Lynde O’Brien on how her team transformed the way Blue Cross and Blue Shield sees social media

“With the onset of Obamacare, or ACA, our organization absolutely changed.”

You can say something ten times, but if an agency says it, suddenly people will listen.

Lynde O'Brien, Senior Director of Digital Communications at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, says with a new, broader focus on consumers, the organization suddenly opened up the way they were marketing and operating.

With that change, Lynde's social team began to weave themselves into the work that was being done at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Instead of being seen as a “nice to have” or a content distribution channel, the social team wanted to be a part of the business, the “soccer assist” to other departments.

In her presentation at's Member Meeting in Chicago, she shared their journey, lessons learned along the way, and what they're looking for in the future.

Lynde O'Brien

1. Identify the need.

Lynde says their first step was to help the organization and senior executives understand the need for social media. They had to test and prove their hypothesis that micro-targeting and reaching new audiences in social media could compliment their traditional marketing efforts.

“I'll never forget after the first open enrollment. As an organization, we were so excited because we had achieved phenomenal results. Beautiful reports were being presented by executives. But I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Why is nobody saying anything about social media?' We were literally not even in the presentation. There was barely a mention of the really innovative work we had done on the channel.”

To explain why their work was important and what they could do for the organization, Lynde says, “We definitely needed a seat at the table.”

2. Talk the talk.

Social is never going to be the platform that people leap off of and purchase a health insurance plan. We're there for the assist.

She explains that the usual social metrics — likes, shares, impressions — just weren't making an impact on how other teams saw their work. If they wanted to reach the decision makers, the people who could invest in her team's efforts, Lynde says they needed to speak in a way that resonated with them.

To do that, they embedded a social media team member within the marketing team. They sat in on weekly meetings and learned how the retail team was measuring what was valuable. That helped Lynde's team start using the right terminology to reposition the work they were doing.

“We had to explain that social is never going to be the platform that people leap off of and purchase a health insurance plan. We're there for the assist,” says Lynde.

3. Walk the walk.

Once they explained the importance of social media, Lynde's team became a part of omni-channel conversations, building relationships with traditional marketing, and making plans for campaigns. She says part of the reason her team was finally accepted was because the marketing team had just hired a new agency — one that understood social media and worked harder to include her team.

“We know how it is. You can say something ten times, but if an agency says it, suddenly people will listen.”

But even though they were finally a part of the campaign conversations, they still had to prove partial sales attribution to social media. “We felt like we were no longer an afterthought. But at the same time, the reports to the people making funding decisions were still not reflecting our contribution.”

4. Communicate and create alignment.

You can’t get a return on investment if you’re not making an investment.

“You can't get a return on investment if you're not making an investment. Where we focused on telling the right story, we were able to put a lot of dollars to those channels.”

So to tell the right story, Lynde's team created their own attribution model using publisher dashboards. And with the help of marketing analysts, they created better reports that were more accessible and easier for non-social media teams to understand.

Using a pilot group, they were able to focus on testing, validating, and building credibility for their efforts in social media. They were able to show that social media's impact was complimentary and unique — not just an underperforming marketing channel.

Follow Lynde on Twitter and check out her full presentation from's Member Meeting in Chicago here. Lynde's been a member of since 2014.