Using Social Media to Build Community Among Remote Workers

by Wendy Soon on May 25, 2016

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The Importance of Building Community

Building community in the workplace, whether in an office or virtual setting is the key to satisfied employees and high productivity. If you consider some of the things that make yourself or others remain at a particular job, there lies the importance of the workplace community. Many of us don’t continue to serve in our roles because of monetary benefits, but rather connectedness to the vision of the organization, meaning in our work, and relationships built with the people around us. In virtual work environments, this becomes a challenge because you may not make verbal contact with other employees or supervisors daily or even weekly or monthly. Because of the growth of social media and technology, there is now the opportunity to build relationships without having to meet face to face.

Think Outside of the Box

Some of the things that are necessary for a workplace community include shared vision, empowerment, boundaries, rules and regulations, friendship, gratitude, recognition, and the growth and development of community members. These things are hard to tackle outside of a traditional office setting but are still critical to any organization. Tackling the pieces that make every community tick in a virtual environment does require you to think outside of the box, tap into virtual resources and find out what works best for your team.

Get Input from Staff

Nothing says “we’re building community here,” like asking for staff input about what it means to have a community. Create a survey to gauge how staff would like to engage in a virtual community. Develop questions that will give you a feel for how comfortable employees are using certain social media platforms. Is everyone comfortable with Snapchat as a platform used to build community? You also want to get a feel for things that are important to your staff overall. Are recognition programs relevant to your team?  Do they have any interest in monthly videos about company goals? Would they like to see a weekly professional development series? If you have a staff that is pretty social media savvy, you may want to put the survey on a social media platform such as Twitter and gathering responses by searching a unique hashtag. Of course, you have to consider your capabilities and limitations when creating this survey. Don’t offer an option that is not feasible to produce just in case it is not manageable to deliver.

Use Facebook for Staff Recognition

Facebook can be used to engage virtual employees in several ways.  Creating a Facebook page may seem like a simple fix to a complex challenge, but using Facebook as the platform to build community is only the beginning.

One way to engage staff on Facebook is to use it as a platform for staff recognition programs. Bringing attention to staff for doing great work is essential in any workplace environment, whether it is a virtual or office setting. Creating a platform where supervisors can recognize staff openly not only helps build community but also motivates staff as well. The criteria can be strictly based on productivity or availability, but it is important that the criteria for being recognized connects with the mission and goals of your organization. Be sure to share the criteria for nominations on every social media outlet you use to communicate with staff.

Host a Social Media Contest

Consider creating a social media driven contest that is in line with the core values of your company. For example, a company that values staff collaboration may host a contest that challenges team members to post a creative picture of themselves working together on a project. Instead of letting supervisors or key team leaders vote on the winner of the contest, let other employees vote on the winning submission. Require that each entry include a short bio of each staff member featured in the photograph. Encourage staff members to use funny props. Other ideas include writing competitions that may tie up with an upcoming marketing campaign, or create a unique response to complex questions from staff. Contest ideas may not be work related at all but focused on company values. For example, if your business values work-life balance, the competition could include pictures doing fun things around town; if health and wellness is valued, feature a contest that promotes health and wellness.

Random drawings are just as fun. Have employees enter a drawing by sharing something unique about them in a private portal such as a private Facebook page, and draw a winner for a small prize. A fun contest can give employees an incentive to check the page or pages you use to help build community. A contest like this could be hosted on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram.

Open a Snapchat Account for Day in the Life Exercise

It is also important that staff feel like they connect with leadership. Consider opening a Snapchat account where employees can follow key leaders throughout the day. You may not be able to post every single day, but it will allow them to see what you are working on throughout the week or month. Snapchat is the perfect tool because it gives you a few seconds to capture the most critical moments. You may not be able to take them into the boardroom with you, but you may be able to share the moments leading up to those important meetings.

Snapchat could also be used in a similar way for staff so that they can see important things they are doing for the company. Also, leaders could use this tool to feature inspiring videos, remind staff of important company goals and policies, and celebrate business milestones.

Use Hoot Suite to Manage Social Media Profiles

There are so many social media outlets these days, and when you are taking advantage of many of them to build a community, it can become tedious. Hoot Suite is a tool that helps you manage your social media outlets in one place. You can schedule tweets, synchronize where videos will be posted, and post the same content on multiple sites using Hoot Suite. It is an excellent tool to use, especially if you are using multiple social media sites to engage staff.

No matter how you choose to engage staff in community building on social media, it is important that you are open to trying things out and adjusting if those ideas do not work. If this concept is new to your team, it may take a bit of time to get them onboard. Giving team members a chance to share how they would like to be engaged on social media helps manage those challenges, but it is important that you are flexible. If a social media initiative did not go over well, find out what went wrong by consulting with your staff. If it went well, find ways to improve and build on that successful program. Building community is essential and may require some trial and error, but the outcome will make the work worthwhile.

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