Ask Madison: Social media, how do you embrace these tools for effective communication?

April 16, 2020
| ByDan Davenport

Statistics published in late 2019 claim that 48% of the world population uses social media. That equates to nearly 4 billion people connecting through mediums like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or more. With the spread of COVID-19 (and the subsequent stay-at-home guidelines put in place to fight it), we would expect that number to increase tremendously for obvious reasons – it’s one of the few ways humans are feeling connected to one another and in some instances staying informed, while adhering to socially-distant mandates.

Organizations across the world have embraced social media as their go-to communication and marketing vehicle, in many instances surpassing TV ad spend and decimating the print ad industry. Ordinary families and people make their everyday living by posting pictures, videos, vlogs and more for their fan followings. And they are paid handsomely to do this, because the public watches. (And let’s be honest, how many of us have secretly thought that our funniest family mishap had the potential for a viral moment to wind up on GMA? Ah, goals…)

But those daydreams give way to reality and we tend to go about our regular workday scrolling through our Facebook feed after dinner and trying to figure out a balance for incorporating social media into our professional and personal lives. Now as our work and homes lives have shifted dramatically with the current worldwide health pandemic, the rules of social media engagement will be adjusted as well.

How socially connected are we?

Some studies suggest that 77% of workers access social media while at work. And depending on who you ask, some employers find that distraction causing a loss in productivity (and have taken measures to block its usage). Other studies suggest staying connected socially while at work makes for more engaged employees. Who’s right? And therein lies the notion of balance.

The use of these tools can be very different when it comes to work and play. In the past decade, there are entire industries built to guide businesses in the use of social media to generate leads, build brand awareness and encourage customer engagements. Many forward-thinking organizations saw the rise of the social media phenomena and restructured business platforms into using social media as the sole basis of their new business models. Madison, who has been a leader in the employee recognition sector for over 40 years, saw the potential of a social-media driven component for their rewards and recognition programs. They successfully developed cutting-edge, integrated programs that their clients could use to recognize employees with financial rewards, incentives, and now social accolades to create meaningful connections amongst peers and managers.

Using social media as an outlet at work, even when working from home

Channeled productively, social media can be healthily incorporated into our work life and be a tool for organizations to support business initiatives, especially as the work-day and location changes.

  • Implement work peer chat groups. Professional social groups give employees the chance to connect socially, while at the same time to share thoughts with their peers which leads to productivity and sparks new ideas. This is incredibly helpful during work-at-home situations. Not all employees will have equally functional home-office environments that allow for frequent video conferencing or large-scale conference calls. But a social peer group where they can engage and share information will keep them further connected, communicating and engaged.

  • Encourage social recognition for a job well done, even when not in the office. Recognizing employees right now in the current environment is probably more important than ever – everyone can use a morale boost right about now as we all struggle to navigate the new normal. Be mindful of new privacy rules arising across the world when posting recognition in an online social settings. That’s important to note and a good reason to work with a reputable employee recognition company that specializes in a social component and is knowledgeable about regulation and compliance.

  • Set designated time aside for social media at work – either self-regulated or employer-regulated. Studies show that working environments benefit by small breaks anyway. When break times are encouraged, working adults can choose to use that time as they see fit – either by taking a walk, making personal phones calls, or enjoying a little social screen time.

  • Keep your social media policy updated. Work with your legal department, marketing department and social media experts to establish a clearly defined policy for social media use for all organization members. There are social media policy templates to get you started found online and you can draft or revise your guidelines to apply specifically to your organizational line of work. For instance, a law firm or hospital may have very specific rules that employees must follow to avoid the perception of offering unsanctioned legal or medical advice. On the other hand, organizations whose businesses thrive on social presence may have increased usage of social media tools throughout the day for work purposes. A social media advocacy team may be a good start in creating solid employee-based policies as well as defining social media presence for the organization as a whole.

  • Carefully set the tone for corporate messaging, especially during this crisis As companies are desperately trying to salvage their businesses, messaging and tone is of the utmost importance throughout communications. The world is sensitive right now and rightfully so, and many lives are being upended on so many levels. At the end of the day, lives are being saved both literally and figuratively in terms of businesses being saved for the sake of their employees. Keeping that in mind as you craft every social message disseminated from your organization will be apparent to your audience.

  • Explore new current social trends to engage employees and spread your message that you normally wouldn’t use. We tend to gravitate towards platforms that are more closely aligned with our businesses (LinkedIn being the most professionally-based platform most organizations use.) Of course, it’s important to know your audience and on what platforms they will be reached. However, every once in a while, a new messaging campaign may “stick” and it may not have taken a lot of effort or expense to make a mark. An example being the unlikely partnership of a teenaged-phenomena and a leading world health authority.

