Tag Archives: commercial

Why State Farm is a Social Media Superstar

As many of you know from my speaking engagements around the country, I like to discover brands that are using social media in innovative ways. I honor these organizations with the name “SoMe Superstars.” Recent winners include PepsiCo and Moleskine.

Today I’d like to recognize a company that’s using social media for recruiting: State Farm. I like how the insurance company recently rebranded with its clever “Magic Jingle” commercials, alongside funny ads featuring everything from falcons to giant robots. But the company has continued its transformation with a big push in social media and interactivity as well. Here are the three superstar ways that State Farm engages job applicants:

First, State Farm has a dedicated careers Facebook Page with more than 16,000 Likes, featuring lots of interesting content from both the corporate communications department and individual agents. Responses to questions and grievances usually come within 24 hours. The page’s admins go beyond typical stories of disaster recovery to include posts that are useful to job-seekers, such as asking “What’s the strangest thing you ever sent a recruiter?” and giving “Tips for networking at holiday parties.” This makes the Page a destination for anyone looking for employment, even outside the insurance field.

Second, the State Farm careers site includes eight videos under the title “See For Yourself.” These feature testimonials from agents and employees and great photography of the State Farm headquarters. The company offers a section called “Meet Our Interns,” with videos, written interviews, and “Advice and Guidance from Real Interns.” This is a powerful way to reach out to young people by providing content that’s educational but also fun. It also shows an awareness that Millenials would rather watch a video than read a long corporate mission statement.


Third, State Farm offers a unique interactive website, exploresfagency.com, which the company calls a “virtual job tryout with real-world scenarios.” Job-seekers are put in situations faced by real insurance agents, from marketing a new office and handling staff to dealing with customer complaints. There are no wrong answers; users simply pick the action they’d most likely take, and the one they’d least likely take, from four options. State Farm then evaluates what sort of agent they’d be. It’s a job preview unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Finally, these career sites add to the overall State Farm online presence, which includes branded accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr – and an interesting Facebook Page called State Farm Nation, “where fans can get helpful tips, be inspired, and have fun connecting with others.” That Page has more than 1.3 million Likes.

What can you learn from State Farm? First, set up a dedicated careers site, preferably accompanied by a careers Facebook Page and Twitter profile. Then post content that’s useful to anyone looking for employment, not just posts about how great your organization is. Offer photos and videos, showing job-seekers what your office looks like and what your employees love about working there. And, if you really want to stand out, invest in something unique like State Farm Nation on Facebook or the revolutionary “Day in the Life” interactive site.

For communicating with talent in smart, fun, and interactive ways, I name State Farm Insurance a SoMe Superstar!

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Social Media PR Disasters: Chevy Tahoe

In today’s digital world, customers now have access to the same mass communication tools once enjoyed by newspapers and TV networks, allowing regular people to broadcast their messages to the world. And sometimes those messages aren’t very positive.

How do brands respond? My ongoing series of Social Media PR Disasters finds the lessons not only in brands’ failures but also their successes. Today I’ll show you how a brand deftly navigated a disaster and came out looking both smart authentic.

The Brand

The Incident
In 2006, Chevy promoted its 2007 Tahoe by posting video clips of the SUV, along with graphics and music, and invited fans to create their own commercials. The car company assumed the interactive element would draw a lot of participation, and that anyone who made a video would promote it to their friends.

The Problem
The editing application allowed users to create text that accompanied the images. Critics of SUVs’ notoriously low gas mileage and poor environmental impact began crafting commercials with captions like “We deforested the hills and strip-mined our mountains,” and linking Chevrolet to the Iraq War. The fact that these attacks accompanied official Chevy imagery made the commentary brutally effective.

The Response
As the negative videos became more popular than the positive ones, Chevy’s marketing team had to decide whether to pull them off the site. To its credit, the company chose not to take any action. A spokesperson told the New York Times“We anticipated that there would be critical submissions. You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it’s part of playing in this space.”

The Result
The carmaker claimed that 20,000 positive videos were made, compared to 400 negative ones. By allowing the latter to stay online, Chevy silenced critics who would have certainly called foul if the company had resorted to censorship.


The Takeaway
How can you avoid a social media PR disaster the way Chevy did?

– Acknowledge the conversation. You’re starting a dialogue, so be prepared to give up control. Two months after the campaign, Chvrolet General Manager Ed Peper posted on GM’s Fastlane blog: “Early on we made the decision that if we were to hold this contest, in which we invite anyone to create an ad, in an open forum, that we would be summarily destroyed in the blogosphere if we censored the ads based on their viewpoint. So, we adopted a position of openness and transparency, and decided that we would welcome the debate.”

– Think before you act. The urge to pull down the negative videos must have been very strong throughout Chevrolet’s marketing department. Doing so would have solved one problem but undoubtedly started another – and a larger one, as the story would have shifted away from the videos and focused on Chevy’s censorship. Luckily, Chevy brand mangers didn’t give in to the panic and realized the best course of action was to let the videos remain online.

– Be patient. Believe it or not, the bad press had no effect on sales of the Tahoe. In fact, in March of 2006, AutoBlog reported that “While nearly every other manufacturer suffered a decline in full-size SUV sales during the month of February, Chevy sold 15,431 Tahoes, a 42-percent improvement over [2005].”

Read my recent article on how United Airlines didn’t fare as well in avoiding a similar disaster.