by Jennifer Lumba | April 05, 2012
According to a recent survey from marketing services firm VerticalResponse, the health and wellness industry ranks among the five most aggressive users of social media because the technology has proven effective in engaging clients. So why aren’t more other companies using social media to promote healthier living to their employees, especially when workers say they want more wellness options?

Recent polling by Harris Interactive on behalf of Principal Financial’s Well-Being Index found that 41 percent of employees and retirees believed an active wellness program encourages them to work harder and perform better. Another 40 percent said that having an active wellness program would encourage them to remain loyal to their employers.

But as attractive as wellness programs must seem to talent managers, the work for them doesn’t end with sponsoring a health club discount or offering access to wellness experts. The loyalty and productivity gains won’t come unless employees actualize their wellness benefits for personal improvement, and that requires keeping the wellness programs at the forefront and participants engaged. Here are 10 tips for using social media to boost engagement:

1. Get early adopters involved. What better way to get people involved than to encourage and celebrate involvement? Recruit those advocating for wellness benefits into an advisory group and task them with posting their activities on your company’s social network.

2. Publicly reward successes. Social media is at its best when allowing groups to celebrate together. So when an employee posts to the company intranet or to Facebook about her first five-mile run, respond publicly and encourage others to do the same. Then make the warm feelings real by sending her a card or setting up a time for a manager to give her a handshake.

3. Bring people together. Social networks now come with the ability to create private groups. Use LinkedIn or a custom in-house network where employees can share wellness tips and experiences and view resources available in the company program. Conversation leads to motivation, which leads to activity, which leads to success.

4. Sweat the small details. Leverage your internal social network or use social media tools, such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Seesmic, to schedule congratulatory updates or well-wishes that make a difference—birthdays, for example. There’s no excuse for missing out on an annual opportunity to make someone feel special.

5. Make it a game. Recognition and reinforcement are great tools for getting employees healthier. Why not combine them using social software? An increasing number of apps have community features to help friends and colleagues achieve fitness goals and spotlight them. Popular choices include and Social Workout.

6. Own the conversation. Show your commitment by initiating and fostering conversations. One idea is to start a company hashtag, i.e., “#yourcompanyhealth,” for tweets and posts featuring articles, success stories, and company events.

7. Integrate real experiences. Use social media to organize as well as inform. Holding a regular live event to promote wellness? Don’t just tweet about it. Use your Twitter replies and Facebook messages to actively invite prospects. Create a LinkedIn group with a calendar to which employees can subscribe. Use notifications to remind and encourage participation.

8. Start open threads for learning. Don’t just post information about wellness on your company’s internal website. Set up a private discussion board or blog where employees can actively start and contribute to topical threads, energizing participation.

9. Be generous with tips. Health and wellness is a broad subject. Recognize this by using social media to publish lists of useful sources, such as feeds from healthy-recipe sites, health experts, and productivity gurus, among others. Be generous with tips for healthy living so that you might build a reputation for caring about workers’ well-being.

10. Make it challenging. We all like winning. In fitness, meeting and exceeding goals are how participants get stronger physically and mentally. Use social channels to issue weekly wellness challenges for which employees can sign up. Encourage participants to tweet their progress and successes. Show support with replies, personal notes, and re-tweets and re-posts.

Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at