Recently the World Health Organization partnered with TikTok for a series of live streams to share information on how to prevent the virus spread. This is a forum where a primary audience aged 18-24 watch 15-second videos of fun dance routines, performances by emerging songbirds, and zany and wild pranks for laughs. Yet it’s gaining so much influence that one of the leading health entities in the world found it to be a worthwhile delivery mechanism to spread its message. Many other businesses are using this medium to bring some joy to the current situation – like the TikTok nurses in Missouri. With its gain in popularity, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of TikTok or at least wondered why those kids down the street were dancing in synchronicity in front of a propped-up mobile phone.

There are countless guidelines to help us incorporate the use of social media into our work lives and probably even more available as it relates to our personal lives. As the COVID-19 crisis is very much blurring the lines of our work-life and home-life with work-from-home and home-school scenarios, it’s worth revisiting how we incorporate its balanced use in our personal lives.

Using social media to connect from home

  • Screen-time rules may wind up being more relaxed during the current work-from-home environment, but we should still have some form of limits. While screen time has been widely studied for children with various recommendations by age, the same is not as clear cut for adults, and it’s not always based on social media usage. It’s been reported that on average, adults spend 11 hours per day looking at some form of a screen for various reasons – but it all depends on their line of work. Some guidelines include monitoring the negative effects experienced based on screen time as an indicator of personal usage limits. Paying attention to physical effects (like eye and neck strain) in addition to psychological effects (like anxiety and social media addiction) and finding ways to disconnect for some relief is important.

  • Being mindful of social media overload. Just as there have been studies about screen time, more studies are surfacing about the rise in the use of social media as well. Current statistics suggest users are spending nearly two-and-a-half hours on social media per day. Certain reports denote differences between habitual users vs. social media addicts, but in all scenarios, taking account of your usage, especially when we will have so much extra free time on our hands with stay-at-home measures, is something to keep in mind and monitor. There are professionals who can help work through any concerns you may have. It’s a real thing, and could be even more so in today’s current environment, but it is something that can be addressed.

  • Remember that your social media persona can infiltrate your professional endeavors. We’ve witnessed it often in the past few years – “keyboard warriors” who freely share their thoughts, not realizing how far their comments will travel – like onto the feed of a potential employer. Private profiles are not necessarily private in the age of screenshots that can be shared and identities will not always be protected. Everything you post, share, like, or comment on can be used as a reflection of you in the eyes of your family, friends, neighbors and employers; even if you didn’t write it, your thumbs-up will associate you with an online thought, or position. Take a moment of pause before engaging online, especially during the highly-charged moments we are experiencing during this crisis.

  • Using social media to find and communicate joy. Amongst the bad news and devastating predictions throughout the pandemic, we’ve also seen the rise in an overt attempt to share good news, too. Celebrities reading to children to increase donations, neighborhood forums sharing “where to find” updates and creating “help maps” to assist isolated neighbors with critical tasks, and new challenges every day to post positive messages despite the negative. Hobby social media giants like Pinterest will remind us of that project we’ve been looking to finish or ones we had hoped to start. Seeing new babies smiling on our Facebook feed can help to momentarily lift some burdening anxieties. We don’t suggest burying our heads in the sand and pretending negativity doesn’t exist. In fact, using social media to explore dissenting points of view can keep us informed and even enlighten us to a new way of looking at a particular issue. We should be sure to check sources and be mindful of misinformation. Many social media platforms are doing this already to help curb the spread of less-than-factual information. We can do our part by being selective about what we share. And make a concerted effort to share the good.

It is expected that the way social media will have a hand in documenting the COVID-19 crisis will be unlike any other worldwide event we have experienced. The CDC even suggests taking breaks from the unending flow of news, including from social media sources, to manage stress. But if the focus of using social media can keep employees connected and feeling appreciated, keep individuals personally engaged with loved ones, and help leadership spread its organizational message with care, we can maintain a happy balance in new routines now that can carry over during crisis recovery phase and beyond as we anticipate returning to previous schedules.

At Madison, it’s not business as usual, but instead, we are focused on support. Supporting our invaluable customers by maintaining business continuity, sharing advice about new working models and providing an opportunity to connect with others. 

While you adjust to your new working routine – whether it be at home or part of an essential service - please join the conversation. Ask Madison is an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions and help create our ‘new normal’, together. We believe that employee recognition is an essential business function and that, now more than ever, it is our responsibility to celebrate each other, recognize every milestone and collaborate together—even though we may be sitting apart.

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