Water cooler bonding is out; Zoom happy hours are in. The transition to a remote workplace was a massive challenge for many businesses in the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Understandably, nurturing company culture was probably not top of mind during those first few stressful weeks.
Now that you and your team have settled into working from separate locations, it’s time to turn attention toward your remote culture. In the past, social media and social networking sites were primarily seen as distractions that kept employees from working. During the pandemic, social media can now be used as an important tool for connecting your workforce, building morale, communicating your company’s values and raising your profile.
Why Social Media Matters for Remote Teams
Companies with strong cultures recognize the role of social interaction in good team-building. When employees spend most of their waking hours at work, knowing their coworkers on a personal level can be really helpful for morale and effective collaboration. These relationships are harder to achieve for distributed teams who don’t get much, if any, face time with one another.
Social media allows employees to get to know each other in a personal, yet professionally appropriate way. Without social media, his coworkers might never know that Dave from Accounting is also a movie buff who runs marathons and fosters cats, or that the quiet assistant is actually quite witty and creative. Essentially, it’s a way to replicate some of the personal interactions that would normally happen in the break room or offices in a physical workplace.
Encouraging coworkers to bond socially isn’t the only reason for companies to lean into social media use during the pandemic. Social media also provides a platform for more effective collaboration and communication in some companies. It’s easy to throw out a meeting reminder or publicly acknowledge a team member’s accomplishments through these channels. Unless you’re using a platform like Snapchat, where messages are designed to disappear, communicating through social networking channels creates a written, searchable record of whatever has been said.
There’s a convenience factor in play, too, especially if employees can access the company social media channels from their phones. Many employees click through social media frequently throughout the day. So, companies can leverage that habit to keep in constant communication with them.
How Remote Teams Can Use Social Media
When we talk about social media and social networks, it’s important to clarify that we’re talking about more than just Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The social networking landscape is constantly shifting and expanding, and the options are extensive. Businesses can take advantage of both public-facing networks, like Twitter, and private networks that are only accessible to team members.
For example, Slack is a popular choice for businesses across many industries. Teams can create dedicated communication channels for both work and personal topics, so employees can take their IT requests to one channel and their opinions about Marvel movies to another. Programmers can even build their own social networks on a small scale, allowing groups of 50 or 100 employees to connect through a private network that is customized to the business’s needs.
Still, don’t discount the major social media networks. At your business, employees may love communicating in a closed Facebook group. Take cues from your employees and their social media preferences whenever possible.
Maintaining Social Media Policies
If management is advocating employees use social media for work purposes, now’s an appropriate time to revisit your social media policy. If your company doesn’t yet have a social media policy as part of its employee handbook, or if you suspect employees don’t have much awareness of the policy, it may make sense to attend to those issues before moving forward with any social media plans.
Employer’s primary role here is to establish boundaries about appropriate social media behavior. Making sure everyone is on the same page around issues like privacy, discrimination, harassment and posting publicly about the company. Clarify the steps that employees should take if they see inappropriate behavior on company social media channels. When they can’t walk down the hall to have a private conversation with HR, how can they discreetly report these occurrences?
Using Social Media to Boost Your Brand
Just as your employees are spending more time on social during the pandemic, so are your customers and potential customers. This is a natural time to ratchet up your social media presence.
Any customer-facing business can use social media to stay connected with customers, maintain name recognition and demonstrate its commitment to safety and its employees. For example, during the pandemic restaurants and bars can use social media to advertise their take-out options and sell gift certificates for future use. They can also post “throwback” photos that remind customers what they’re missing to entice them to come back once it’s safe. Encourage the audience to respond directly to posts and engage with each comment.
Other businesses can share updates about the measures they’ve taken to protect employee safety, or share the ways that they’re going above and beyond to support their workers. What has your company done well since the pandemic began? What are you continuing to get right? These are the things to highlight on social media—though sharing photos of employees’ pets never hurts.