Aetna’s Social Media Director Talks Social Strategy, Co-branding, More

Published on Jun 8th, 2017

In a Q&A at Shareablee, John Murphy, Director of Social Media at Aetna, sat down with our VP of Client Services, Naomi Kent, to discuss global brand channels, the correlation between social media and sales, co-branding and crisis management. Murphy also spoke about how he uses Shareablee data to inform Aetna’s social strategy.

*These views are solely those of John Murphy and do not reflect the opinions of Aetna.

Global Brand Channels

Q: Most new social media channels for big brands have a high failure rate. Why is that?

A: There’s a lack of understanding as to all the components that go into creating a successful channel. If someone wants to start a global brand channel for a territory or country you’ve got to invest in resources; budget a significant amount of money, have six months of content planning ready to roll, have a content creation team, and a community management team. Just because everyone has a Facebook and Instagram account doesn’t mean it’s easy to start a meaningful brand channel. It’s like starting a television station. You need a content calendar, editorial process, money and talent. You’re not ready until you meet all the criteria. Then you need to establish benchmarks to measure success.

Q: So the reporting side is really important. Are there any particular metrics that you use, specifically from Shareablee, that are important to your business?

A: At Aetna, we’re looking at engagement. We’re basically looking at growth of the channel, engagement of the channel, other interactions, like click-throughs, etc. We really are trying to make sure that our content is up to par. What we’ve done with Shareablee is to establish benchmarks. So, if we’re creating content, if we want to grow the channel, we have to surpass those benchmarks.

Social & Sales Connection

Q: Brands still struggle with establishing a connection between social media and sales. How do you know if you’re getting a return on your investment?

A: Don’t just rely on social data. You might bring in survey data, polling data, sales data and see if there’s a correlation, where everything is moving in a similar direction. Then, you can possibly say, it looks like the money you invested had a positive impact. Having said that, If you’re not in the social media game on a committed level, you’ll be out.

Q: How much do you or any other brand have to spend to be in the game?

A: It’s tough. But I think companies like Shareablee will help solve that problem, because I think that’s what everybody’s really digging in to figure out. They’re not going to go to the next level if they can’t answer that question.”


Q: Most brands benefit from co-branding — it’s a way to gain favorability and legitimacy. Could you share an example of a co-branding partnership that you’ve done or are familiar with?

A: One example is a well-known telecommunications firm who was working with the NBA. The company was struggling from a social and digital perspective and their sales had plateaued, while a smaller competitor was winning on social and eating into their profits. The telecom firm did some brand affinity research and learned that many of their followers love the NBA, so they partnered with them, using a hashtag social media campaign with dunking and highlights. Suddenly they were so much cooler on social media!

Q: Social media is becoming more and more important for building brands. Are you using any other parts of Shareablee that are helping with brand strategy specifically?

A: One of the big, new pieces we started using about six to twelve months ago, was the activity data from Shareablee. When we co-brand, I always ask, ‘do we share the same audience segmentation?’ If our consumers, who follow and engage in our channel, are also engaging in other brands and other market segments, we need to know that because we may find a brand that we need to partner with. Co-branding partners might not always be an obvious fit, so using Shareablee pays off.

Q: Were there any big co-branding partnerships that you initially thought would not work but ended up being a huge hit?

A: Yes there is. The big thing at Aetna is mindfulness, meditation and yoga. We found out that a lot of our followers were females, moms, and they loved music on a certain online music platform. The online music platform had their own channels they were creating around these 3 segments. We saw the overlap of audience, and that was a big help for us. Who would have thought it, that you would partner with a music platform and connect it to a health insurance company?

Crisis Management

Q: In the past few weeks, we’ve seen examples of what not to do during a public relations nightmare. We saw many lessons learned from the United Airlines crisis for example. In your opinion, where should the crisis management truly come from? The PR team?

A: The communications department should have the final say, but problems often arise when there’s a disconnect between the social and P.R. teams, especially when it comes to experience. If everybody were at the same social media maturity level, and all the crisis planning were synced up, the PR and Communications of the Executive branch should be putting that out. What you put out on social media is so critical.

The beauty of social media is that brands can immediately respond to a crisis, but there’s also the question of when to engage and when to let things run their course. In my opinion, if you caused the issue, you have to own it. Apologize, at the very least. When and if brands do that, it tends to die down. Or you may get many people who support you and the conversation starts to even out because you see people go on social and say, ‘Hey man. They owned up to it. Stop beating them up. Enough is enough.’ But if you don’t own up to it, it’s fair game for all.

From global social channels to co-branding, clients like Aetna use Shareablee data to shape their social strategy. New resources like our U.S. Media 100 Index, a ranking of the top-performing media companies across all social content, help make our customers’ lives easier.

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