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Lewis Bertolucci on making Humana an Affordable Care Act resource in social media

This is a post from my company,’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

Humana’s Head of Social Media, Lewis Bertolucci, has been a member since 2012. He sat down with us to let us behind the scenes of their social strategy during a very interesting time for the healthcare insurance industry.

“Many people think of tax season and enrolling in healthcare in similar ways,” says Lewis Bertolucci, Head of Social Media at Humana, a health insurance company with over 12 million members.

“It’s not fun, it’s confusing, and it can be complicated. They think, ‘Aw man, I’ve got to do it, but I don’t know where to go to get help for those technical questions or to simply get an answer.’ And to be completely honest, healthcare can be very intimidating for some consumers.

It’s a difficult job, but Humana’s doing it: making the Affordable Care Act more accessible in the social space.

Humana saw an opportunity in the Affordable Care Act to become an educational resource.

As millions of people suddenly needed healthcare coverage, Humana wanted to use their social media presence to alleviate some of the anxiety around getting covered by helping people navigate healthcare and what it means to them. But it isn’t always easy.

We all know that conversations about healthcare can turn political quickly, and things can get ugly — especially on Facebook. This is one of Humana’s biggest challenges in social. But Lewis says they have a plan.

“If possible, we try to steer the conversation in the right direction. If not, we always rely on our community guidelines posted on our Facebook page.”

He says, “We leverage our social media triage process. In most instances, we try to take the conversation offline. That’s mostly due to privacy concerns, but also so that we can provide more one-on-one responses since each person’s health needs are unique.”

“If it’s a general question, however, we always try to address it publicly. What that does is answer questions that can help someone else with a similar one. If they can go on social and see that question already answered, it’s a win-win situation for the consumer and Humana.

Politics aside, healthcare is still a difficult topic to break down.

“Healthcare isn’t one-size-fits-all. There’s not one plan that fits everybody. We try to talk about health insurance and what it means to you specifically,” Lewis explains.

Fortunately, Lewis says social is a great place for Humana to help make it easier and simplify the process.

“When you’re conversing in social media about a complex topic, like healthcare, it can get very cumbersome. There’s a ton of information out there, but how do you serve it up? I think social media is a great way to offer bite-sized nuggets to consumers so they can quickly digest information in their Facebook or Twitter feed.

Lewis explains that based on the information they’ve collected, people need help with anything from “What’s a deductible?” to “What does my new plan mean under the Affordable Care Act?”

“Our goal is to really help guide consumers through that process; to simplify it by meeting them where they’re at.” he says.

They start with social listening across the board to create the most helpful content.

“People aren’t necessarily going to mention Humana when they have questions about healthcare. They’re going to talk about the challenges they have with their individual health plans, enrollment, and what they need to be doing,” he says.

Unfortunately, that broad listening base can bring up a lot of noise, like political debates and unrelated topics. They get past it by finding the questions specific to healthcare and figuring out how they can help.

Lewis explains, “We try to monitor the full conversation, then pick out the most important pieces of it, and decide how we can answer that using social content. We’ll use everything from infographics, helpful tools like our easy price calculator, and YouTube videos that help simplify common questions in under 90 seconds.”

He says Humana relies on their social team, agencies, and third-party unbiased content to create useful, relevant, and timely content.

They keep their social content lightly branded and about what healthcare means to consumers, not the company.

Humana’s not trying to push our agenda. We’re trying to help educate consumers on the key topics that are relevant to them at that time. A lot of the content we create is focused on key points of confusion that we’ve learned from research and leveraging social intelligence gathering,” he explains.

For example, Humana uses a similar model to Progressive Insurance, pricing their competitors alongside their own offers. It’s a part of their goal to make Humana’s social pages a useful consumer resource, not an advertising or marketing platform.

Humana’s social strategy is to stay nimble.

Because healthcare conversations in social media are so new, it’s all about rapid prototyping and rapid iteration.

Lewis says that kind of work culture requires lots of communication. They collaborate with their consumer experience groups, convene regularly with their operations groups, and even work with the government to learn more about policies to come. In fact, Humana even relays feedback to them based on what they learn from social listening and their ongoing educational efforts.

“There’s a lot of considerations in the external environment and for what we do on a day-to-day basis, whether that’s government regulations, shifting dates, or new requirements. ‘We have to say, ‘OK, this is what we learned this week, this is what we’re hearing today in this social space, and adjust accordingly.’

“So we have to be very agile in this space and make sure we’re reacting to different things that are happening at the same time. That’s another challenge, but it’s an interesting one, because social helps us accomplish that,” he explains.

“We hear those complaints, we hear the venting, and social listening helps us get ahead of those concerns so we can help alleviate consumer frustration on our end.”

Humana’s most valued metrics show how they’re helping consumers.

Lewis says they typically split up measurement based on financial metrics (cost-per-impression, cost-per-view, incremental sales) and social or “soft” metrics (impressions, reach, engagement).

“Although our primary objective is not sales and acquisition in any way, we still want to understand if people are going to our websites and if we can attribute enrollments in our plans through our educational efforts.”

