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Jennifer Benz July 3, 2008 4 min read

Social media and HR communication strategy

Four Questions to set your agenda

This article outlines four simple but strategic questions to ask before you embark on any “Web 2.0” investments. Don’t get caught up with the “cool” factor of these tools and invest in one that doesn’t make sense with your goals. This article will ensure your investments are aligned with your strategic goals.

Social Media and HR Communication: Four Questions to set your agenda

Blogs, wikis, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. All of the Web 2.0 talk is enough to make most HR and communication professionals frustrated, if not overwhelmed. How do you wade through the tools and resources out there and integrate them into your employee communication strategy? What’s worth investing in and where should you steer clear?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to Web 2.0 tools. You should invest in the areas where you want you employees to be the most engaged and where you need to create the most change. Sounds complicated? Well, the good news is these tools don’t require you to dramatically change your communication strategy—in fact, chances are, your core strategy won’t change at all. Social media tools are tactical ways to reach your employees and should be used just like other media—print, your intranet, email and meetings. The difference is they are designed to give your employees the opportunity to really participate in the discussion—and you better be listening.

How to set your Social Media agenda

Use these four questions to help set your social media plan and integrate these tools into your communication strategy.

What are your objectives? It might just sound cool to start a series of HR podcasts, but they need to have a point. Don’t roll out new communication or technology just for the sake of doing so—make sure it is tied to your overall strategy or it will be money wasted. So, are you trying to save costs long-term by getting employees more engaged in their health care? Reduce early turnover by improving the new hire experience? Or, improve engagement by making sure employees know what their whole package is worth? Start with your core objectives and then decide if a social media or Web 2.0 tool will help you get there.

Who are your employees? Who is your audience? How do they want to receive information? What’s practical and what makes sense given the needs of your workforce (and their families?) Don’t assume just because your employees are young that they want to receive all of their info via podcasts. And, definitely don’t assume that a retiree or older workforce won’t use Web 2.0 technology. Make sure that communication—no matter what form—is making it easier and faster for your audience to get and use the information they need, when and where they need it.

What is a wise use of development dollars? What is going to have a long-term ROI? Think about investing in infrastructure first, as it will have the most benefit long-term. Upgrading your intranet to provide blog, profile and wiki platforms will have unlimited uses down the road and allow you to start working with those media. Investing in a series of one-off podcasts or videos will have a shorter lifespan but that may make sense if part of a high-value campaign.

Keep in mind, what you produce must still be professional and high-quality, and that will cost money. YouTube and simple podcasting tools may give anyone the ability to create an online video, but that doesn’t mean it will fit the brand of your Fortune 500 organization. In most cases, you’ll want and need to have podcasts and videos professionally produced to maintain the level of professionalism and quality needed. And, unless your bloggers have writing or editing background, you’ll probably need a professional editor or, at the very least, a proofreader to make sure posts don’t get out there with a “their” where there should be a “they’re.”

What is efficient to monitor and maintain? Don’t think that “user-generated content” means you don’t have to pay attention. If your employees are commenting on HR articles or benefits news posts or providing feedback on podcasts from the CEO, you better make sure you’re reading and responding to that feedback—both to keep informed of what your employees are saying, but also to make sure that information is accurate and complete and the rumor mill is not starting around a new program or policy. In some organizations, monitoring this content has required creating a new full-time position. But, if that allows you to have an effective two-way dialog with your employees, that position will certainly be worth the investment.

Jennifer Benz

Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.