How to Use Social Media to Boost your Organization's Safety Culture
Social media can keep workers engaged and encourage them to communicate about safety, which are the building blocks of a strong safety culture.
Social media is a powerful tool, but few organizations are taking full advantage of it. While it's often used for branding, marketing, and to build better relationships with customers, it can and should also be used to improve safety.
Each social media platform has its own unique features and capabilities, but every single one is ultimately about connecting, sharing, and communicating. That makes it excellent for fostering and strengthening culture - and safety culture is no exception.
A safety culture doesn't spring up out of the blue, however. It takes some intentionality and groundwork to get it going.
That's precisely what we'll be going over in this article. We'll cover the steps you need to take so your organization's social media presence doesn't just bolster its brand but also makes its workforce safer.
Improving Safety with Social Media
For our purposes, we'll work with a broad understanding of social media. That includes not only massive social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit, but also those geared to connecting smaller groups, like Slack and Whatsapp. We can even include sites like YouTube, since each video also serves as a space for discussion.
Many safety applications also have modules that function a lot like localized social media. They allow workers to post or comment and other users can read and respond in real time.
Each of these can be used to achieve some of your safety goals. For example, LinkedIn makes it easier to screen and source candidates who are qualified to carry out their work safely. Meanwhile, small in-house social media channels can provide employees with more opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns, identify hazards and issues, or coordinate safety stand-downs.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of social media is that it allows workers to collaborate in real time, even if they're spread out across the worksite, putting in their hours in different departments, or even working at locations in different cities. They can share ideas, useful information, and reminders about safe work practices.
Doing safety on social media ensures that every worker has a voice. It makes workplace safety a collective project instead of a top-down policy. That level of participation helps create an engaged workforce, which is an essential step to building a strong safety culture.
(Find out How Planning and Worker Engagement Can Reduce Your Operational Costs)
Social Media Best Practices
With social media, the infrastructure is already in place. And since every employee comes to work with a smartphone in their pocket, they already have the hardware needed to access it. So, it's just a matter of getting people in motion.
That's often easier said than done, however. Creating posts and channels that keep users engaged has become its own subdiscipline of communication studies.
While the specific shape of a good post can vary significantly, there are a few core social media best practices:
- Speak to your audience. Tailor your messaging and delivery to the audience you're trying to reach. Make sure the content is relevant and meaningful to them so that they read, remember, and share it rather than simply scrolling past.
- Be consistent. Building a social media presence is all about letting users get to know you as a person - and that's true even for corporate accounts. People want to get a sense of who they're interacting with, even if it's a brand or an organization. Achieving that requires a consistency in tone, messaging, and writing voice.
- Keep it positive and professional. Negativity and outrage are tempting on social media, especially when you're struggling to get engagement. But there is really nothing to be gained from it - a short-term uptick in responses won't translate to a stronger community in the long run.
- Keep it simple. Grab the user's attention quickly and don't overstay your welcome. Get right to the point so they know if your post is worth their time before they commit to reading it. Lists get a lot of clicks. Short paragraphs and simple language encourage people to keep reading.
- Use visuals. Even on text-based platforms like Twitter, visuals get a lot of traction. They're eye-catching, convey information quickly, and encourage people to stop scrolling and pay attention.
- Include a call to action. There's a reason every YouTube video ends with a plea for viewers to like and subscribe. Most social content has a goal and usually that's to motivate some kind of action or response. Whether it's sharing, following, or commenting, make sure to actually ask users to do it.
Consistency Creates Engagement
Coming up with regular content can be a real undertaking, but it's an essential part of creating a small thriving community on social media.
Momentum is the name of the game. If you've ever spent time on message boards, you've seen that first-hand. Once the main posters lose steam, everyone else slows down too. Before you know it, that chatty space goes silent.
So, make sure someone stays on top of posting every day. If that sounds daunting, remember that there's no need to reinvent the wheel here. There are mountains of great safety content that can readily be shared and used to spark discussion. In general, remember that safety information isn't proprietary and most safety professionals want the knowledge they gather to be shared far and wide.
Just be careful not to overdo it. Accounts that flood the feeds with content all day long often get muted or unfollowed. Focus on quality over quantity.
Moderate the Conversation
Too much control stifles a conversation, and social media is at its best when people feel comfortable contributing openly and candidly.
But too little control is a problem as well. Nothing shuts down the conversation quite like excessive negativity and outright bullying.
The solution is to have guidelines for regulating user engagement. Basically, a few basic ground rules to ensure that everyone is kind and respectful to each other.
Then it's just a matter of keeping tabs on the conversation and enforcing those rules. This is easier to do in closed groups, but even in public spaces like Twitter or Facebook you have the power to delete messages and block or mute users if needed.
(Learn more about Workplace Bullying: An Act of War Threatening the Health and Safety of Your Employees)
Creating a Space for Safety
There's an old fashioned idea that still has some sway over us. It's the idea that safety is all about actions. That it's about taking the right steps, following the right procedures, and sticking to the rules.
There's certainly some truth to that. You wouldn't want an employee to skip some steps in the lockout/tagout plan or brush off the safe work practices because they'd rather just wing it.
However, we're all coming to realize that safety is also a mindset and an attitude. While the step-by-step procedures are undoubtedly important, so is the safety culture that encourages workers to follow those procedures in the first place.
A solid safety program won't be as effective as it could be unless you have buy-in from workers and a way to keep them from getting complacent. And that kind of engagement is precisely what you can create with an effective social media strategy.
Written by Daniel Clark | Safety and Quality Management System Specialist
Daniel Clark is the founder and President of Clark Health and Safety Ltd., providing safety and quality consultation across various industries in Calgary, Alberta. Daniel has a Bachelor of Science degree, certification in health and safety, certificates in both CAD design and CNC, auditing certifications and the designation of Canadian Registered Safety Professional. Being raised and practicing in Calgary, the heart of Canada’s energy industry, most of Daniel’s career has been energy related. He has performed safety and quality roles from field supervision to office-based administration and management. Daniel’s consulting business has worked with organizations offering engineering services, restoration, pipeline, environmental, manufacturing and food service.