little ads, usually at the top or sometimes they show on the right side or now they show up in the map and they’ll be marked as an ad, that’s kind of what Google ads is. That’s what we do a lot of for our clients.

I think it’s really important in the senior living industry to have a good search campaign, especially because we know that people move into communities based on something that happened. They might be seeing your advertising elsewhere, but then say something happens at home. Someone falls. Someone goes to the hospital. Then they’re at their computer, like, “assisted living near me,” like they want to move in soon. It’s one of the ways that we make sure our clients are showing up when people are getting to that point where they’re ready to make an action.

Mike: Okay. Then do you notice that there are any common pitfalls for senior living communities, maybe things that they’re not hitting for optimization? They’re doing something that’s keeping their results from being found by searchers?

Trish: Yeah, I think there are a few things that notice. Well, I hear all the time that, “We used to pay per click advertising but we just can’t compete. We can’t beat those big directories,” so there are sites like,, and that’s their whole business model is to dominate the search marketing industry.

So many times, when you do a search you see one of those three at the top. Little communities sometimes get discouraged by that. We try to find ways to beat those big directories.

I think some of the optimizations that Google is making has made that possible. It used to be that communities would shy away from doing it because they couldn’t compete. Now Google has recognized that and they’ve made it a level playing field again.

Mike: Okay. Really, the solution, it sounds like, is that people that are in charge of maybe doing those campaigns or ads really truly utilize the AdWords marketing concepts.

Trish: For sure, yeah. We used to see a lot of clients who would come to us saying that we think we pay this big retainer every month and we don’t think they’re really optimizing or doing anything on our account. They’re really setting it and forgetting it. I think that’s still something that happens a lot in this industry as well.

I think, to be successful, you need to be making sure that your ad copy for pay per click is getting updated every month. You want to make sure that you’re tying in any events you have. You want to make sure it’s promoting any specials you have. The more fresh, organic, and real you can make it, Google has really been rewarding that lately.

Mike: In other words, don’t set everything to autopilot and then just assume that everything is going to be hunky-dory for you forever.

Trish: Exactly. Saying that you just have one-bedroom apartments available now, letting that run for a year, it just doesn’t really work anymore.

Mike: Got it. Well, as you both know, the digital realm is constantly evolving. There are always new software capabilities being developed. What are some examples of things that used to work but that don’t work now?

Trish: I have a lot just coming from the Web development side. People used to come to us all the time and they would say, “Everything has to be above the fold.” I said that in air quotes. Before things really shifted to mobile so much, there was this idea that when you’re online, people are only looking at what they see on the screen when the page loads. They’re not scrolling down, and so you’ve got all of these websites that just got totally cluttered at the top.

We know that the senior living industry is kind of behind other industries by a couple of years, and so we still see a lot of websites in this arena where that’s happening. That doesn’t work anymore. People want a clean website. People are used to scrolling down now. I think we need to be less afraid of keeping up with that trend.

Not to mention, Google doesn’t want websites like that anymore. If your website is not mobile-friendly, if it’s all cluttered at the top like that, you’re actually not going to appear as high up as you would as if you had optimized for mobile.

Mike: Okay.

Trish: That’s my biggest one.

Mike: Awesome. You were going to chime in on that too, AR?

Anna Rose: This is kind of tangential, but I think the mobile data is always surprising me that I’m like, “Yeah! Everybody is on their phone, but how many people, really?” When we look at, for me, my Facebook ads, what platform are they using, they’re, yeah, mostly on Facebook, but they’re mostly on their phone. It can go as high as 90% of our users seeing our ads who are in that 55-plus demographic who are on their phones looking at our ads.

You know that they’re not just scrolling Facebook on their phone. They’re clicking through. They’re going to the site. All of that mobile optimization matters so much across demographics.

I think even two to five years ago, we were saying, “Nah. That’s really the younger people. That’s the 45-minus crowd, those of us who are on our phones all day for work,” but it really, really is people across demographics right now who are ingesting all of this material on their phone, so that really matters outside of even the optimizations that Trish is talking about to get ranked on Google.

From my standpoint for Facebook, I think we kind of saw, just even a couple of years ago, a year ago, we would have clients who would say, “We’re doing it. We’re on Facebook.” A while ago, that was winning. That was succeeding. Definitely, we’re starting to see success is defined as having a robust campaign, having an idea of what you want, goals that you’re actually defining, and taking something that, in the past, has only really been applied to an enterprise-level and applying it to this community level.

