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!

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