State Farm Insurance: The Social Media Balancing Act — Live from BlogWell

4:32 — Kurt Vanderah introduces State Farm Insurance’s Director of Communication, Kelly Thul.

4:34 — Kelly: State Farm does stuff with social media.

4:35 — Kelly: We’re pleased with our positioning, but we also know who we are.

4:36 — Kelly says State Farm’s early entry into external blogging was sponsoring “The 50 Million Pound Blog.” They wanted to get more into social media, and this was a good way to get into it. It didn’t address their core business and it was an easy cause to get people behind.

4:37 — Kelly: By 2008 State Farm was getting into YouTube, putting out their ads, loss mitigation, and job information.

4:38 — Kelly: We don’t anticipate people waking up looking to visit State Farms YouTube channel.

4:40 — Kelly: We’re seeing steady growth and engagement on Facebook.

4:41 — Kelly says take the negative issue and turn it around to a positive. The risk is that you have now provided a hook for the people that only want to beat on you and not resolve the issue.

4:42 — Kelly: You need to make sure your leadership understands the risks involved in social media.

4:43 — Kelly: You need to have a conversation with your leadership to decide how you would react to negative questions or issues in social media.

4:44 — Kelly says if you are going to have social sites, you need to work with legal to decide on what your community guidelines will be. They spread those community guidelines across all our social sites.

4:45 — Kelly: You must understand the risk of not participating.

4:46 — Kelly: You must provide clear guidelines about personal versus professional. Your employees need to know that when they mix the two, they must know what is expected of them.

4:47 — Kelly: The key audience to think about in your organization is your first line of management. Think about your company’s first line of management and how comfortable they are with the [social] space.

4:48 — Kelly: Leverage existing policies and remind employeess that they still apply. We didn’t rewrite the existing policy and heavily linked to them when we could.

4:49 — Kelly says you need to make employees understand that the external and internal social space are similar, but they aren’t the same. There is a place for internal discussions, but that’s not on Facebook.


Q: How do you leverage social media with your local agents?

A: Kelly: State Farm has 17,000 independent agents. Social is about relationships and not about technologies. Social is a way for them to extend what they already have into a new medium. Due to regulations, we need to make sure they are fulling informed before we can go all the way in.

Q: What do you do with the negative commenters on your social sites?

A: Kelly: We start with our community guidelines. The ones that aren’t violating the guidelines are a little more difficult. For each channel we have a channel manager that monitors every comment that is made. If personal information is being shared we try to move the conversation offline as quickly as possible to protect their privacy. For other issues we’ll engage with our public affairs, customer service, etc. In this space, often if you let the negative come through, your customers will come to your defense.

Q: If you do pull a person off your social site, do you find people will find another place to attack?

A: Kelly: Sometimes you get people really out to get you. However, if you’re playing fair it’s usually not a big issue.

Q: How do you address the really engaged, angry person that has a policy issue?

A: Kelly: Social media is really not a policy issue and cannot be resolved in public. Insurance companies must track all the policy disagreements that do occur. These issues happened before there was social, of course.

Q: How are your training your front line managers in the social media space?

A: Kelly: Make the managers understand that people might be coming to them with questions and providing them the channels to get those questions properly answered.

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