Working out and living healthy is easier when your friends are doing it, too. General Electric gets this, so the company built a social experience into one of the brand’s key pillars, health, and called it HealthyShare.

The network encourages members to share their progress on health challenges, invite friends to join them and find others with similar goals. This was much more interactive than a Facebook or Twitter button at the top of the page (which the company had tried before). GE was also quickly seeing opportunities to surprise and delight that turned into a great word-of-mouth strategy.

In this video, Jon Lombardo, leader of GE’s social media COE, explains how the company used earned micro-media to make big impressions for the brand. Here are some key points from his presentation at SocialMedia.org‘s BlogWell conference in New York.

  • Obsess over context. Lombardo says to keep your goal front and center because if you don’t have the right context in social media, there’s no relevance and no meaning. GE had to find a way to create meaningful conversations about health that made deeper relationships for the brand. The company hired like-minded people to have real conversations with customers about health and nothing more.
  • Trust is powerful. GE made these deeper relationships with hundreds of one-to-one conversations, not by trying to “go viral” or influencing people at large. The company made better experiences for smaller communities so its message could resonate personally and emotionally, which earned tons of word-of-mouth.
  • Surprise and delight. Once these conversations felt comfortable, GE sent customers gifts that encouraged their health goals — but not just any gifts. The company sent sharable things: a basketball, a tray of nuts or two yoga mats. This supported the idea that healthy living is inherently social. It also spread incredible word-of-mouth, online and off.

You can watch the video below. Slides are available.

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