Communications Conundrum? C’mon Now, Get Social. I was reading an article this morning about Pensions & Investments’ DC East conference, which just happened in Miami in March, and I came across something interesting. A retirement system in Michigan is embracing digital technology and social media to engage its diverse workforce. Specifically, they are using Facebook, where they host a closed group for older employees and others to share retirement savings tips or lessons they wish they had learned earlier in their careers. They also use Facebook “Live” (spontaneous live video sessions you can host on the social media platform with the click of a button) to host question-and-answer sessions about topics such as cybersecurity, investments, and Social Security.
That got me to thinking: We talk a lot about the digital and technological “evolution” in participant communications, but the HOW can be a bit fuzzy. Sure, there’s video, and that’s been proven to be an effective way to engage workers in greater numbers and generate excitement about employee benefits. Mobile is obviously another opportunity, and some retirement plan providers already offer apps and text alerts designed to engage employees and provoke interaction around key events, such as open enrollment, for example.
That said, the jury’s still out on mobile’s effectiveness. Everyone carries a smartphone in their back pocket today, to be sure, but it’s still unclear whether employees want to be reached that way when it comes to their benefits or retirement planning. Nonetheless, in 2015, Deloitte found that 40% of participants interacted with plan recordkeepers via apps on their smartphone or tablet. As mobile adoption increases — especially among Millennials, the first “digital native” generation — mobile will likely continue to evolve as an effective employee communications tactic.
Social media is a bit harder of a nut to crack, so using Facebook as a retirement plan communications tool struck me as an “outside-the-box” idea. But not a bad one. As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the social network had 2.2 billion monthly active users. With a figure that big, it’s likely that a good portion of your employees are on Facebook. So thinking out loud, is this a golden opportunity to meet them where they are — especially if your workforce is far-flung? It certainly could be. Some quick ideas:
- Form a “closed” or “secret” group (you can choose the desired settings when you create the group on Facebook) for your employees, where you can post messages about their benefits, including the retirement plan. What a great opportunity to get the word out about open enrollment deadlines, new features, plan changes, and more. You could also post relevant articles or tips to help boost employees’ investment knowledge, promote financial wellness, and foster better money management and savings behaviors.
- Host Facebook “Live” sessions with HR staff and/or your plan’s financial advisor (if you have one) where employees can ask questions about the plan, schedule in-person one-on-one sessions with the advisor, etc. Employees who aren’t able to attend the Live session can check in later and watch the replay, and leave questions in the comments. It’s convenient because the Live video host can respond, either in real-time during the video, or later on as comments and questions come up. Employees will receive notifications via Facebook when they engage with a post or live video, and they can come back and follow up as often as they want.
Incorporating Facebook into your retirement plan communications program combines the best of all digital worlds: video via Facebook live, mobile via the Facebook app, and social media. It truly is an effective way to engage employees via a platform they’re already using and familiar with. Furthermore, it can help build a sense of community and connectedness among your plan participants. What’s more, it can provide an opportunity for “influencers” who are already successfully building their nest egg to encourage those who need a gentle nudge to save more or give them a platform where they can personally attest to the benefits of the plan based on the first-hand experience. If you’re looking for another tool to add to your participant communications arsenal, and you want an opportunity to meet employees where they are, consider giving Facebook a try. Who knows? Your employees might really “like” it.