John Dennis

John Dennis went to school for graphic design — not social media.

Like many SocialMedia.org members, John’s career path didn’t lead straight to social. But, his experience as a graphic designer (and later, as an account manager for a full-service marketing agency) gave him the upper hand when working with creatives.

“It has helped me approach things with both my left and right brain,” he says. “I can talk the talk with creatives. I understand their needs and frustrations and how to push them to come up with solutions.”

Before joining Blue Cross Blue Shield, John was a Social Media Specialist for grocery retailer Ahold USA.

We’re looking for the channels that make sense for the business — and not just joining a channel because it’s new.

“Health insurance can be a much more conceptual topic compared to the ‘lots of content,’ so to speak, you have to pull from in retail,” John says.

As the Social Media Marketing Manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, his content strategy is focused on inspiring people to be advocates for their own health. Right now, the company’s mainly focused on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But they’re looking to develop a content strategy for other platforms like Instagram, and even Pinterest.

“We’re looking for the channels that make sense for the business — and not just joining a channel because it’s new.”

But within such a highly regulated industry — things can get a little complicated.

One of John’s biggest challenges is working within the confines of the Protected Health Information regulations.

“We can’t publicly discuss a lot of things our members and their families come to us with on Facebook and Twitter. We have to take those conversations and resolve those issues offline or in a private message,” John explains.

In addition, with hundreds of plans on the market, there is no “one size fits all,” so Blue Cross Blue Shield can’t talk as broadly about their products on social media either.

To learn it all, John relied heavily on the expertise of people around him at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“When I first started, a common theme I heard was, ‘Don’t expect to feel like you know what you’re doing for at least a year.’ This is such a complex industry, it’s supposed to take a long time to feel comfortable about grasping every little detail.”

John says that with such a complicated product, the company does a great job of educating their associates on what you can and can’t do from a communications perspective. And even though he’s a team of one, he’s a part of a larger work system of other Blue Cross Blue Shield social media managers at sister companies across the country who’ve helped him learn the ropes.

Right now, John’s prepping for everyone’s favorite day to work for Blue Cross Blue Shield: Service Day.

Service Day is a day in September where the company essentially shuts down (operating at a limited capacity) so that employees can spend their work hours volunteering in the community. Blue Cross Blue Shield employees pile onto buses to head to projects like cleaning up a park, building a swing set, delivering meals, or helping at a homeless kitchen.

“As the social media manager, this is such a great story to tell,” says John. “But it’s also a great story to tell as it’s unfolding throughout the day. So that day, I’m best served at my desk.”

So while John won’t be out planting trees or painting community centers, he’ll be hitting refresh on Twitter and Facebook and sharing all of the great projects his fellow Blue Cross Blue Shield employees are working on. And in the coming months, he’ll be promoting and drumming up excitement for the event.

“It’s a fun day to be a part of Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, especially for the social media manager.”

John Dennis has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2013. Find him on LinkedIn and ask about the volunteer opportunities he and the other skeleton crew will have in the office for this year’s Service Day.


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