A fun, simple, and flexible way to get information out to your employees and families, Twitter™ can be a powerful addition to your benefits communication this year. But, understanding how this at-first perplexing platform can be used for benefits communication may not be obvious. Look a little closer, and Twitter is a great way to send useful, frequent updates to employees and families—and keep them thinking about benefits far beyond open enrollment.
Why Does Twitter Work?
Short and sweet. Twitter forces you to keep things to 140 characters, or about 20 words. It is perfect for broadcasting reminders, tips, notices, and events—you have to get to the point fast and entice your audience to link for more information.
This is precisely the way effective communication should be structured, especially in our media-saturated world. And, this works really well for benefits information, where individuals need to quickly find the information that is relevant for them.
Too often, benefits communication is delivered in a one-size-fits-all package that has so much technical information and detail that the actual message is lost completely. Twitter’s format won’t allow that.
Access and flexibility. All of the applications and widgets and add-ons that take data from Twitter and literally put it anywhere you’d like are part of the reason the platform has grown so quickly. You can pull a Twitter feed into your intranet and benefits website, employees can sign up for RSS feeds, they can get your Tweets on their cell phones, and they can “follow” you online. Instead of making assumptions about how your employees and families want to receive information, you can let them decide.
Also, using an open site on the Internet (not your company’s intranet or secure benefits site) helps your audience get to the information as easily as possible. The majority of benefits information is generic—it is not proprietary, not intellectual capital, and does not need to be guarded behind passwords and firewalls.
There are Twitter-like tools for the enterprise, like Yammer, that can live within a firewall, but sequestering your benefits information behind all that security keeps it out of the hands of the spouses and families who are often the decision makers—and who are certainly driving the largest portion of your healthcare costs. (Of course, personal data always must be protected in secure websites.)
Interactive. The @ feature on Twitter makes it easy to send a quick question or direct a reply at an individual. This makes the platform incredibly interactive—and efficient. The vast majority of benefits questions that are handled either by self-service websites and costly call centers are super simple and do not require personal data to be exchanged. “What’s the phone number for our health plan?” “Where do I submit claims for the FSA?” “What’s the deadline for the stock plan enrollment?”
All of these are simple less-than-10-word answers that could be handled by a benefits team member or a call center rep with minimal effort. Of course, there must be some commonsense training that goes along with this, but call center reps and benefits managers who are sophisticated enough to handle HIPAA regulations are also smart enough to know when to say “we can’t answer that in a public forum—call us at this number.”
Keep in mind, the ideal communication strategy is going to have a mix of online, print, interactive, and hopefully, face-to-face communication. Twitter is a great addition, but it is not a communications strategy in and of itself.
Twitter is just one tool, and you have to give employees and families comprehensive resources and frequent updates in other media, of course.
While there is a learning curve initially, if managed correctly, Twitter could end up saving your benefits team a lot of time. But, be sure to set appropriate expectations with your team on what it will take to maintain and monitor your Tweets, and set expectations with employees around how to use the tool.
And, keep focused on the purpose: to get engaging information out frequently and help employees and families get the most from their benefits.
Use of Twitter in Action
Benz Communications helps clients integrate Twitter into their overall communications strategy. These companies use Twitter to send out messages daily that are then fed into their benefits websites to help keep that content fresh.
To help with ideas and to have content at their clients’ fingertips, Benz recently launched a Twitter profile available to everyone at http://http://twitter.com/benefitstip. This is a free source of relevant, timely Tweets: links to news sources and latest health articles, benefits reminders, and definitions of key terms. It will be a tremendous help if you’re just starting out with Twitter or already have it up and running.
– by Jennifer Benz, Benz Communications
Jennifer Benz is the founder of Benz Communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jenbenz.