As benefits become more complex, using social media can provide an excellent opportunity to get the word out to employees. “Ongoing communication, rather than mailings or emails at open enrollment, is the only way to drive employee engagement with complex benefits,” writes Shelby Livingston for Business Insider, quoting Jennifer Benz, CEO of San Francisco-based consultant Benz Communications.


Businesses also have a huge opportunity in doing so. “A survey the Society of Human Resource Management released in March found just 4 percent of organizations use social media for benefits communication,” Livingston writes. “That compares with a National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications survey released in November that found 15 percent of predominantly larger companies do so.”


Here are three ways your company can successfully start using social media to help employees better understand their benefits.


1. Realize it can be done both cautiously and effectively.

Companies might be nervous about the possibility of broadcasting information about benefits using social media. Carefully vetting anyone participating on the channel will help, and so will using an internal network, writes Vicki Arnstein for Employee Benefits.


“A range of enterprise social networks are being used internally within businesses, such as Yammer, Slack and Jive,” she writes. “These allow employers and staff to build networks and groups, as well as make and comment on posts in a work context.”


2. Find a clear purpose.

Social media is an excellent way for employers to stay relevant, Arnstein writes, and to communicate in a cost-effective way. But anyone using it must have a plan. “Social media will not necessarily work well for all types of benefits or messages that employers want to distribute, so it is important that they create a clear strategy and purpose behind their communications,” she writes.


Make sure your channel fits the rest of your culture. And, try to use a channel that fits with employees’ existing social media habits. A study by Greenwich Associates found professional use of social media by institutional investors is increasing, Marlene Satter writes for Employee Benefit News. The study found investors in Asia use social media more consistently, and “Facebook and YouTube have increased in popularity within the professional space for group discussions and distribution of videos, (but) LinkedIn is still the champion for professionals.”


3. Understand it’s a two-way street.

The purpose of social media is to drive back-and-forth communication, and those pushing the message out should be prepared to moderate and reinforce factual information, Livingston writes. “Through social media channels, employees can comment on and discuss benefits and programs, which can carry more weight with their colleagues than an endorsement from the company,” she writes.


But HR professionals should be prepared to provide guidance, too. Social media is a great way to publicize high-quality benefits, Arnstein writes, but employees could possibly voice dissatisfaction via these channels. “It is really important to listen to what employees say,” Arnstein writes, quoting Louise Harris, head of client communications at Capita Employee Benefits, “even if it is negative.”