Consultants' Corner

Tapping Facebook's Social Potential

Terry Golesworthy
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 16, 2012

In most social media boot camps, the advice is to listen—or at least read—before jumping in to post content. This is to understand the topics being discussed as well as the type and tone of conversations. Very few people want to go to their Facebook page, expecting holiday pictures and family notes, to find instead a rash of posts about buying life insurance. While listening is sound advice for carriers, for local agents, it might be the only advice you need.

People use Facebook to connect with friends and family about things going on in their lives. Of course there are ‘over-sharers’ that generously let us know when they are eating dinner, but for the most part, it is all about life events. The term ‘life events’ should ring bells because this is what invariably triggers the need to make changes, be it to buy new items, or update or acquire insurance.

Typical postings on Facebook include birth announcements, engagements, new car purchases, a newly qualified teen driver in the house, or possibly a house move or new job. This is the true value of social media, allowing us to keep all of our friends up to date with changes in our lives.

The sharp-eyed agent sees these life changes as timely prompts to re-connect and to pass along helpful materials. Clearly, the agent must not come across as an "ambulance chaser," but more as a friend who anticipates a need. This has limited opportunity for carriers themselves, at least in the short term; carriers do not have that ‘personal friend’ relationship nor do they have the bandwidth. This would require looking at the newsfeeds from thousands of fans, but for an agent with a hundred friends, most they know personally, this is a perfect way of keeping updated.

Now, I am not advocating agents become stalkers; besides you cannot view postings unless you are already connected. Customers must agree to connect to/like an agent page, for which they must perceive some value. There is no easy way to get customers to ‘like’ an agent’s Facebook page but the most successful and most obvious way is to ask—in person or by telephone. Most consumers say yes—as long as you do not overwhelm them with insurance postings.

Agents should post Facebook content on a regular, but not too frequent, basis to remind their customers they are there as well as offer a blend of helpful advice. More importantly, however, is that the content should include a mix of local news and events. The agent is a person; the goal is to acknowledge and deepen the personal relationship.

Social media is new, but at the same time, is “as old as the hills.” While telecommunications companies, retailers and even government departments are talking about creating dialogue and humanizing the brand, this is how insurance works. Consumers when asked, “Who is your insurance company?” are just as likely to name their agent as the carrier.

So insurers, understand the real value of social media to re-energize the local sales agent and take advantage of a technology trend that for once puts the insurance industry in the lead.

This blog was posted with the permission of the Customer Respect Group.

Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, has covered technology issues and innovations in the insurance industry for many years.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Terry using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He also can be reached at terry@customerrespect.com.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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