3 Innovative Ways to Use Social Media for Wellness Engagement

March 18, 2021 | Rally Health


If the breakout success of Peloton — the interactive fitness platform that sells connected exercise bikes and treadmills — has taught us anything during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that people are eager to join like-minded communities dedicated to health and wellness.

More than 4.4 million Peloton users connect during workouts by digitally high-fiving other participants and using hashtags such as #PelotonMoms and #BlackGirlMagic, while instructors offer frequent shoutouts to at-home riders. Post-workout, members join Facebook groups, Slack channels and Reddit discussions to continue the conversation; they follow instructors on Twitter and Instagram, too.

This social media activity has helped Peloton connect with passionate members and build a massive community around its brand. So why can’t corporate wellness programs mimic this success?

The problem is that most organizations rely on outdated social media strategy — and so their Facebook and Twitter profiles are used strictly for PR and customer relations, while Slack is filled with project-related conversations. There’s often not a whisper of employee-focused communication, let alone promotion of wellness programs or encouragement of health-related conversations.

Forward-looking enterprises, however, embrace social media as a critical tool to amp up their wellness program engagement. Here are some innovative ways you can leverage social to drive health engagement at your company.

1. Turn social media inward

Many companies approach social media to connect mainly with customers, rather than employees. But that’s changing, as organizations realize they need to go where their employees are already gathering — namely, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Employee-centric social media pages make it easier to spread your company’s wellness messages, while promoting internally your brand’s commitment to well-being. On Facebook, for instance, you can create a closed group just for your wellness program, and encourage members to crowdsource ideas for fun activities and healthy recipes. Or start specific Facebook Groups dedicated to your employees’ most popular pursuits, like yoga, running, or, yep, Peloton. With LinkedIn, you can make a private group by selecting “Unlisted Group,” thereby hiding it from search results and allowing only admins to invite new members. And both Instagram and Twitter allow for private accounts so you can tightly tailor the audience.

Because social media works best when it’s, well, social, seeding engagement is key. Post open-ended questions that encourage comments, invite employees to post updates about their fitness challenges or life hacks for healthier living. If things seem off to a slow start, it might be worth enlisting a few internal stakeholders to post and respond to comments, until your social media pages have broader buy-in and can be self-sustaining.

2. Leverage chat for instant connection

Messaging apps such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Chat, MyChat’s corporate messenger, and smaller apps including Ryver and Glip by RingCentral have seen explosive growth. They have invaded both startup and enterprise workplaces because they offer users the ability to bypass their dreaded email inboxes.

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 employee mini-surveys 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 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 PwC 2016 Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey, 64 percent of corporate wellness programs feature some form of competition or gamification. And research by Penn Medicine in 2019 and 2020 showed that corporate wellness programs including gamification were successful in increasing employees’ physical activity.

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. 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.

Just as no two workforces are identical, no two approaches to using social media to engage and empower employees will be the same. But by leveraging lessons learned from other enterprises, businesses can more easily experiment and innovate to find the approach that works for them — and their teams.


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