Like, “Hey, my budget is $200 a month and I only have this many hours to devote to this. What can I do with it?” Take that and make it a microcosm of what a big campaign would look like so you’re not just having our receptionist do the posting. You’re not just clicking boost on a post and putting a budget and letting it run. You’re actually fully developing it like we would in an industry with a larger budget.

Mike: Okay. As far as social media goes then, what specific areas should senior living communities be looking in to make some true strides in social media?

Anna Rose: I would say recognizing its importance and the importance of having that fleshed out digital strategy and long-term goals. The other thing I want to point out is really valuing your existing base. We certainly work with a lot of folks who are so focused on those ROIs, on bringing in leads. How many leads did I create this month? That is so important, but I think one of the great things about social media is you can really use it to connect to your existing audience who is not just your families and your current residents, but it’s also your workforce.

It’s all these disparate groups that sometimes feel like they can’t connect. That you have someone who is a 25-year-old black woman who has always worked in a restaurant or a senior living community in the kitchen and she doesn’t see anything in common with this 85-year-old white dude who is kind of rude and kind of creepy.

Mike: [Laughter]

Anna Rose: But instead of focusing on those differences, which we tend to do, I think, across the Internet in terms of identity and what we focus on, we can tell a story about how these two people who come from these completely different worlds connected. All of these different audience members can react to that in a positive way and say, “Look at this. Ms. So-and-so making this guy’s lunch, they had this great moment,” or, “She always knows he wants this food.” I don’t know.

I think it’s about sharing those very small, touching stories that can reach people in all these different places and all these different life experiences. It can go a long way towards actually attracting new prospects and audience members because that means this girl’s mom sees that story and she’s like, “Oh, my God. My daughter was featured.” She wants to share that and that reaches somebody else who necessarily wouldn’t have seen that post. Does that make sense? That was a reeling one.

Mike: Yeah. When I think of social media, for me, I just kind of go back to the big three. I think Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I would assume primarily those are the platforms that we’re seeing being utilized. Are we seeing others pop up? Well, there’s LinkedIn as well. What is kind of the standard right now for social media usage in the industry?

Anna Rose: For sure, Facebook, just across the board. I actually, before this call, looked up how many older adults were on Instagram because I know myself and our social media manager Ani, we both are so hyped on Instagram because we think it’s a great tool for workforce development to get those younger folks. But it is true that most older adults are not on that platform. They are on YouTube. They are sometimes on Pinterest, which, as an agency, we don’t focus a lot on those platforms but older adults are utilizing them.

Mostly, it’s Facebook. It’s Facebook groups and pages. It’s connecting with their friends. It’s sharing news articles. That still is the number one, even as, I think, kind of, other demographics. Anyone younger than that kind of migrates or has migrated away from Facebook in the past few years.

Mike: Sure. I’ve heard the term “community management” related to social. How is that different than Facebook advertising and what exactly is included in community management?

Anna Rose: I feel like that’s a funny one to me because I think that’s one of those examples. I think there are so many buzzwords flying around and CM is kind of one of them. Community management is confusing in this industry because we work with communities, but CM can kind of be just defined as reputation or engagement management. Then there’s proactive and reactive.

Proactive is really building the strategy and reaching out to local and industry partners, influencers, et cetera. Reactive community management would be engaging with your existing audience, reposting your user-generated content, that sort of thing.

From my end, I really focus on advertising, which is advertising just like it would be in the rest of the digital world. We should, at some point, bring on our organic manager for a future conversation about CM.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a great idea. We should definitely do that. I wanted to ask you about one more word. It’s one that Cynthia mentioned to me earlier. That word is “clickbait.” Can you define what that means, at least as it relates to our industry?

Trish: Clickbait, as a term, I think has been around for a few years now. It had a really negative rep at first, but I think people have warmed up to it. They describe those articles where they have the catchy headline and then maybe the substance of that article is pretty subpar or really brief. Now, I think they still have a catchy headline but I think we’ve gotten better at writing actually good content that’s just briefly than it used to be. I’ve also heard them called listicles.

Anna Rose: No. [Laughter]

Trish: It’s an article, but it’s just a list.

Anna Rose: Looking at you, Buzzfeed. Yeah.


Mike: What is it that makes people want to click on images, links, or words? Is there a psychology behind all that?

Anna Rose: I think, to me, at least what I see in my realm, is identity. I think the Internet is really divisive in a lot of ways. We really create these divides and we spend so much time arguing about, “I see it this way.” “I see it this way.” “I have had this life experience, so I see it this way.”

I think like we heard from Cynthia’s mother-in-law yesterday who is 80 and said she only clicks on ads that interest her, of course, if you see an ad and it’s not targeted precisely, what is that advertiser even doing? I think the Internet is really built around identity and identity topics but, of course, people join groups or pages or make friends or engage with content because they like what they see and they have something in common with that content.

