Four Steps to Opening Social Media to Employees

Compared to other industries, healthcare has been slow to adopt social media to engage employees. For many, their focus has been to use social media to market services to consumers and to engage with the community. But when it comes to employees, social media is considered a “hands off” communication tool by managers who fear it will impede productivity and create a hard to manage channel for employees to complain or share sensitive information. More importantly, it’s seen as a resource drain. For most healthcare companies, social media is managed by an already strapped public relations and marketing department who are lucky if they have one staffer dedicated to pushing out Facebook posts and monitoring Twitter.

It’s time to change this thinking. Within each organization, there’s a PR army of ambassadors who are ready to share the good news about your brand. Likely, they are already doing so on their own social media properties. Why not leverage the power of this group to forward the company’s messages? Here are four steps to get you started:

  1. Give management a reason to believe
    The notion that social media impedes productivity is flawed. There are many distractions through the work day that impact employee focus – email for one. Plus many employees have smart phones they are using to check text messages from kids and co-workers. Productivity is a management problem, not a social media problem. In fact, a study published by The McKinsey Global Institute, shows that companies that improve communication and collaboration through social technologies could actually raise employee productivity by 20 to 25 percent.
  2. Give employees rules to follow
    Healthcare is a highly regulated industry. It only makes sense that social media policies be in line with all other compliance rules. But the approach to creating social media guidelines does not have to be heavy handed, just thoughtful. Begin by involving the key oversight sectors: public relations and marketing, IT and legal/risk management. Mike Langford, a social compliance strategist and financial industry veteran, says in a Harvard Business Review article that the best policies are a collaborative effort. They should empower employees to engage, not impede them.
  3. Train Social Media Ambassadors
    Social media does not have to be opened up to all employees at once. Start small with a group of trusted employees who are already engaged in social media. Create a Social Media Ambassadors group and focus on one social media property first, such as Facebook. Have each member of the group begin by “Liking” the organization’s Facebook page and sharing content by commenting on the page or reposting information from the page at least 3 times per week. Have the team participate in a Social Media Ambassadors Facebook Group to learn about guidelines for posting appropriate and useful information and to share ideas and thoughts about how to engage other employees and the community.
  4. Provide Sharable Content
    Employees will help a company tell its story if they have good information to share. Content is considered “sharable” if it is topical, relevant, informative and fun. Some of the most sharable content comes in the form of videos, photos and infographics. Create content that employees want to share and host it in the community they’re most active, depending on your group of Ambassadors this may be a Facebook group or an employee microsite. Engage your ambassadors with interesting, stimulating and fun content that inspires them to go out and pioneer your brand.

Have you opened social media to your employees? If so, what’s been successful for your brand? What other tips would you add?

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