This post highlights a campaign executed by many areas within Blue Cross NC. I led the social media efforts and provided consultation and input on other elements of the project. As a result of the project, we saw an increase in positive brand reputation and got North Carolina out hiking. We also are nominated for the Social Media Buzz Award Best Regional Campaign, 


Hey! It’s me, nature! I just know we’re gonna hit it off.

As a result of our successful blog content related to hiking and exploring North Carolina, it inspired Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to engage North Carolinians even more on this topic. We wanted to get people out hiking. Not only to explore the tons of amazing views and trails across North Carolina from mountains to sea but to give individuals and families motivation to get out and be active.

But first, we had to get people clicking. Our new preventive health program, Hike NC, was designed to de-couch people in a state that suffers from a 30 percent adult obesity rate. Fewer than half of North Carolina adults meet Centers for Disease Control recommendations for aerobic activity. So we partnered with North Carolina State Parks and developed a great partnership that aligned with both organizations mission.

We started with a social media audit to understand people’s attitudes. What was keeping people from hiking? A lot of people feared they would get lost.

One activity at which many of us excel at is coming up with excuses. The people we surveyed said they found the idea of hiking overwhelming. They didn’t have the right equipment. They thought they’d get lost in the woods. Most of all, they said they didn’t think they were in good enough shape to go hiking.

Clearly, there were barriers to overcome. The message wasn’t a hard one to craft or understand: No, you don’t need special equipment to hike. Everything you need is in your closet right now. No, having a spare tire doesn’t disqualify you (mine does not). There’s a walk outside for every ability level, even if you do your “walking” in a wheelchair. And no, you won’t get lost – not only because the thousand or more miles of trails in North Carolina tend to be pretty well marked, but because we’re going to give you guides.

An easy message, tough sell. These points had to come through clearly and make an impact for people whose window on the woods was Windows.

User-Generated Photos from the Instagram GoHikeNC Contest


Social media research broke down the audience, so we could figure out what would inspire the audience to break a sweat.

Who was going to answer our call? One early decision narrowed the focus by half: women. They are the decision-makers in most households and plan many family activities. Using survey data, we determined that women ages 26-54 were the most engaged. We then segmented those women to craft three primary target personas: Millennial Go-Getters, Multitasking Masters, and Kid-Independents. Then we launched the second round of research about each of those groups – what type of content did they consume? What did they enjoy doing in their free time? What did they value?

Using the results, we delivered audience-specific content delivered via geospatial targeting. Internal groups at Blue Cross NC, who are well-versed at segmenting the state’s population, helped us identify “hot zones” to find where the majority of our target audience is in North Carolina.

Content ranged from awesome drone videos of hiking trails in the mountains and on the coast, participants submitting wonderful photos of their hikes and local health bloggers promoting the program with their followers through a series of blog and social posts.

Before launching hikes, we launched a campaign – and a measurement plan to chart how effective our paid, earned, owned, and shared tactics would be.

The channels we measured for Hike NC included awareness of Blue Cross NC’s community relations work through reputation polling, Facebook and Instagram video views, and news coverage in all six North Carolina major media markets, banner ad viewability, and Facebook and Instagram engagement rates. Moving beyond media metrics to chart actual participation in the hiking program, we set out to analyze KPIs such as the number of website visits, the number of hike sign-ups, click-through rates for paid search, Twitter, and Facebook Carousel ads, and the percentage of organic site traffic increase.

Developing measurements for all our tactics was a group effort across the enterprise. We involved many areas (Sales, Marketing, Government Affairs, PR, Human Resources, Community Relations, Internal Communications and our analytics team, I am sure I’m missing a few others. This was truly an enterprise effort.

And to star as the voiceover talent in the promotional video that lived on and elsewhere? We cast Mother Nature herself.

Our audience was targeted and analyzed. Our damaging assumptions about hiking were listed and duly debunked. And we’d planned and publicized more than 60 scheduled, guided, group-friendly hiking events in every region of the state. Now it was time to see who would show up.

Our campaign drove almost 40,000 website visits, beating our goal by 3,000 visits, due in part to a 100-percent increase in organic traffic due to SEO efforts. More than 335,000 people viewed and engaged with our videos across Facebook and Instagram, with video completion rates exceeding 4.5 percent on Facebook and 2.0 percent on Instagram.

We’ll never know how many people laced up their hiking shoes because of our message. But we do know that the guided events we sponsored as part of Hike NC secured about 750 signups across the state. Almost more than we could handle.

Meanwhile, back indoors, the health insurance industry as a whole continued to battle image challenges. But after our three three-month Hike NC campaign, we met our goal of improving the perception of Blue Cross NC. A full 45 percent of North Carolinians believe Blue Cross NC makes an effort to give back to North Carolina, up from 37 percent before the campaign.

“So come join me! Bring your friends, your family, your dog, your camera. We’ll take selfies!”

Our Hike NC team set out to inspire others, but the response we received ended up inspiring us. With Mother Nature as our narrator and spokesperson, we debunked people’s assumptions and fears, encouraged them, and got them out onto the trails. We’re rolling out successive phases of Hike NC, and adding resources people can use to find their own paths outside. And when they get home, their digital engagement with Blue Cross NC will endure as well.

Go explore

Point of View BLog – Hike content –

Twitter #GoHikeNC User Generated Content –

Instagram #GoHikeNC User Content –

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