As social media becomes increasingly pervasive, employers should consider adding the tool to their communications arsenal.
Indeed, David McArthur, principal and creative director at Morello Communications Inc., says it’s too big a phenomenon for plan sponsors to ignore.
“It’s something we’re certainly seeing a lot more of,” notes Cameron McNeill, senior vice-president and Canadian business leader at the Segal Group. “But I think pension and benefits plans should be looking to employ social media because it’s the right thing for their members, and not because it’s trendy or cool.”
Social media is more often used in pension communications, he says, since employees tend to be more familiar with their benefits plans. “When you’re 33, you’re not engaged with your pension,” he says. “Social media is a much more useful tool for pension plans to achieve engagement.”
As well, traditional pension communications can be complicated and difficult for the average member to understand. To resolve this, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System reinvented its digital newsletter, rolling out content on its social media accounts on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn in early 2019. “We saw Facebook as a natural extension to repurpose and expand the reach of our newsletter,” says Jordan Ostapchuk, the pension fund’s vice-president of pension communication and innovation. He says the integration has been positive for employee engagement.
“The stats don’t lie. Our overall digital engagement numbers are going up quarter over quarter, in part driven by social media.”
Age is just a number
Around 93 per cent of all Canadian adults use the internet, says McNeill, noting this includes people aged 65 and over. Most seniors are active online and are more likely to use sites like Facebook.
The idea that retirees aren’t technologically savvy isn’t true, says Ostapchuk. For the OMERS, going digital was aligned with its focus on accessibility and aimed at the entire employee population. “We have people who are 17 and people who are 107 in our plan,” he says.
Employers need to be aware of who they’re connecting with via these platforms, says McNeill, because messages don’t reach everyone with just a post to Facebook. “This only connects you with a single subgroup of the plan. Organizations need to figure out how to use other forms of social media to ensure a joined-up strategy.”
Further, what’s the protocol when plan members respond to social media posts? It can be difficult for a plan sponsor to figure out rules around engagement. McArthur encourages his employer clients to consider how they cope with negative feedback, adding the best approach is to monitor what’s being said, but not to respond.
Social media can also help break down some of the most complicated aspects of a pension or benefits plan. For instance, says Ostapchuk, most employees aren’t aware of the supplemental elements of their plan, including disability and survivor benefits. “It’s about communicating to members that the value of their pension plan doesn’t start when they turn 65. It starts the day they join.”
It can also be difficult for plan sponsors to communicate with members in a way they understand, says McNeill, noting social media gives plan sponsors a fresh opportunity to properly engage with employees, and also forces them to be more concise.
“For instance, let’s say a company has a new educational webinar. Something like Twitter is a great way to get that out — craft a tweet and send members a link. This also has the added benefit of driving people to the organization’s website, so they get used to going there. Social media is an excellent way to make employees aware of that.”
Both plan sponsors and members are likely to visit social media accounts first if they have concerns or require extra information about an organization’s benefits or pension plan, says McArthur. If a company isn’t putting the information out there, it’s not joining the current conversation, he adds.
“Social media allows members to learn valuable insights into what’s going on; to learn about the questions individuals are asking related to the pension plan and benefits system a company has in motion.”
Cassandra Williamson-Hopp is a conference editor at Benefits Canada.