Peter Kim moderated a panel of three people from end-user organizations – Ben Foster of Allstate Life Insurance, Greg Matthews of Humana, and Morgan Johnston of JetBlue – on social media adoption for both external as well as internal use by enterprises.
Allstate recently launched the consumer-facing Good Hands Community, including both a social site and a Twitter presence, for both traditional marketing and sales purposes, but also to maintain a relationship with ex-customers who may have left for financial reasons but still could benefit from Allstate information and potentially become a customer again in the future. It includes tools and calculators, discussion forums and other information.
JetBlue uses social media – specifically Twitter, where they have 730,000 followers as of today – to engage customers, inform customers about what’s happening at JetBlue, and even provide updates on weather and other information that impacts their service delivery.
Humana has a social site run by their consumer innovation center – a sort of center of excellence for enterprise social media – that they are using to try and transform how they interact with their customers and partners; unfortunately, my bandwidth right now won’t allow it to actually load, so I’ll have to take their word for it. This is run separately from their corporate website, and doesn’t include any private customer data.
All of these are intended to engage the consumers, both for informing and for gathering feedback. Social media can be a sort of “canary in a coal mine” about impending problems, and it’s a valuable channel to monitor in order to hear how people are talking about your products or services, potentially heading off PR and customer service disasters before they occur. It’s also a sales lead generation channel, with companies like Dell using Twitter to broadcast deals that aren’t available anywhere else, generating significant revenue from those tweeted deals.
It’s important for multiple departments in an organization to contribute their ideas and needs for consumer-facing social media. It’s not just an IT project, although IT is going to be involved in order to deploy the platform, and there’s a need for rapid prototyping and changes to the site without having to go through an old-fashioned waterfall development approach: this might dictate that the existing corporate IT not be involved, but a new team formed to support this sort of agile approach.
One of the panelists noted that you can see the trends in conferences: social media is now on the agenda at IT conferences, at marketing/PR conferences, at HR conferences and at customer service conferences, indicating that people from multiple areas within organizations that have an interest and a stake in social media.
You have to learn by doing with social media: people have to get in there and start producing content, then see what the consumer feedback is like for that content in order to tune the message and style. That’s a scary thing for most companies, but these three are setting a good example.