Apr 29, 2023
Originally published in the April 2023 issue of The Director magazine, a publication of the National Funeral Directors Association, by ASD Public Relations Specialist, Jessica Farren.
With more than 29,000 followers, ASD – Answering Service for Directors’ Facebook page is the most popular social media page in the funeral profession. Here are some lessons we’ve learned along the way.
In 2011, I began the process of establishing social media accounts for ASD after creating our company blog. At the time, apart from our friend Caleb Wilde’s website, Confessions of a Funeral Director, there were very few social media accounts or blogs centered around death care. There was no real guidebook to follow at that time – it was very much learn as you go. This experience of growing ASD’s online following, observing what works and what does not, as well as the progress of other funeral businesses, has given me a deep understanding of the best way to approach social media.
Fast forward to today and ASD’s Facebook now has more likes and engagement than any other funeral-related company. Our company has also made thousands of connections on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Over the past 12 years, I have had a front seat in observing how funeral home social media has evolved and have learned some of the best practices that can be adopted by any business owner.
1. Know your Audience
Without question, the biggest driver of ASD’s success on social media has been our commitment to constantly asking– what content would funeral directors find most interesting? Our entire social media strategy is built around creating and finding content that we believe our audience will find compelling. For funeral homes, your audience is comprised of your local community and those families you have served in the past. You must give your audience a reason to follow you. Simply posting obituaries from your website or using generic content that any funeral home in the country could share will not engage your audience. Remember, social media needs to be social. If it feels like there is not a real person behind your Facebook page, that will absolutely come across.
The most successful funeral home Facebook pages are those that strive to be pillars of the community and to help keep neighbors connected. You should have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your local area. This will help you to better understand what content to share. Your funeral home’s social media presence should be an extension of your community outreach efforts.
Always promote upcoming community events you are holding or sponsor (for instance, holiday remembrance services, grief-support classes, informational webinars, etc.) and share photos or videos from past events. Any volunteer or charity work you or your team does locally should be featured. If you publicly sponsor any local groups or organizations (police, fire, ambulance departments, schools, colleges, animal shelters, senior centers, veteran groups, etc.) you should be using your social media to promote that group, share news about what they are doing and mentioning that you are proud to be a sponsor or supporter of their efforts.
2. Vary Up Your Content
We’ve all been scrolling through a social newsfeed and found ourselves thinking, “Here we go again! This page keeps posting the same thing! I am going to stop following them.” You don’t want to give your audience a case of content déjà vu – it is the quickest way to lose the followers you have worked so hard to gain. Instead, give variety to your posts by identifying different categories of content you can alternate. This is one of the most crucial rules of social media that has been fundamental to the success of ASD’s Facebook page. We see a lot of funeral homes share inspirational quotes daily and, as lovely as these sayings are, it is understandable why their audience isn’t engaged.
Below are six distinct content categories and some ideas for funeral home posts:
- Entertaining posts: These types of posts are usually fun and meant to catch attention. Exciting local news stories or anything out of the ordinary happening at your funeral home or in the local area would fall under this category.
- Inspirational posts: From touching stories about overcoming grief to those moving quote images, these types of posts are meant to deliver a dose of inspiration to someone’s day. They work well in moderation, but too many funeral homes seem to be permanently stuck on this content category.
- Educational posts: This type of content is meant to inform your audience and can include a wide range of different posts such as how-to-blogs on funeral planning, guidance of end-of-life issues, weekly tips on life insurance or prearranging, etc. Your knowledge as a funeral director is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have at your disposal. When you are searching for educational posts, consider the type of questions you are asked most often and use your social media as a forum to shed light on these topics.
- Company Culture posts: One of the things we learned from managing ASD’s social media is that our clients wanted to know about the people answering their phones and were interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of our answering service. The same is likely even more true for funeral homes. People are inherently curious about what goes on in mortuary and the people who find a career in deathcare. Social media can help you demystify your work and help folks in your town get to know who you are. Share photos and videos of your funeral home (décor, landscaping, antiques, unique features, old photos or relics, therapy pets, unique ways people have personalized funerals, etc.) Post staff bios or Q&As to help your followers get to know the whole team and share details about unique hobbies or personal accomplishments.