They respond to any sort of ad content in the same way. They click on things because it reminds them of who they are and they identify with it.

Mike: Big relatability factor.

Trish: Yeah, I love that perspective, Anna Rose, because I feel like sometimes it gets a bad rap, digital marketing, of how closely we can target people and people feel creeped out or they feel like it’s invasive. But I think the flip side of that is you’re seeing ads that are actually relevant to you now that you’re more inclined to click on. I think they’re less irritating if it’s actually something that’s interesting to you.

Anna Rose: Totally. It’s totally, I think, shaped the landscape of what people have come to expect. That was certainly interesting to hear from this woman, who was 80, yesterday that she kind of expects to see ads that are really tailored to her.

I think, 10, 20 years ago, of course, we wouldn’t see that. That wouldn’t even be part of the conversation. But because of digital marketing, we’re all like, “What? This ad is for men’s shaving cream. I’m not a man. I don’t care.” It surprises us whenever we see anything that’s out of our ballpark because we’re so used to being hyper-targeted to.

Mike: Yeah. It’s an element that you don’t really think about it so much when you’re on the outside. But I can say that now that I have kind of seen a little bit of the inner workings of this, the ah-ha button keeps kind of getting pushed for me. I’m like, “Oh! It kind of all makes sense now.” It’s pretty crazy when you realize how much work actually goes into the amount of research, putting those ads together, and finding the right tools to make sure that people can relate to what you’re putting out there. It’s a whole other universe. It’s crazy.

I’m curious then. What does it look like when an agency runs your digital or your social media program as opposed to everybody kind of trying to do it internally?

Anna Rose: This is one of my favorite questions. I think right now we really see this divide between we do it ourselves and our digital agency does it, which is something we either hear one or the other from a lot of our clients. With that first option where they’re doing it themselves, we do see really quality, authentic, on the ground content, but we also get some of these pretty ugly, off-brand quote post type things like a font that doesn’t go with your aesthetic and it might turn off some savvy consumers. It just looks—I don’t know how to say that—low brow.

Then, of course, the agency question on the other end of the spectrum is a client that we see paying a big box agency these exorbitant rates for community management and organic and they’re getting kind of the same three AARP articles about how to recover after a fall reposted over and over. We see this, I think, kind of across the U.S. in who we work with.

It’s not really what’s going on, on the ground. It’s not curated beautifully. It’s just articles. I think that’s what we see a lot when agencies are running it.

Then what we try and offer our clients if you’re working with us as an agency, I think where we’re helping to make some strides, is to really champion those enterprise-level campaigns where we’re sitting back and saying, “Who are we as a brand? How do we want to connect with our consumers?” Then, hopefully, showcasing that authenticity that kind of the receptionist or the niece who is initially running the social channels that they have in their heart that they want to show but that they just don’t have the brand check, they don’t have the experience behind it. We want to bring the agency level execution to the authenticity so that we really can connect all of those different audiences.

Mike: Got it. If I’m running a community or a number of communities as an ED or maybe even farther up the food chain, what advantage do I have to go to, say, an outside company and say, “Hey, put together this social media campaign for me. I need to spruce things up a little bit”?

Anna Rose: I think, aside from the overall brand, the aesthetic, and the understanding that this really is important—We don’t want to have typos. We don’t want to have these funky fonts or these poor quality images videos—there’s also advertising and that’s something that we really champion here. I think, for a long time, we struggled to pitch it because we don’t have this 50-year history of success like we do with direct mail or 70 or what have you. I think, right now, the reason that I think it really matters to run social through an agency is to get that overall organic strategy that you’re not just posting hilly-nilly. You’re doing it for a reason. You’re doing it with goals behind it and experience behind it, someone that’s worked in this industry for a while.

Then with advertising, we’re really seeing these incredible results that we haven’t seen in other platforms because I think social is an unprecedented platform. We have this ability to reach people in their downtime. They’re just hanging out. It’s kind of like reading a magazine. Instead of just scrolling through every single thing a consumer of this very broad interest piece could want, we’re able to hyper-target.

We’re seeing these qualified costs per conversions. This is March data that I just ran for a client of $5 as someone clicking through and really engaging and not someone that we’ve hyper-targeted and we can get cost per leads as low as $25. We just don’t see that in other platforms.

I think social is really something like we haven’t discovered before. Sorry, this is tooting my own horn. I just think that we’re doing things that we haven’t seen anywhere else and there’s so much opportunity for it. It’s something that—I don’t know—has been a hard sell because it’s so new. But I think our program is pretty cool.

