What the duck? Aflac gets quackin' on Facebook

The ducky insurance company uses Facebook to promote fundraising and brand awareness
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

Usually in my Fortune 500 series I take a look at a company's broad social media strategy. But this time I decided to have a little bit more fun with it and dig into one company's use of Facebook in terms of supporting its brand awareness as well as its charitable giving. That company is Aflac. You know, the insurance company with the endearing little duck.

Whether or not you are an Aflac customer, you've at least once tried to mimic the Aflac duck's quacking of "Aflac" at the end of its commercials. After its commercial success, Aflac has taken to Facebook with a two-fold approach: increase its brand awareness through a fan page for the famous Aflac Duck and through a presence in the "Causes" application on Facebook for the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the same city in which the company is headquartered.

The Aflac "Cause" With the Causes application, users have created more than 300,000 charitable causes that have benefited 60,000 nonprofits in the United States and Canada, raising more than $14 milliion in total. Aflac was able to raise $1.16 million to benefit the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, making it the largest sponsored campaign in the history of Causes.

The company donated $1 for every Facebook member who joined its Cause page, as well as matched all monitary donations. As of today, the Aflac Cancer Center Cause has more than 1 million members. According to Laura Kane, Aflac's vice president of external communications, the Causes application was chosen because it seemed to have potential to reach a wide audience.

"The fundraiser was very much a test of the application to determine whether it would be an effective platform --which it clearly was," Kane said.

The company is still determining whether or not it will use the Causes application for another fundraiser, though the Aflac Cancer Center is the company's main charitable focus and fundraising continues year-round through other means.

Just Ducky From a brand awareness perspective, the Aflac duck has more than 164,000 fans. The company uses this page to interact with users, disseminate company information as well information about its charitable cause, and promote contests for friends of the duck. What I found most endearing about the fan page is how the duck's "personality" shows through with its individual updates. Some are more serious, of course, but you can get the duck's thoughts on even mundane daily things such as Halloween candy or even fantasy football.

While the duck's fanship might be modest in comparison to some other consumer brands, this particular fan page is an example of how using a brand's character as a cornerstone to a social media program is better than a static corporate presence. In direct comparison, Aflac the company has a page too, but it only has just over 2K fans in comparison to the duck's 164,000. Aflac was smart about engaging the little duck to create customer loyalty and engagement through its Facebook presence.

Aflac isn't currently tracking how its Facebook fan interaction is turning into sales of insurance policies, but more tracking it as a brand awareness activity on its own.

"Aflac views social media as an opportunity to generate awareness and a establish an ongoing relationship with users in a way that is relevant to their lives," Kane said. "We don’t have any numbers that we can provide in terms of how many of the Duck’s 'fans' go on to become Aflac policyholders, but we do measure the number of people who become fans as a reflection of our success."

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