Social Media & Healthcare Reform: Q&A with BCBSIL’s Social Team


Online community management certainly has its complexities. Add in strict industry guidelines and a monumental policy shift like healthcare reform, and you’ve got a tough job to do.

On Thursday afternoon we stopped by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois headquarters to hear their social team talk about how they are leaning in to social media despite extensive regulations, multilingual needs and the need to explain complicated policies in a limited number of characters.

The question and answer panel was moderated by BCBSIL Social Media Specialist Daniel Vieira. She was joined by a panel of experts including BCBS Social Media Specialist Alissa Calomino, BCBS Latino Strategy & Community Manager Daisy De La Cruz, HY Connect VP of Social Media Nicholas Kinports, and Shoutlet VP of Customer Experience Tarik Hart. Below is a brief recap of their conversation on navigating social media strategy within a highly regulated and complex industry.

On social media in a highly regulated industry

“Being in such a regulated industry, there are so many levels of legal and medical approval,” said Alissa Calomino. “But at the end of the day those checks and balances are there for a reason. If the information we’re putting out there isn’t legally or medically vettable, it’s not helpful.” Calomino noted that they’ve optimized the process over time, as the social team has gotten a “good pulse” on exactly what they need to run by legal.

“Compliance in social media really comes down to the details,” Daisy De La Cruz added. “Using ‘will’ vs. ‘may’ can make all the difference in a Facebook post.”

On the implications of healthcare reform

“Healthcare reform has brought healthcare a lot closer to the individual,” said De La Cruz. “We’re online to show members we’re on the front lines and everything is OK. A lot of the people we’re talking to are getting health insurance, possibly for the first time. This system is very new and very complex, and we’re using a variety of social media and in-person campaigns to communicate the changes.”

Calomino added that “there are very basic questions people have that we in the industry maybe take for granted. We’re there to say, ‘You’re not the only one who doesn’t understand, and we have a toolkit to help.’”

On translation and multiculturalism

“Before I came on, posts for the Latino market went through a third party translator,” De La Cruz said. “Anyone with experience in translation knows that you can’t use direct translation — it’s just not conversational. So while social posts were working well for the English speaking market, translated versions would fall flat for the Spanish speaking market — they just weren’t getting any engagement.”

BCBS shifted that strategy so that now, De La Cruz translates post-by-post for the Latino market. “Now we’re seeing a much better response rate from that market,” she said.

On deleting posts

“We don’t delete anything unless it violates our terms of service, which can be found in the about section of our Facebook page,” Calomino said. “That means there are no qualms about what should be deleted; it’s an absolute yes or no.” Violations include disparaging remarks involving race, creed or religion as well as confidential information such as doctors’ names or insurance identification numbers.

On picking the right platform

While BCBSIL has a presence on other platforms, Calamino and De La Cruz called Facebook and Twitter their “bread and butter.” Shoutlet’s Tarik Hart chimed in here, pointing out that, “the general population is using Facebook, and all the other platforms are at a distant second. Sure, people have other accounts elsewhere, but Facebook is the backbone. If you’re going to start on a new platform, you’ve got to have the resources to follow through. Get Facebook right, then move on to other stuff.”

Nick Kinports agreed.“In an uncertain world, go for volume first then refine that.”

Thanks to the BCBSIL social team for a great panel! For more Social Media Week wisdom, check out our recap of Cars.com’s session on shareable visual content.