But more importantly, Humana wants to be thought of as a helpful guide through the complicated world of healthcare. They pay close attention to the consumer’s path of engagement as they use Humana’s resources.

Where did they engage with the tool, and where do they drop off? That’s a place where we learn how to improve the consumer experience,” Lewis says.

Overall, Lewis says the healthcare industry can learn a lot from social media.

Lewis references Funny or Die’s popular “Between Two Ferns” video in which President Obama fields questions about enrolling in health insurance with comedian Zach Galifianakis, saying: “It’s a really interesting time. Because we are a heavily regulated industry, we have to find creative ways to reach consumers in a way that resonates with them. It can be tough.

He explains, “We have to be cognizant of the fact that healthcare is very emotional for people, and it can be very personal as well. So we have to be very careful with our messaging and the content so that it’s helpful, relevant, and timely.”

Lewis also acknowledges that it doesn’t stop with the Affordable Care Act. People will continue to look for answers in social media, and he says Humana will continue to be a resource to help close the gap between people and care.

Say hi to Lewis on Twitter or ask about their robust Enterprise Social Network, Buzz. It just passed over 35,000 users and one million posts!

Don’t let the conversations end when the campaign’s over

This is a post from our project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

While one-off campaigns can be great for starting conversations, they can lose momentum quickly.

Cards Against Humanity had such a promotion over the holidays. They told their fans they could pay whatever they wanted (even nothing) for the holiday edition of the game. That got a lot of people talking.

But instead of letting the conversation stop after the holidays, Cards Against Humanity sent out a hilarious infographic that gave the details of the promotion. They showed everyone how much it cost them, how much they earned, and the average price the 85,000 participants decided to pay (even by state). Then they announced that they would be giving their $70,066.27 in profits to the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia.

Cards Against Humanity

That reenergized the conversation they had already started and helped their fans feel like they were a part of something bigger, together.

What can you do to keep people talking about the cool stuff you do?

A donation to Wikimedia from Max Temkin on Vimeo.’s area dedicated to dog people

This is a post from The Pursuit of Happiness, a blog on happy workplaces and work culture at my company, GasPedal. Check it out for more posts like this every week.

Some people at work are dog people. Some aren’t.

So how do you keep everyone happy?

At, they have a “doggy daycare” of sorts — a large office space in their San Francisco office where dog-loving employees can bring their dogs to work each day. Dogs are confined to this area, which keeps the rest of the office quiet and dog free — and it still lets dog lovers bring their best friend to work.

Check out Business Insider’s tour here, complete with some great photos.

Newsletter #1015: The “Turn It Around” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Negative word of mouth, PR flubs, cavities — you can’t avoid them all, but some smart companies know what to do to turn them around and earn loyal fans and customers.

Here’s how:

1. Before something bad happens
2. After something bad happens
3. While something bad is happening
4. Check it out: If The Moon Were Only One Pixel

1. Before something bad happens

Everyone jokes about it, but one dentist couldn’t be more serious: Halloween is prime cavity season. So to help his community prevent an unnecessary visit to his office, Dr. Curtis Chan offered to buy back Halloween candy by the pound after the kids are done trick-or-treating. The candy he buys back is delivered to Operation Gratitude, a care package program for U.S. troops overseas.

The lesson: Doesn’t a dentist make more money when more kids need cavities filled? Sure. But what Dr. Chan’s doing is more important and more sustainable: earning the trust and respect of his potential customers.

Learn more: NPR

2. After something bad happens

Airbnb teamed up with Waterstones, the largest bookstore in London, to host a huge sleepover in their store. The inspiration for the idea: Once a customer was accidentally locked inside the store for a few hours after they had closed. It became a big news story because while the customer was trapped, he tweeted a cry for help that was retweeted over 16,000 times.

The lesson: A situation like this could be a huge PR debacle. But instead they used the momentum from the press to turn the negative situation around and do something cool for their customers.

Learn more: PSFK

3. While something bad is happening

After a Chevy rep fumbled a speech during the World Series saying their trucks had “technology and stuff” on live TV, the brand became the butt of a joke online. But just as quickly as #ChevyGuy and #TechnologyandStuff was trending, Chevrolet also became a part of the conversation — using the same hashtags to make light of the mess up while showing off the tech he was talking about.

The lesson: When something goes wrong, don’t be afraid to jump in, join the conversation, and not take yourself too seriously. (But do it fast.)

Learn more: Logic + Emotion

4. Check it out: If The Moon Were Only One Pixel

This interactive guide to our solar system gives some perspective on each planet’s relative size and distance apart if the moon were the size of a pixel.

Check it out: If The Moon Were Only One Pixel

Sharon Crost on five ways Hitachi Data Systems uses big social data to map the customer journey

This is a post from my company,’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

For this case study, we dove into a presentation by Hitachi Data Systems’ Senior Social Business Lead, Sharon Crost, at our Brands-Only Summit in Orlando.

Like most BtoBs, Hitachi has a difficult time mapping out their buyer’s journey.

