Social Business at Kaiser Permanente: Using Social Tools to Improve Customer Service, Research and Internal Collaboration

Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have helped Kaiser Permanente — the nation’s largest nonprofit health care provider — grow its positive media mentions close to 500% in the last five years, says Vince Golla, who oversees the organization’s external digital reputation.

Vince Golla, director of digital media and syndication, Kaiser Permanente

As director of digital media and syndication for the national public relations team of Kaiser Permanente, a $44 billion hospital and health plan group headquartered in Oakland, Calif., Vince Golla helps train and direct the organization’s PR people and physicians to use social media smarter.

From counseling the people behind more than 100 Kaiser Permanente Twitter accounts to analyzing social media to see what customers are happy and angry about, “the foundation of my work is to help folks understand that when they are engaging in a social media conversation on behalf of our brand, it is intergalactic and travels at the speed of light,” Golla says.

He has been deep in this world for over two years. Golla joined Kaiser Permanente in 2005 and was the editor of its corporate news website, the Kaiser Permanente News Center. In that job, he was charged with getting relevant articles, slideshows, videos and press releases into one place on the web. He also was managing a number of social media channels, including the organization’s national Twitter handles, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“I don’t want to say it was an avocation, but it was almost like a second job,” says Golla. When the company’s vice president of PR, Holly Potter, decided to dedicate a direct report on her team to the task of “digital reputation,” Golla’s secondary job became his primary one. That was in December of 2009. While Golla handles the company’s digital reputation on the communications and PR side, he has a counterpart, Keith Boswell, who handles the digital reputation in the marketing, advertising and brand spaces.

Golla spoke with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT Sloan Management Review, about how Twitter helped the company find an eventual audience of over a million people for an event that was only attended in person by a couple hundred, how the company’s internal intranet IdeaBook is changing the way employees communicate and how Facebook helped reassure customers during a blackout that the company was open for business.

Tell us about the ways you’ve been able to use social media for customer service.

We have made tremendous strides in using social media tools to improve our response rate.

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