Social media and social care. How can the Health and Social sector use Social Media to connect, collaborate and communicate.

Social media use in this country is staggering.

At the beginning of 2017 there were over 39 million active social media users in the UK. That number was expected to rise to over 42 million.

More than a third of the entire population visited the site every day. Twitter boasts over 15 million active users in the UK market. While LinkedIn has grown its following in the UK to over 13 million registered members. And at last count, YouTube had over 19 million unique visitors from the UK watching videos on the video-sharing website.

Generations

If you think it is only the Generations X and Y that are responsible for driving this cultural, online phenomenon, think again. Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964, are embracing social media. They are using it as a form of communication, networking and entertainment, and are as active online as ever.

Instead of shying away from the internet, Baby Boomers are actually the fastest-growing demographic among online users. According to Ofcom research published in The Telegraph, the proportion of British adults with a social networking profile grew to 64 percent in 2014. This is compared to 59 percent in 2014. Ofcom reported that Baby Boomers were primarily responsible for this rise. The proportion of 55 to 64-year-olds with a profile rose to 35 percent in 2015.

Further evidence suggests that Baby Boomers on average, spend 21 hours a week online. Within that they are viewing 3000 internet pages per month. 20 percent being active on social media and 25 percent preferring to shop online.

As the rapidly ageing and retiring Baby Boomers – and seniors alike – move online en masse, what opportunities does this present for the social care sector?

Social media and networking holds considerable value for social care organisations. They can be leveraged to support improved communications, connections and collaborations with key stakeholders within the sector.

Stakeholder: Service users

Services users and recipients of care – whether they’re residing in a care home facility or in their own home – represent some of the most frail and vulnerable members of our community.

Quite often, complex health issues, disabilities, physical limitations and isolation make it difficult for these people to maintain social contact and participate in social activities. However, social media and networking has proven to be effective in helping broaden interests and maintain morale.

Social media applications such as Tapestry are designed to help enrich the lives of seniors in particular. A simplified platform that promotes social inclusion through connectivity, entertainment, health, welfare and community engagement.

Through Tapestry and other similar popular social sharing platforms, the vulnerable people within our community can more easily stay connected with friends, family, carers, volunteers and loved ones. They can view, collect and share photographs; chat, email and even participate in low-cost video calls.

Another initiative in the UK by FutureGov, promotes social inclusion by connecting people who like to cook with people in their area who are not always able to cook for themselves, or could really benefit from a home cooked meal. The initiative, called Casserole Club, operates like a local, community-led take-away and helps to strengthen local neighbourhood relationships with fresh, home-cooked meals.

There is a wide view that participating in social networks – either offline or online – is highly beneficial and a significant component in maintaining well-being for all people. Social media has the power to make social networks more accessible to the frail and vulnerable members of our community.

Stakeholder: Families of services users and residents

Social care organisations can also look to use social media platforms to increase meaningful engagements with the families of service users and residents. This can also have an effect on engagement with the wider community.

Promoting educational material on YouTube, starting discussions on Facebook or in LinkedIn Groups, or broadcasting non-urgent messaging and communications on Twitter can all help to engage and develop relationships with families and their loved ones who may need or are receiving care.

Social Media and Social Care

While engaging with families of care recipients on social media is a key enabler in developing trust and understanding for families, it is also an extremely valuable marketing opportunity to reach those that are investigating potential care options for their loved ones.

The landscape is changing considerably, with many tech-savvy families seeking advice and support online when looking to place a relative in care. These searches aren’t only limited to websites either.  Baby Boomers are actively consuming a wide range of socially created content. These include blogs, videos, emails, podcasts, forums and online review sites.

Those social care organisations with an active social media presence will have a competitive advantage over those organisations who have not incorporated social media into their business strategy. Social Media can also play a huge role in recruiting the right people for the roles. We have a blog post on how to recruit and retain the right people here.

Stakeholder: Carers

According to research by consulting firms Age Lessons and comScore, carers spend about 150 minutes a month on social media sites. The study shows they browse 70 percent more online pages than the average person. Clearly, there is also an opportunity for carers to reap benefits from social media and networks.

Social media can be used to provide carers with information, feedback, support. It can also add resources to fulfil their roles and manage everyday life. Most importantly, social media provides a platform for carers to interact with people experiencing similar pressures and challenges.

Specifically, Twitter may be a platform for carers to consider following for sources. It can also be used for updates relating to care-specific news. Facebook Groups may be established to build an online support network. This can be where carers can express their thoughts and views of working in the sector.

Considerations …

While the use of social media is flourishing, it is essential when incorporating the use of social media that there is a policy based on your own organisation’s unique business requirements. When executed properly, a sound social media strategy can help social care organisations engage with their stakeholders more effectively. It can also grow business opportunities as a result.

(Image credit: Master Isolated Images)