By Kristine Graeber, Vice President – Marketing Services, Greystone

How often do you consult online reviews when you’re thinking about visiting a new restaurant? Do you read online reviews when deciding on a new phone, place to stay or pair of jeans? When making a purchasing decision, many of us are relying more and more on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor as the strongest factor of our influence mix.

But why?

Online reviews provide perspectives from consumers who don’t have a vested interest in the business, so they can speak openly about their experience. They are often quite candid and do not sound anything like a testimonial carefully crafted by a marketing agency. Online reviews offer the truth we all seek.

And now, online reviews are entering the realm of senior living.

At the Barrington of Carmel, residents have been responsible for referring a third of the total leads generated last year and so far this year. This incredible group of spirited and faithful residents is constantly asking “What can we do to help?” So the marketing team at the community in Carmel, Ind., got an idea.

Employing resident support, the Barrington recently hosted a Yelp event that focused on educating residents on the importance of online reviews, the different places where reviews can be posted online and how to post them. During the educational session, seven reviews were posted to Yelp, and four to other reviews sites like Google. Here is a small sampling of the reviews:

Carol C. says: We have lived here since the opening on the community and have made so many wonderful friends. Our lives are busier and richer than ever before. The great staff has helped to make our lifestyle easier and more enjoyable. This was one wisest decision we have ever made. We feel so lucky to be able to be here.

Ralph L. says: The Barrington facilities have more than met our best expectations since we moved in March of 2014. The staff has consistently responded to residents’ needs with eager professionalism. Living here has introduced us to community of friendly and stimulating neighbors.

Hosting the online review session and encouraging resident participation was the first effort of its kind for the Barrington, SQLC and Greystone. In doing so, we enlisted the support of Bluespire Marketing for technical support and insight. The session was extremely well received by residents. It was also a learning experience for the Greystone, Barrington and Bluespire marketing teams. If you’re considering an event like this at your community, keep in mind:

  • Ensure you have active accounts set up with the different online review sites
  • Encourage Google reviews, as they help your SEO ranking. You’ll need a Gmail account to post reviews, so perhaps offer a tutorial for residents to set up an account. This can benefit you two-fold as an educational session on sending email
  • Post reviews intermittently vs. all at once. When multiple reviews are received at any one time, the site could flag the reviews as spam and it will take several weeks before they are able to be vetted and posted

Overall, this seminar provided many wins: a win for residents in learning something new, the Barrington received many positive reviews, and the Greystone and Bluespire marketing teams were able to identify a cost-effective way to optimize lead generation and increase a community’s online presence.