Health Insurers Take Bold Steps In Social Media

More health insurers making aggressive moves to tap into consumers' increasingly social online behavior.
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Social media might not seem like a great match for health insurance--after all, the cases payers deal with can be very personal. But some companies in that line of business are making aggressive moves to tap into consumers' increasingly social online behavior in ways that don't complicate their businesses.

Carriers aren't just limited to Facebook and Twitter, however. Humana recently launched its own social network for its Medicare Advantage and Medicare Advantage Part D members. Developed by the company's wholly owned Lifesynch division, the Humanaville community includes real-world-style locations and activities such as a town square, health clinic, library, fitness center, games and relaxation spots. (In that way, it resembles a Second Life-style virtual world more than a Facebook redux).

In these locations, members will find information, games, and avatar-based interaction. They can interact directly through online chat and community discussion forums where they can post original content and topics, ask questions, and respond to each other on those topics. Its major goal is to drive increase use of the Humana Member Assistance Program, also administered by Lifesynch.

"I would view this as more than just a social network like Twitter or Facebook, says Lifesynch VP Dan Clark. "When we started looking at the growth in that medium, one of the primary reasons that Medicare members were going to media like that was for health info. We wanted to leverage what we know about the Medicare Advantage population and this migration to drive greater participation in the Member Assistance program."

Clark says the strategy behind Humanaville is to provide information policyholders need in an experiential fashion. Besides facilitating learning, he adds that the Humana brand lends credibility to the content, with the company installing safeguards to ensure a positive experience.

"You can interact with other members, and people can also post articles in the forums," he says. "But we use filters to protect members from inappropriate content."

Independence Blue Cross has grown its Healthy Steps social media campaign aggressively over the past few months. Its most recent extension came in the form of a smartphone app. The app features a pedometer, GPS feature and other fitness, health and nutrition tools. Users can share their progress on Facebook, Twitter and via text message in the app as well.

Bringing together the two impactful media of mobile and social is natural to the carrier, says SVP of marketing services John Janney.

"The beauty of it is that you really can leverage the built-in capabilities of the sites to take advantage of the capabilities of the smartphone," he explains. "It's not overly complex to do and it helps us bring in as many people as possible."

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