- Connection posts: Social media is all about reciprocity. You help your audience grow by helping others’ audience grow. Simply put, you must take time to form social media connections with other businesses and organizations in your local area and share their content on your page. For instance, if your local animal shelter is having an adoption event, you could share their content with a post that refers to them as “our friends.” This is such an important component of social media and it is the number one reason why you should not take a passive approach. It’s not just about managing your page, it’s about interacting with other pages as well.
- Promotional posts: It is ok to promote your funeral home and the services you provide on social media, so long as that is not the only thing you are posting. However, try to remember that your likely to have the biggest impact if you focus on people rather than merchandise. For instance, a photo of a thank you note a family sent you is likely to create a bigger impact than a photo of an urn in your showroom.
3. Understand Social Media is Only a Piece of the Puzzle
Many directors do not recognize valuable cross-marketing opportunities until they have already passed. For instance, if you are holding an event at your funeral home, quietly posting a link on your website is not likely to attract much attention. Instead, use Facebook, your blog, and email in conjunction with your website to share more details. Your social media should be supported by a modern website, an active blog and a monthly email newsletter.
Cross promoting your content is key, but there is more to it than just cut and paste. Look for ways to repackage content in a different format. For instance, a series of tips you share weekly on Facebook could be combined into a single blog post. While some messages may work best when customized to fit a platform, you should generally strive to create promotional experiences that are integrated and complementary across all mediums. This ensures your core mission statement and brand identity will not become diluted or fragmented. For example, if your website, newsletter and Facebook page appear as if they could have come from three different funeral homes, this can cause confusion and diffuse your brand.
4. Take Advantage of Social Media Solutions
There are a multitude of helpful tools available online to support you in your social media marketing efforts. Below are a few we use regularly and can recommend from firsthand experience.
- Facebook Planner Tool– Make sure your Facebook page is classified as a business page to give you access to the Meta Business Suite (You should be able to access this at business.facebook.com). There is a whole host of different features available here, but the Planner tool is one we use frequently at ASD for scheduling out our Facebook posts in advance. You are able to see everything in a convenient calendar view and schedule content for both Facebook and Instagram accounts.
- Content Gems– This convenient online service is wonderful for finding content that is relevant to your audience. You can set this up so that it automatically sends you a daily email summary of articles and blogs that include different keywords you provide.
- Buffer – If you use Twitter for your funeral home, Buffer is a fantastic tool for scheduling out Tweets in advance and creating a pipeline of content to share in the future.
- Meta Business Suite App– Funeral directors are rarely sitting in front of a computer, so this is a great tool for posting while on-the-go. If you ever want to record something live or share a photo from an event that is currently taking place, this app makes it simple to post in real-time. It also allows you to view your post engagement and respond to comments or DMs without delay.
5. Don’t Get Frustrated
Facebook can be a helpful marketing tool for funeral homes, but you should approach social media with the understanding that you may find yourself getting discouraged along the way. It’s important to be conscious of the potential divisive nature of social media. Recent revelations have caused some people to feel negatively about these sites and their impact on society. Facebook is constantly changing its internal interface in reaction to current events. This means that as soon as you get used to things functioning a certain way on your page, the site can completely change without notice. The conflict-ridden environment on social media has also led to the creation of troll accounts, which are run by individuals whose sole purpose is to find ways to upset and offend.
In addition to these issues, there are many accounts controlled by spam bots which can make the experience frustrating as you may find yourself spending time having to delete comments and ban users. ASD had to deactivate the reviews section on our page because it was infiltrated with spam reviews that had nothing to do with our company. On top of this, there is no customer service department at Facebook to report these types of issues to – you simply submit a ticket online and never see the issue resolved.
I mention these challenges not to deter anyone from using social media, but to implore you to resist the urge to throw in the towel when these inevitable headaches occur. I have seen so many funeral homes establish a social media presence only to abandon it after a period of time, and I believe this is the reason why. You don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste. It helps to prepare yourself in advance for certain annoyances to arise and when you find yourself feeling exasperated, know that you are not alone.
Jessica (Fowler) Farren is the Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer at ASD – Answering Service for Directors. Jessica manages ASD’s company blog, social media accounts and digital marketing. She has been published in numerous funeral trade magazines and has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, marketing, business planning, technology and funeral trends. To contact Jessica, call 800-868-9950 or email jess@myASD.com.
About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com