“It’s really difficult to say what our buyers actually use to make a decision and how we attribute that to revenue,” says Sharon Crost, Senior Social Business Lead for Hitachi Data Systems in her Brands-Only Summit presentation.

She’s describing a problem that’s familiar to a lot of social media marketers: collecting data that tracks the customer’s path to purchase and turning that into actionable insight for their stakeholders.

But just because it’s really difficult, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

In her presentation, Sharon explains how Hitachi Data Systems is learning more about their customer’s journey and how they can be a part of it by asking five questions about big data:

  1. Who’s out there?
  2. Is anyone influential?
  3. What content is relevant?
  4. Can we get any intelligent insight?
  5. How do we get business impact from the data?

Question One: Who’s out there?

When one of Hitachi’s SlideShare presentations earned 20,000 views, Sharon and her team took notice. This was a big jump from their normal reach, and it was tempting to pat themselves on the back. But they only wanted to continue relationships with the viewers who were actually considering buying their stuff.

To narrow down that data, they placed a simple registration form at the end of the presentation. It was important that the form didn’t interrupt their experience — that it was polite.

“It’s a tricky balance to try to give viewers information without being obtrusive. This was very simply asking for permission, ‘If you’re interested in our products and solutions, give us your information.'”

Question Two: Is anyone influential?

Sharon and her team dug into their Twitter data to plot all of their followers from various Hitachi Twitter accounts, including those from employees and non-corporate accounts. She says it was worth the effort.

“What we found amazed me,” says Sharon. “Here I thought my job was to get the message out from our corporate Twitter account. But that wasn’t it at all. Our corporate Twitter handle only accounted for 13 percent of the conversation happening about Hitachi.”

Hitachi’s employees, friends, and families accounted for the other 87 percent of the conversation. That’s 87 percent of the conversation Sharon’s team was not a part of. But instead of trying to siphon those followers away from the other accounts, Sharon’s team helped boost their influence.

“We wanted to make them the heroes,” Sharon says.

They shared content with the accounts outside of @HDSCorp using a simple Excel spreadsheet to explain what topics they planned to talk about for the week. They also created an internal platform to help employees share top content.

According to Sharon, “It costs so little to be generous with your content.”

Question Three: What content is relevant?

Sharon explains that they pay attention to the content their customers view the most and give that content a boost with paid promotions on social networks.

“With all of these peaks and valleys in the number of viewers, you can see some stars emerge. We let our customers define which content is relevant to them. The marketing team doesn’t get to decide what content is out there. It’s our customers who get to decide that.”

Question Four: Can we get any intelligent insight?

Like most companies, over 50 percent of the data Hitachi collects is unstructured data — the stuff that’s harder to get specific insights from. They call it “dark data.”

To shed light on that dark data, they created a process to combine categories and look at the numbers in different ways. They started with pulling in things like sentiment analysis, industry event calendars, competitive information, and key search terms. Then they put them together to come up with insights for content, buzz, and competition.

For example, to find their share of voice, Sharon’s team took key search terms and mashed it up with competitive information. They also compared event calendars with the volume of conversations to see when people in the industry were talking and how Hitachi could become a part of those conversations.

Question Five: How do we get business impact from the data?

Sharon’s team not only had to share their data insights with 52 stakeholders, but also had to do it in a way that was interesting. They used to give stakeholders a report each week, but after a while, fewer people were actually looking at it.

“Now we make it more interesting for them. We share things like the tip of the week or the statistic of the week, spoon-feeding the data,” she explains.

In fact, Sharon’s team shares data internally using a similar model to how they share content externally. They’ll send insights to all of their stakeholders and wait for their responses. Based on what each team finds interesting, Sharon’s team will give them more information.

Sharon says, “It’s a win-win when you communicate with your stakeholders. When you bring them good news they say ‘Wow, let’s look more into this.’ When it’s bad news, they ask what happened. We can then tell them the story and explain that we need more information. Then they’ll give us a bigger budget for it.”

Watch Sharon’s full presentation at our Brands-Only Summit in the video below.

You can download her presentation slides here.

Say hi to Sharon on Twitter or check out her case study presentation on Hitachi Data System’s shortcuts for generating leads at our Member Meeting in San Francisco.

Use small stuff to make big impressions

This is a post from our project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. While your service and your stuff are key to giving your customers a remarkable experience, sometimes what they talk about has more to do with the little details. These small things make […]

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Quirky and their quarterly shutdowns

This is a post from The Pursuit of Happiness, a blog on happy workplaces and work culture at my company, GasPedal. Check it out for more posts like this every week. Quirky, a company that builds crowdsourced product ideas, completely shuts down for a week about once a quarter. They call it a “blackout,” and […]

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Newsletter #1014: The “Partners” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] When you make a business partnership with another brand, it’s a lot like making a new friend. You get to meet […]

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Aaron Miller on hiring community managers for General Mills

This is a post from my company,’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands. This story features tips and advice from Aaron Miller, General Mills’ Social Media and Marketing Strategist. You can see his presentation from’s Member Meeting in Los Angeles here. […]

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