By Abby Mathieu, Point Park News Service:
Cincinnati’s Walker Funeral Home created a Facebook page two years ago – and it now has 29,000 “likes.”
Its posts typically deal with grief, topics for senior citizens, pre-planning funerals, health issues and anything else the owners feel might be interesting to their followers. The business has since added a blog, a Pinterest page and two Google+ pages for its two locations.
“We keep the page updated and post things that we think will be helpful and interesting to those who have taken the time to follow our pages,” Christie Walker, content manager for Walker Funeral Homes, said. “Our main goal is to educate on a variety of topics, provide comfort, and connect with our local community and beyond.”
Many funeral homes across the country — and here in Pittsburgh — have started creating a presence on social media sites. Funeral directors said they hope to change the public’s impression about how they operate.
“We are changing the way people think about the funeral industry, and that is huge for us,” Walker said. “People have an idea about funerals, and our industry in general, depending upon their own experiences, but social media has allowed people to see a whole different side of us.”
Beinhauer Funeral Homes and Cremation Services has been a part of the Pittsburgh community since 1860. The business created its Facebook page four years ago and now has more than 400 followers. The owners have since created profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn but said they still find Facebook to be the most effective outlet.
“[Facebook] allows the opportunity for the families to participate and become a part of the process,” Scott Beinhauer, director of operations, said. “We hope to get the family, their circle of friends and community to engage and make the process more personal and meaningful.”
Beinhauer’s presence on Facebook has allowed it to reach out to many more people in the Pittsburgh area who may not have heard of them prior to creating the page, he said.
“We had one experience where we cared for a family who had no idea who we were, and the reason they selected us was because of our Facebook page,” Beinhauer said. “It was something they felt was extremely professional.”
John F. Slater Services Inc. is also a local funeral home that has recently developed a Facebook page. Chris Crompton, community service coordinator, explained their approach to social media.
“It’s a way to connect what we do with the community and let other people know that we try to help with fundraisers,” Crompton said. “There was a fundraiser for a young man not too long ago that was in an accident and we put it on our Facebook. To see how many times it was shared and commented on was incredible.”
Facebook allows customers the opportunity to quickly ask questions, find fast information or even rate a funeral home based on their experience.
“Losing my father so sudden was very hard on my family and knowing I had to plan a funeral weighed on my mind. Your business made [the process] very easy for us,” Heather Fletcher said in a review on Beinhauer’s Facebook page five months ago.
Steven Turkovich, a marketing consultant at SnapRetail, an online marketing company based in Pittsburgh, feels Facebook is a positive outlet for funeral homes.
“Every local business should strive to show community interaction,” he said. “Every family has to plan for death at some point in their lives, but it is typically not something people want to plan for with excitement. Seeing a place that is welcome in the community has a great way of making that decision a lot more bearable.”
Because of social media, funeral homes are able to provide survivors with information they might not have been able to provide before.
“We often post different [information] about grief groups, recovery and healing,” Beinhauer said. “I think we are providing a service to allow the families to take the next step in the process. These articles and information are available through the Internet, and we’re now able to provide them with this information.”