For most fleets, safety is a major priority. Keeping drivers, passengers, and the general public safe makes sense, saves money, and keeps drivers on the road. The cost of an accident goes beyond just fixing bent metal, and also includes lost productivity, replacement rentals, and, in many cases, liability.
A priority, yes; but not all driving is done on the job, nor is it done by employees. Many companies allow personal use of company vehicles, not only by the driver, but by properly licensed spouses and even children. And, unfortunately, sometimes that safety message is left at the office. A true safety culture extends beyond employees — to their families — and beyond working hours. There are a number of ways to help promote the safety message; some of them are relatively new, so-called “social media,” and they can be an important tool in the effort.
Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. These names are now familiar bywords to denizens of the Internet. It’s a fairly good bet that you, your spouse, your kids, family, and friends spend time on one or more of these new media tools, exchanging messages, stories, comments, and other information — from what you’re having for dinner to the birth of a new child. Where, then, do these media fit into a fleet manager’s need to promote safety beyond the workplace?
It’s obvious. The great advantage of social media is that it’s immediate, it gathers like-minded people together, it’s interactive, and can be used to get information out to a wide audience quickly. The days of sending out safety newsletters, even e-mails, are receding into the past, and savvy fleet managers are using these new media as a more effective tool.
Probably the most widely used social medium today is Facebook. Founded in 2004, it has surpassed MySpace as the most widely used social media site in the world, with more than 800 million users worldwide. The concept is a simple one; the user opens an account, sets up a Facebook profile and page, and from there can communicate with friends, family, and other like-minded people. Most messages are mundane, day-to-day items. But, a smart fleet manager can use Facebook to help spread the safety message.
One of the features of Facebook is the ability to establish groups or “like” pages, where a virtual community can gather and exchange daily banter, along with more serious information. The company can set up a “family safety” group, and invite employees and their family members to join and post there, share driving stories (not necessarily safety related) that are interesting or humorous, run contests (for example, invite members to post safety tips, and have the group vote on which is the best or most useful), and award prizes. Slip in a post about corporate safety policy regularly, e.g., “remember, company car drivers are required to buckle up!” Write a post about a new safety feature, new legislation “don’t get caught using your cell phone behind the wheel in ____ City.” And expand the safety message beyond driving safety, too (e.g., safety at home or holiday safety). You’ll find that after a while, some of your drivers and their families will visit the site often, while others won’t. The goal is to get them involved, keep them informed, and encourage some fun (and frequent visits).
You may be surprised at how many Facebook users are creatures of habit, and even if they don’t actively participate often or at all, you’ll get them at least visiting. Ultimately, Facebook (and similar sites, such as MySpace) are an effective, easy-to-use, and nearly cost-free way to promote the safety culture message outside of the job.
Newer still is Twitter. Established in 2006, its growth rate has surpassed even that of Facebook, with more than 200 million users worldwide. In essence, Twitter has been described as a “microblog” social networking site. Users sign up for a Twitter account and post “tweets,” short messages limited to 140 characters. All messages are visible to the public by default, however, members can limit views to their “followers,” those who have signed up to follow a particular member (this is popular among celebrities, athletes, and even politicians).
Because of the more limited nature of Twitter, using it to promote a safety message is similarly limited. A fleet manager can open an account and invite drivers and their families to become followers, and, thus, send out messages pertaining to safe driving, or safety in general. Changes in corporate vehicle policy can be “tweeted.” More a simple communication medium than a true social networking site, Twitter can still be integral to the safety culture.
Some have described the professional networking site LinkedIn as the “Facebook of business.” LinkedIn has been around longer (2002) than either Facebook or Twitter, and its target market isn’t the general public, but business members, from individuals to companies, schools to professional and trade organizations.
Users can sign up, create a profile (often including a resume), and invite business friends, colleagues, fellow alumni, and others to join their network. Users can follow groups, companies, and individuals, getting updates as new group members sign up, as professional experience/jobs/job titles change, and much more. Groups are set up among like-minded professionals, and group members can network, start and participate in discussions, post jobs, and seek jobs.
Fleet managers can start a group related to overall safety, and solicit drivers and their families to join and participate. Groups can be open or they can be by invitation or acceptance only.
Once again, a LinkedIn group can be set up where the fleet manager can communicate the safety message, from driving to other risk issues. Members can follow the group, start and participate in discussions, exchange ideas — along with the inevitable expansion of their own network. Although LinkedIn is geared towards business and professional networking, anyone can join, from students to stay-at-home spouses, right up to the CEO.
What Not To Do
As with any other form of online communication, there are accepted rules of engagement and behavior. When using social media to promote your safety message, be careful to observe protocol:
● Don’t “spam.” Don’t send messages to anyone unless you know they’ve signed up or given permission for you to do so. Spamming is the number one “don’t” of Internet communication and is a very good way to get yourself banned from participation.
● Post “conversationally.” Don’t use all capital letters (which is seen as shouting or yelling), don’t overuse punctuation, and don’t run on for paragraph after paragraph. Be short and to the point, and make sure your message can be read by everyone from children to spouses without offense. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t feel free to say to anyone in person.
● Be aware of the sensibilities of others. Avoid anything political in nature like the plague. What you think is cute may be seen by others as risqué or even offensive, so keep those stories and jokes to yourself. An element of fun is always helpful, but keep it strictly “G” rated. A simple test: Would you want your own small child to read it?
● Don’t lose sight of why a particular medium is being used. Observe all the proper Internet etiquette, but make sure that your basic message gets through.
Never forget: anything and everything you post is out there in cyberspace forever. There is no “taking it back” on the Internet, so think carefully before hitting that send button.
Internet social media have opened up a new world of networking, communication, and interaction, and smart fleet managers can use them to promote that safety culture beyond the workplace. Encouraging family members to participate — provided the content is interesting (and acceptable) — can create a sense of shared purpose.
Information that in the past never got to a spouse or licensed child who might drive a company vehicle, can be communicated without paper, or even e-mails, both of which are easy to ignore. You may not get 100 percent participation (indeed, it is likely you won’t even approach that number), but you will get some level of interaction, and social media can be added to the fleet manager’s safety “tool box.”
Make it fun, make it interesting, keep it clean and non-controversial, and it will help to develop and sustain that safety culture both at and outside of the job.