Using Social Proof in Digital Marketing for Senior Living

Have you ever been in a social situation where you weren’t sure how to behave—should I sit, stand, congregate in one room, avoid another—and you modeled your behavior based on what others around you were doing?

That’s social proof (or social influence) in action.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini coined the phrase social proof in his book Influence: Science and Practice. The term suggests that when people don’t know how to behave or what to do in a situation, they tend to look at what other folks are doing, assuming (rightly or wrongly) that others have more information or insight.

OK, so you might be wondering what social proof has to do with digital marketing for senior living. Turns out, a lot. Below, we discuss what social proof is in terms of marketing, why it matters for your senior living community, and what you can do to foster it.

What is social proof in marketing?

Social proof in marketing occurs when someone other than the brand says the brand is fabulous, and this stamp of approval influences others to buy from the brand. As noted above, humans tend to be influenced by what other people do and experience.

⮚      Have you ever had a bunch of friends talk up a new show on Netflix or Hulu, and you found yourself watching it over the following weekend? That’s social proof. (This is how The Bear took off last year.)

⮚      Have you ever craved a specific type of food and chosen a restaurant based on its stellar Yelp reviews? That, too, is social proof.

⮚      Have you ever asked for a recommendation in a Facebook group—maybe for a plumber, landscaper, or hair stylist—and eight comments mentioned the same person, which spurred you to call them? Hello, social proof!

Social proof is also closely tied with another concept many of us know: FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Think of any product that’s gone viral—from the Cabbage Patch dolls of the 80s to the veggie chopper everyone’s talking about on TikTok. These things take off because influencers talk them up, and suddenly, everyone wants to have the product or service.

Why is social proof important in digital marketing for senior living?

We don’t have to tell you that people hesitate before making big purchases. Moving to a senior living community is often the last big purchase a person will make in their lifetime—and it’s a pricey one.

Prospective buyers want to be reassured that they’re making a good decision. And that’s precisely where social proof comes into play. They want to hear about people’s experiences in the community: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Were they happy? Was it money well spent? Were they cared for? Was the place as wonderful as the website and marketing materials suggested?

If your community lacks social proof, you’ll have an uphill battle converting marketing-qualified leads into move-ins.

Consider these social proof stats cited by OptIn Monster:

  • 87% of purchasing choices start with online research before the transaction.
  • The average consumer reads ten online reviews before deciding to buy.
  • 88% of people value user reviews as highly as personal suggestions.
  • 82% of Americans consult friends and family for advice before buying something.

Bottom line: social proof matters!

What types of social proof should senior living communities encourage?


If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ve likely heard us emphasize the importance of your senior living community’s Google Business Profile, particularly the reviews. At some point, most of your prospects will see your Google reviews.

When it comes to reviews, focus on doing the following:

Regularly solicit reviews. If you don’t have recent reviews, this can lead to questions and diminish trust in your brand. Why are the reviews a year old? What does this mean? Is the community still around? Did something change with management? Does that five-star review from three years ago tell an accurate story of what it’s like in the community today?

⮚      INSIGHT: OptIn Monster reports that eighty-five percent of consumers believe online reviews older than three months are irrelevant.

Maintain an overall positive rating. Most reasonable people don’t expect perfection. In fact, a perfect 5.0 for reviews would likely raise an eyebrow since enough folks have likely heard about fake or paid reviews. At the same time, people will quickly cross off communities with ratings in the threes or lower. We advise our clients to aim for the sweet spot of 4.0 to 4.5. This tends to be a believable score as well as a good score.

⮚      INSIGHT: OptIn Monster reports that fifty-seven percent of consumers will only purchase or use a business’s services if it has a rating of at least four stars.


Provide thoughtful responses to all reviews, especially negative reviews. Are your responses kind and authentic? Or snarky and defensive? People do take note. Demonstrating that you’re listening to people’s critiques will serve your community a lot better than a dismissive response to a negative review.

⮚      INSIGHT: TrustPulse reports that fifty-six percent of consumers alter their view of a business based on the way it responds to reviews.


We mentioned earlier that most people seek recommendations from friends and family before buying something. Having a robust referral program can help you take advantage of this stat.

Referrals can come from residents, family members, and third parties, such as elder law attorneys, financial planners, and geriatric care managers.

RESIDENTS. The best way to get referrals from residents is by creating a seamless move-in experience—and a stellar first month. (We’re not suggesting things should go downhill from there, but the first 30 days are critical.) Marketing, sales, and other departments (like activities) should collaborate. Silo mentalities need-not apply. Learn how to create an epic new resident welcome program.

FAMILY MEMBERS. Adult children can be an excellent megaphone for your community, especially if their mom or dad is having a wonderful experience. Remember that the adult child can continue to be a referral source even after the resident moves out or passes away (provided the experience remains positive until the end). Learn more about the adult child’s journey and why staying in touch with them is critical.

THIRD-PARTY REFERRALS. Sales reps should always nurture these relationships and regularly network. Still, marketers can help by providing compelling collateral and setting up automated email workflows to make it easier for reps to stay in touch with their networking contacts. Learn more about how to engage with senior living referral sources.

Need help developing social proof for your community?

There’s no better form of social proof than glowing reviews and a steady stream of referrals. Get in touch if you need help generating more of one or both. We specialize in digital marketing for senior living and know how to prime your community’s social proof engine.