Trish: Yeah. I totally support that, Anna Rose. I feel like it’s been hard to sell the value of social media because it feels like it’s an add-on. But I think what we’ve discovered and Anna Rose has discovered in this program is that it’s really tapping into something that works for senior living. I think, a lot of the times, when you’re closing a sale for senior living, that’s personal selling, right? You’re sitting with that person and convincing them that this is a community fit for them.

I think social media kind of cuts through that in a personal way as well. I can send an email or a digital banner all day. You’re kind of seeing it or whatever. Then you decide it’s your personal time at night. You’re not checking email anymore, but you’re still on Facebook. You’re still kind of tootling around.

I think just the way that that message gets delivered on social is something that’s really underleveraged in senior living, still. It’s been exciting to see the progress, even in the last year that it’s been happening, for clients.

Anna Rose: Yeah, for sure. I think it’s so important and it’s so fundamental because it really transcends that brand or that corporate message of what is in your website, what’s in your direct mail piece, and it also transcends the reality of what’s going on at your community. Sometimes, I think we think of those as in opposition. Like your community when you walk in the door is who you are and your Web or your advertising is who you want to be.

Somehow, social is both and you’re reaching people on this really human level to say, “Here I am,” in your feed and this is a real person reaching you. This is an authentic image of a construction site or a real resident playing a game or singing a song. It’s also got that brand slant, that advertising message behind it to say, “Hey, come on in. We want to talk to you.” It really does reach people on that human level. It’s hard to do that with traditional advertising.

Mike: I think we’ve just illustrated a huge reason as to why social media is becoming increasingly more and more important in this realm. I’m sure that there are still plenty of people out there who have been hesitant to adapt it or maybe they’re just so unfamiliar with it that they just don’t know a way to integrate it.

What are some of the misconceptions about social media that you hear and then what are the ways to counter those misconceptions?

Anna Rose: To me, the biggest one still, which kind of blows me away, still, is that seniors aren’t using it or, like, “Oh, God. But my residents aren’t using it.” I think, especially when we’re looking at that target audience of kind of, you know, the 50-plus adult child, especially the 65-plus prospect, that of course, they’re using it. They’re using it in these huge amounts that no other demographic is on Facebook in that way.

I think, in some other age groups, there’s some fear or some hesitation either that’s coming from, like, “Oh, Zuckerberg is evil,” or, “I don’t engage with advertising,” that I think we don’t see in this age group. That’s one of the biggest ones to me.

Then, of course, just circling back to, like, “We’re already doing it. We have somebody running it.” That goes back to either it’s the receptionist or it’s this big-box agency. I think that middle ground is really important to find something where you’re representing both the authentic and you have a little bit of marketing to it.

Mike: Awesome. Trish, do you want to have any final thoughts on that one?

Trish: I think Anna Rose covered it pretty well but I feel like, yeah, just to piggyback on that, it’s building legitimacy. We used to see clients, like you say, who are like, “Oh, yeah, well, we kind of have a page up. It’s whatever. We don’t pay attention to it.” That was fine maybe even a year ago but now it’s like that adult daughter is getting on saying, like, ‘What’s this community up to? Would I let my mom move in here?” Maybe it’s not driving leads every day from the organic posts, but if your community is not posting anything, then that doesn’t build trust with your audience.

Mike: Okay.

Trish: I think that’s another piece of what is so important.

Mike: Awesome.

Anna Rose: That’s a good piece. Thank you for mentioning that. I think the consumer trust is huge and it’s something where we do have clients who say, “Oh, you’ve said all this. Let’s just run some ads.” That organic presence is just so fundamental. It’s like having a website. You wouldn’t not have a website in 2020.

I don’t think you can get away with not having a Facebook because it’s something that your consumers see. It’s the second thing that’s going to index in Google. They’re going to click on it and they’re going to see your residents having fun or your families are going to see your residents having a good time and that, “Hey, there’s this event coming up. Maybe I can drag my mom to it.” All of that is basic; it’s fundamental right now.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Good call. I think it’s important to be able to get back to basics and remember those fundamentals as they really are the backbone for everything we do, especially in times like these when there are so many changes happening so fast. Everyone is being pulled in a million different directions and we’re having to switch gears at a moment’s notice.

Speaking of switching gears, we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about how women are blazing trails in an industry historically dominated by good old boys, how COVID-19 is affecting the current digital and social landscapes, and what that could mean for the future of certain aspects of marketing in the industry. Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back with Part 2 of this epic conversation with Anna Rose Warren and Trish Mayer. Stick around.


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