The Relationship Revolution: Social Media Learning From Humana, Inc.


April 20, 2010

Ok, so who’s ready to hear about the great ideas that came out of last week’s Social Media Meetup by The Conference Board?

Me, me, me!!!

I have to say I was excited to attend because it  was outside my HR comfort zone and it allowed me to network with business professionals from many industries.  One person I was very excited to meet was Greg Matthews.  Greg is the Director of Consumer Innovation for Humana, Inc.  He has been in that role for several years but prior to that, was in HR for seventeen years.  This guy is the REAL deal.  He’s smart, innovative, and puts himself out there.  You can follow him on Twitter at @CHImoose, or catch up with him at his site.

Humana, Inc. is a Fortune 100 marketer and administrator of health insurance.  So, Humana began by looking at how they could build a deeper social commitment.  They determined they couldn‘t because their relationship with their customers was transactional.  People only came to them at difficult times in their lives.  The challenge was to change that mindset and find innovative ways to do outreach.  They began thinking about what they knew about health.  Then, they asked themselves the question: what if we got out of the business of sickness management and got into the business of focusing on health and well-being?

This type of thinking is how you transform a business.

Humana began by thinking up creative ways to use social media platforms where their internal systems were not able to connect people.  One example is the way Humana started a bike sharing program.  They planned a biking event (freewheel!n‘) to raise awareness of healthy living.  They shared all this via social media.  This provided an estimated $72 million in PR (for free) by using social media for an eight day event.  It started with a small team of “innovators” and had them use social media as one component in the overall strategy.  It was a low risk way to experiment and worked because it wouldn’t  hurt their core brand.

What are some other ways the innovation team are engaging the social media universe?

  • They live tweet their social media meetings.  If you do this, you’ll need some guidelines for tweets, but it’s a good way to get positive PR for your organization for free.  This enables you to set the tone for what the twitterverse sees.  Don’t let them only see what customers complain about.  Use it to share your stories.
  • Greg advises us to “be a vacuum”.  Suck up all the knowledge you can.
  • Be a padawan.  Be a student of social media and apply the learning to creative and innovative ways to use it in your daily work.
  • Be 2.0.  Think about how to control reality.  What can you be doing that a competitor is not?  What can you do that demonstrates you are not just thinking about change, but that you’re implementing it and living it every day?
  • Information security should be part of your workforce culture- learn to embed it. Make it natural.
  • Intellectual property- who owns it?  If you want people to adopt social media, you have to make sure people are engaged and it is tied to their business.
  • Use a town square model.  Let each department build their own way to use social media.  In the town square where they all come together, everything is shared.  Humana is changing the way people think about them because they are CHANGING THE WAY THEY THINK ABOUT THEMSELVES.
  • Measure the increase in twitter discussion over a period of time.
  • Use a celebrity (can be local) to increase your tweets.  Embed video into the sites you are playing with.
  • Use social gaming.  Humana did this successfully with their FaceBook game “Battle of the Bulge“.
  • They are working on mobile application,  “hands together”, that sends applause to friends via the application.
  • Measure the engageable tweets.  Measure the ones that go to customer service.  Measure the ones that get positive tweets later.  Measure cost savings by looking at how many questions can be answered by sending a link vs. the person making a call into the call center.  This is REAL cost savings for the organization.
  • If you find the people with the passion you can tap into new ways to communicate and collaborate.  Reward collaboration!  This makes up for all sorts of other deficiencies.

So, as you can see, Greg’s team has some exciting uses of social media and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I can’t wait to follow what his team is doing and how they progress.

Thanks to The Conference Board for bringing me to the Social Media Meetup.  I appreciate being able to cover some great learning events and share that information.


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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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