I have been a State Farm customer since I started driving. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far different the social media enriched, Web 2.0 world we live in today. There were no smart phones or even dumb mobile phones. I was lucky to have touch tone dialing at home. They were different times. I actually knew people’s phone numbers, but of course there were only seven digits (OL7-XXXX) to remember.
Back then State Farm sent an auto insurance bill in the mail every six months and I sent them back a check. Fast forward a couple decades, the auto insurance bill comes in the mail every six months and I send them back a check. Absolutely nothing has changed. So when I started seeing posts about State Farm’s social media strategy, I was like “Really?”.
How did it all start? Kelly Thul, State Farm’s Director of Communication Services, explains it in the following two posts.
GasPedal posted the following video of the BlogWell presentation “State Farm Insurance: The Social Media Balancing Act, presented by Kelly Thul”
According to Kelly it started innocently enough in 2007. State Farm wanted to dip their toes in the social media water so they decided to sponsor a national weight loss campaign. They wanted to put the State Farm brand out there but away from their core businesses. It went well so they moved to YouTube. State Farm’s YouTube channel isn’t a go-to destination for many but they viewed it as the largest video server so they wanted to participate. They use it to embed videos into their blog and website and it provides a quick and easy way to determine what resonates with the audience. Their videos include State Farm commercials, instructional videos, e.g., filing a claim and informational topics, e.g., a career at State Farm.
They next went to Twitter and then Facebook and flickr. Interestingly, in each social media outlet the State Farm account was already taken. Someone else was speaking for their brand so they had to secure control of each account.
Kelly warns you need to be ready. Ready for the “Oh, shit!” moment. If the company gets entangled in a BP size, oil spill disaster how do you respond? It’s not the time to cut off communications. If you’re inclined to hide in the sand, don’t bother building a social media presence; instead, storyboard it with management and have a plan.
Also, you need to be ready for criticism and negativity. There are people with a bone to pick and social media provides an open mic. Kelly suggests laying out clear community guidelines. For example, see their YouTube Community Guidelines in the image below.
With clear guidelines, a community moderator has the grounds to remove any hateful or vulgar comments. For comments from unhappy customer venting, he suggests looking at them as opportunities to reach out to the customer and resolve their issue.
What do you think of State Farm’s use of social media? I would love to hear your two cents.