It's true. The nation's 4th largest health insurer, Humana, is leading the way in reaching out to consumers with novel ideas in social media. One look at the website for the Humana Innovation Center and you'll be hooked. These folks are putting together games, tools and blogs aimed at making us healthier and having fun doing it.
These guys don't dabble in social media - it's part of their culture. No idea is too crazy. Early projects have included Humana Games for Health, a video games initiative designed to make healthiness more interesting and fun. A second project, freewheel!n encourages you to leave the car keys at home, get on your bike and pedal to healthiness and a better environment. How do they get the word out about these creative projects? The Social Team at Humana Innovation Center writes several clever blogs each week, for example "A Winter Workout Playlist: 14 Songs To Warm You Up". They don't stop there, creating project Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, uploading photos and videos to Flickr and YouTube, and much more. The whole idea is to build online communities around each project to encourage participation and solicit ideas from members
What's truly remarkable about this group within a corporate giant is that the fun, creative spirit is transforming the company as a whole. Amber Naslund wrote a great post about this transformation last year. The Humana Innovation Team created a new form of self-governance they call "Town Square" which embraces sharing, openness, listening and transparency. This isn't just their mantra, it's how they roll on a daily basis. Every 3-4 weeks this "social media democracy" gets together in a Chamber of Commerce meeting to review progress and kick new ideas around. Other Humana Departments and even outsiders are encouraged to participate. More than a year into this experiment, and these folks are thriving and growing like an "un-cancer".
What can we learn from Humana's foray into social media and creative culture? Well, first of all, it can be done, even at a corporate monster with traditional structure and values. Why? Because it works. The Social Team isn't just doing this for fun - it's for teaching and motivating all of us to take better care of ourselves. We respond to this kind of innovation. Could it work elsewhere? Why not? All we have to do is have the courage to try something different, then use our imaginations and marketing skills to make it happen. Kudos to Humana for having the guts to hire good people and let them run with the ball.
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