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4 Innovative Ways to Use Social Media for Wellness Engagement

By Eric Mann | July 10, 2017 | Rally Health

Fitness and wellness companies like Lululemon, CrossFit, and Nike have expertly tapped the power of social media to connect with passionate followers and build massive communities around their brands. But corporate wellness programs are another story.

Sure, your company probably has the requisite Facebook and Twitter profiles. But are you using social media to reach out to employees internally, and inspiring them to take action with a ton of engaging health and wellness content? For most companies, the answer is no.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Old-school companies try to banish social media from the workplace. Forward-thinking enterprises look to social media as a prime opportunity to amp up their employee engagement.

In that light, here are some innovative ways you can leverage social media to drive health engagement at your company.

1. Reconsider social media for internal communications

Many companies have shied away from using social networks as a way to engage directly with employees (as opposed to connecting only with customers).

That’s changing. Organizations are realizing that they need to go where their employees are already gathering. For the vast majority of employees, that’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

The recent introduction of Workplace by Facebook was a big reality check for many businesses: Most of your employees are already checking Facebook at work. Why not leverage Facebook’s popularity and turn it into a powerful intranet that people will actually use?

There is a fee for Workplace, but there are several free tools on Facebook that are excellent for improving health engagement. Create a closed Facebook Group just for your wellness program, and encourage members to crowdsource ideas for fun activities and healthy recipes. Or, create specific Facebook Groups around your employees’ most popular pursuits, like yoga, running, or CrossFit. (If you don’t want your group to show up in search results, change the privacy setting from “Closed” to “Secret.”)

Another option is Facebook Live, with companies seeing strong engagement on the new video platform. Use it to promote a big event like a health fair, or even a fireside chat about work-life balance with your CEO. Atlanta-based Jackson Healthcare has found some success using Facebook Live to reach out to its employees.

Don’t want to use Facebook? LinkedIn Groups can also be used as an effective internal communications tool. Most of your employees probably already have a LinkedIn account. You can make a private group by selecting “Unlisted Group,” thereby hiding it from search results and allowing only admins to invite new members.

2. Leverage chat for instant connection

Messaging apps such as Slack, Hipchat, Ryver, Jostle, and Rocket.Chat have seen explosive growth. They have invaded both startup and enterprise workplaces because they offer users the ability to bypass their dreaded email inboxes, as well as the immediacy of messaging, file sharing, archived conversations, video conferencing, and other useful features.

Chat is also way more fun to use than email. Group messaging tends to encourage teams to share jokes, GIFs, and viral news stories back and forth throughout the day.

Chat has a remarkable ability to create a feeling of intimacy in teams that are distributed in far-flung locations. Which is exactly why you should consider using it to create more health engagement. Anytime you can inject a sense of fun and immediacy into your wellness program, that’s a good thing.

Consider creating a chat channel specifically for your employees to share health tips, motivational quotes, success stories, personal updates, or just humorous GIFs and photos. Be sure to have your benefits team pop in regularly to keep conversations fresh and fun.

In early 2016, Osedea, a Montreal-based digital creative agency, used a combination of an “office vibe bot” and Slack to discover that their employees weren’t feeling good about their nutrition or exercise. So they created a one-month wellness challenge to promote two main health goals: more water consumption and daily workouts.

To track employee progress, the agency turned to a familiar tool: Slack. Whenever a team member drank a glass of water or completed a workout, it was announced in the dedicated Slack channel, and the team earned some points.

The results? Here’s how Osedea described it: “The biggest outcome of the challenge was engagement of all employees. It was fun to see the healthy competition between teams and people encouraging each other to complete each task. It brought us closer together.”

3. Combine gamification with social media

Fueled by smartphones and wearables, gamification has taken over the wellness industry. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2016 Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey, 64 percent of corporate wellness programs feature some form of competition or gamification.

Now, take the reward triggers inherent in a gamified experience and use them to amplify your social media efforts. For example, you could run a wellness campaign that includes an enticing giveaway and offer additional entries for every social interaction, such as following one of your accounts, liking a post, or sharing content. You can find numerous off-the-shelf apps such as Wishpond or Woobox to run these kinds of social contests. By growing your social accounts, you also increase your reach for future campaigns.

Another low-cost gamification tactic is leaderboards. To encourage participation in a particular health goal such as steps taken or miles run, promote a public leaderboard on your social media channels that ranks individuals or teams. Reward top performers with bragging rights — and maybe prizes, too. Leaderboards can be as simple as using a Google spreadsheet. Or, you can turn to a number of apps that can automate leaderboards.

Other gamification strategies to try: Give employees who consume a lot of wellness content badges that they can feature on their social media profiles. Create a health challenge with completion levels that can be shared on social media as employees achieve these milestones.

4. Harness the hashtag

The concept of a hashtag is unique to social media. First proposed by former Google designer Chris Messina in 2007, the hashtag has since grown into a powerful tool for both social movements and marketers alike.

For benefit leaders, the hashtag can be an excellent way to rally employees around a particular health-related cause or company-wide wellness challenge. Hashtag campaigns work especially well on Instagram because great visuals go so well with fitness and wellness content.

Indiana University Health encourages employees to use the #healthyselfie hashtag on social media to show how they’re living more healthfully.

The hashtag “gives other employees ideas, it makes a big organization smaller, and it makes wellness fun and fresh,” said Marci Cooper, its manager of employee wellness, in an interview with CIO magazine.

Hashtag campaigns are easy to create, but be sure to make them as specific as possible to your company or a particular health goal. Hashtags that are too broad don’t get great engagement.

It’s also important to follow up to see if the tag is actually being used. Like, repost, or comment on the best submissions. If you don't reward people for using the tag with some attention, they will quickly stop using it.

Eric Mann heads up marketing efforts for our key partners. He has more than 20 years of technology and health care marketing experience, leading browser marketing for Netscape and product marketing for Oracle Health Science.

Eric Mann
Rally Health