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Andy’s Answers: How Aetna enables 35,000 employees to engage in social media

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Lauren Vargas was tired of organizations putting community management teams in the corner. So she developed a “playbook” for enabling 35,000 Aetna employees to engage in social media.

Her strategies take a cue from nature by decentralizing responsibilities, creating a safe haven and providing adaptive tools. The outcome: integrated social skills and stronger community connections.

Vargas shared her community management strategies at’s BlogWell conference in Chicago. Here are some key points in her playbook.

  • Function as one. Vargas says every department in your organization needs a community management strategy. This means everyone from the interns to the executives can organically respond to and authentically engage with the community — not just copy and paste automated responses. Like a school of fish, there is no leader; the organization reacts as one whole.
  • Establish your sandbox. In nature, if you fail or make a mistake, you die. As Vargas explains, this may also seem true for social media. That’s why she says to establish your safe haven for employees to learn community engagement. Develop a place for executives, legal teams and human resource departments to feel comfortable with communicating on the front lines.
  • Build a toolkit. Vargas says the right toolkit for community management has three pillars: policy, work flow and training. The policy should give the community a clear description of what to expect; it should build trust. The work flow should map out how each department communicates with each other and with their communities. The training should enable each department to react with “structured serendipity.” Vargas says, much like a chameleon, the department should be able to adapt without losing its identity.

Watch Vargas’ presentation, and see her slides.