Employees not jumping on social media bandwagon

August 16, 2010

U.S. employees are not using social media for business use, nor are they interested in receiving information about their health benefits through social media, according to a new survey by the National Business Group on Health.

U.S. employees are not using social media for business use, nor are they interested in receiving information about their health benefits through social media, according to a new survey by the National Business Group on Health.

Nearly half (47%) of the 1,500 U.S. employees surveyed said they use Facebook daily or weekly for personal reasons while 45% use text messaging daily or weekly for personal reasons. Slightly more than a third said they don't use social media for personal reasons at all. However, when it comes to using social media for business purposes, only 7% use Facebook and 16% use text messaging. Additionally, about eight in 10 said they weren't interested in receiving information about their employer-provided health benefits, or tips on how to exercise, eat healthy or save money on health care via Twitter or text messaging.

“Employers should think carefully about moving to a social media strategy,” says Brenna Haviland Shebel, senior manager, Institute on Health Care Costs and Solutions, National Business Group on Health. “What the survey told us is that not all employees are ready to receive messages in this way - but what other anecdotes illustrate is that specific groups of employees are receptive to getting certain benefits communications via text, social networking or blogs, for example. In general, its best for employers to check in with their employees - focus groups and surveys on benefits communications are great ways to do this - to see if this is their preference.”

Most (82%) respondents said that in the last year, they received information on their health benefits (i.e. health insurance, health fairs, etc.) from their employer through mailings to their home; 58% said they received information through e-mails. About half (47%) obtained information on their company's website. When asked how interested they would be in receiving health benefit information via social media, about three in four said they had no interest in getting this information via Facebook. Slightly more -approximately 80% - had no interest in receiving a tweet with health benefit information. Virtually all respondents said they would prefer receiving this information via regular mailings to their homes or via emails.

“I think when social media is perceived as a stand-alone communications (platform), as in, this is the only way that you can receive health benefits information, employees tend to be turned off. But when social media is married with traditional forms of communications - email and paper-based - it can be an attractive option for employees who want to receive information this way,” says Brenna Haviland Shebel. “We’ve heard the importance of receiving information through the mail at home for a major benefits change - employees are accustomed to having that tangible item to review with their spouse or partner or to deliberate in greater detail. In general, social media has promise for being a powerful tool for benefits communications in the future, if used properly alongside other more traditional approaches. But it will take some time for employees to be receptive to employers coming into their social media world.”

The survey also found that younger and higher-income workers have more interest in receiving health benefits information via social media than older and lower-income workers. Among employees who expressed an interest in social media, respondents had the greatest interest in receiving updates via Facebook and were most interested in receiving information on how to save money on healthcare.

“In this day and age, when employees are feeling overwhelmed with the sheer number of messages they receive during and outside of work, the employer needs to be strategic in how that message is delivered to employees,” Brenna Haviland Shebel says. “If the employee doesn’t want to get information via social media, the information may not be read by the employees and ultimately, will not lead to a successful new benefits plan or program.”