BlogHer Business: Allstate case study: building the internal case for social media in a heavily regulated environmemnt

Allstate is a major insurance companies in the US and when they started working with social media they ran into a lot of resistance from the company itself, especially from the legal department. The liability issues for an insurance company are immense – if Allstate runs a message board, and a user writes that they’re happy with Allstate’s insurance, and another user takes their recommendation and gets the same insurance and then something bad happens, Allstate is liable for the advice given by the user on their website. Lizzie Schreier was in charge of introducing social media to Allstate and has five very useful strategies for how to convince the legal department that social media will be OK.

How to get things through legal:

  1. Fact finding. Uncover their problems. E.g. ask group of lawyers/decision makers “raise your hands if you know anything about social media” and find out what they know and what their concerns are.
  2. Truly educate them. At first, most of them really don’t know why she’s there (i.e. Lizzie Schreier who was trying to get them into social media). If she hadn’t succeeded in making legal and the leadership understood why social media were important, they’d have thrown it out and said no, it’s too dangerous. She did a lot of homework – for instance on guidelines, where she looked at what Farmers was doing and was able to tell legal at Allstate “here’s this other insurance company’s guidelines, I know you’re worried about this liability issue and here’s how others have dealt with this.”
  3. Choose your words wisely. In insurance, you can’t use the words “advice” or “recommend” because of liability issues.
  4. Baby steps. Compromise. Legal told her: “You can have your forum, but you can’t talk about insurance.” OK, but then I want all comments posted and moderated after, no moderation until posts are published. As it turned out, not talking about insurance worked in their favour. There were lots of mundane conversations – about siding on a house, children’s clothes. Once the site was discussing more insurance-related things, the legal department weren’t so nervous about it.
  5. Prove, Communicate, Enhance and Repeat. Show up weekly with doughnuts and walk them through the comments on the site and show them that there’s nothing dangerous out there. After 2-3 weeks Schreier said “here’s a new topic I want to put out there”, and it touched upon insurance. At that point they trusted her and let her do it. Also, over time, she identified the one lawyer who was the only one who was actually sound asleep through the whole first meeting, which was actually OK because he already knew the internet and social media – so Schreier and her team worked on making a strong connection with him.

This case study spawned other projects that were actually less successful. A lot of other groups wanted to do everything at once. They walked in and wanted to change the world. Whereas Lizzie started much slower – yet launched faster as a result. Started really small – not a lot of traffic, which she used in her favour – see, it’s not getting a lot of traffic, it’s not a threat!

Leadership wanted to get a social media board up and running, get people to connect with each other – there wasn’t a clear strategy. Lizzie went into more detail, defining target audiences. Their main goal was to educate consumers on what’s important when considering insurance, primarily auto insurance.

OK; moving on to the next case study… Fiskars and their Fisk-a-teers.

[You can also read about this presentation at RenÈe Blodgett’s blog down the avenue.]

23. July 2009 by Jill
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