Uncase Study: How AFLAC Should Assemble A Social Media Team To Build For Long-term Success

Note About “Uncase Studies”: Traditionally case studies are used to describe how a company or organization solved a problem. Others with similar problems can then use the case study to understand how they may solve their own problems. I will be writing an ongoing series of “uncase studies” that will outline what companies or organizations could be doing to improve their marketing and community building efforts using social media approaches.

Disclaimer: The companies and organizations that I talk about in my “uncase studies” are not my clients. I attempt to research any of their current work to leverage social media. Just because I write about them does not mean that the people that handle their marketing (internal or external) are not planning to implement social media strategy and tactics that could be far better than the ones discussed in my posts. It means they had not been publicly implemented that I could find at the time my post was published.


This week Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang sent a message on Twitter about a posting on his job board by Aflac, who is looking for a new/social media marketing person. I think it is really interesting to see how large companies are going about creating social media teams and integrating them into the overall organization.  Here is their posting:

“New Media/General Marketer: This is a preliminary posting for a position we are beginning to search for here at Aflac Corporate headquarters. We don’t have the specifics yet, but we are looking for high level professionals with Ad Agency backgrounds and advanced knowledge with New Media, Web 2.0, and Social Networking. If you are qualified and interested please forward your resume and salary requirements to me at lwilliams5@aflac.com There are several opportunities in our marketing department and salary for these positions have not yet been determined.”

The first thing you realize after reading this is that they don’t know what they are looking for. I think this is actually a good thing, because they are willing to admit that they don’t know how social media “fits” into the organization. Though this post looks at Aflac specifically it should be seen as advice for any large company looking to build an in-house social media team.

Step 1: Call Scott Monty
Just like any thing else it is best to learn from someone who has done it before and done it well. Scott’s work as head of social media  for Ford Motor Company has been the foremost example of integrating social media into a traditional business. I would ask Scott for 10 minutes on the phone and then I would ask him these questions:

  • As a business what do we need to commit to in order to successfully establish a social media team?
  • Who do you recommend that we contact about leading our team?
  • What qualities/knowledge do you think they NEED to have?
  • What has been the hardest part for you leading social media within Ford?

Understanding the answers to these questions is the foundation to beginning to understand the type of person you are looking for.

Step 2: Take A Look Inside
Social Media does not sit solely in the marketing/communications  department it goes far beyond that. Aflac needs to look at its internal departments and understand how they will begin using social media.  Do they have someone in customer service that can understand social media’s impact on customer service like Comcast has with Frank? Is their internal communications as well as your traditional sales staff ready to have social media integrated into the work they do? The person Aflac is looking for isn’t only a marketing person that understands the social web, they are a teacher, a leader, and the organization’s advocate for transparent two-way communication. Aflac think for a moment, are you ready for that? If not, take that job posting down now! If you are, then make sure that you establish goals for what you want social media to accomplish for your organization, if you don’t it won’t matter who you hire.

Step 3: Selecting The Correct Team Members
So lets say Aflac has taken a look at themselves and decide they are ready to have social media become a part of their organization, now what? How do they pick they right team? In the world of social media it is pretty easy to separate the contenders from the pretenders if you know what you are looking for. Use these questions as a check list and make sure  your candidate can answer yes to each of them.

  • Have they helped companies use social media in the past?
  • Do they actively participate themselves? (blog, podcast, twitter, etc)
  • Did they answer “What is the first thing you would do in leading social media at AFLAC?” with a statement referring to research and monitoring?
  • How do they consume information? (They should include RSS, blogs, podcasts, reed reader, agregation, and twitter search in their response)
  • Have they worked for or with agencies on social media campaigns?

Lastly, I would recommend having a conversation with any serious candidate about their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to social media. Nobody is an expert in social media but everyone has different aspects they are best at. For example you can be a great writer, but not know anything about publishing and distributing video for the web. It is important to know the person’s strengths so that you can add members to the team that fill in the gaps. If the person you are interviewing says they are an expert at all aspects of social media, then that is the end of the road for them, they are clearly a pretender and not a contender.

Step 4: Understand That You Still Need An Agency
Regardless of what team of people Aflac has and no matter how talented their social media team is, they will still need an agency to help them. Maybe Aflac’s current agency can do the job or maybe the social media team needs to select an agency on their own to work with. Regardless Aflac is not going to be able to accomplish its goals with only any internal team. Scott Monty doesn’t.

Closing Advice:
Social Media is new but hiring isn’t. Aflac knows what a good employee looks like. They need to reach out to people in the social media industry for advice and context. The honest truth is that in this difficult economy Aflac has an opportunity to lure some top-level talent into their organization and build for a successful future.

What would you add? Any other advice for Aflac?

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One Response to “Uncase Study: How AFLAC Should Assemble A Social Media Team To Build For Long-term Success”

  1. New Blog Post: Uncase Study: How AFLAC Should Assemble A Social Media Team To Build For Long-term Success http://bit.ly/tZK9O

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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