Consultants' Corner

Social Media - Insurers are from Mars and Agents are from Venus

Terry Golesworthy
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 16, 2011

In the 90’s a John Gray wrote the book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.” The book sold more than 50 million copies and became the de facto way of demonstrating different viewpoints. This book came to mind while I was researching the relationship between insurance carriers and local agents in social media. The key point is that carriers and agents need each other and social media provides a great – if as yet underused – way to improve their relationships.

Insurers struggle with attracting "fans” on social media (maybe the manufacturers of Preparation-H have a harder task) but why would anyone want to be a fan of their insurance company? It would be, after all, a pretty sad reflection on your social status. Consequently, insurers swap “likes” for rewards such as sweepstake entries or charitable donations. Whether or not these are true fans remains a largely unanswered question.

After recruiting fans, insurers struggle to maintain meaningful conversations. It is like being seated next to the local insurance agent at a dinner party – and we all know how that goes. To counter this lack of natural banter, insurers often engage with trivial topics (and all these are real) such as "the most underappreciated musical instrument," "favorite 1980s movies," and “Cheerios or Cheetos." To be honest, watching insurers in social media is a bit like watching a sixth-grade dance.

Now look at the agents' perspective. Social media is a sales tool; it is a way to connect with existing customers and generate referrals. Social media is an extension of how they think and work. Agents have no hesitation in recruiting friends on Facebook or LinkedIn. Engaging with contacts on social media or at the Rotary Club is just part of a normal day.

Brian Hanley of the Murray Group agency in Albany epitomizes this approach. His number-one objective is to retain existing customers. This requires excellent customer service, approachability and always being in touch. His second objective is to grow through referrals, so a good reputation is vital. Hanley never wanted to be a social media expert; he is an agent, but resourceful and accomplished enough to write a blog and is comfortable with social media platforms. He routinely asks his customers if they are on social media, and if so, seeks permission to ‘friend them.’ As a personal request, this is usually accepted. He writes blog posts to help his customers and posts messages with strong local interest. He is not trying to sell but to deepen relationships. He takes advantage of the fact that Facebook distributes any dialogue he has with his friends to their network, thereby publicizing the relationship.

Hanley takes the referral process further by targeting Facebook ads at the friends of his current network, including the name and picture of their mutual friend. He only pays for clicks and limits his spend to $3 a day, providing him with three clicks of which approximately one a day develops into a prospect.

If it is so simple, why doesn't every agent do this? The answer is just as simple – they are not Hanley. Not every agent has the ability or desire to write blogs or has the time to post messages every day. This is where insurers and agents could really help each other: insurers need social media fan recruitment, and agents need content. It is a natural fit, yet few insurers have developed programs to create an influence channel. It is an extension of how the industry already works but sometimes the shiny new toy can blind us from the obvious.

They may have different viewpoints, but agents and insurers could better harness the power of social media to help them achieve their common goals.

This blog is adopted from an article printed in SocialEyes – for more information visit www.customerrespect.com/socialeyes.

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.

 

Comments (2)

Katie

Looking outside the box at other industries can be sometimes helpful. The 'blogger' has become critical to spreading a message for many companies but they struggle to create new content in the same way as agents. Intel has created "Free Press" with the message "You Are Free to Use This Content
- Free Press content is owned by Intel, but words, photos and videos we share on this site may be republished, edited, and re-used free of charge unless otherwise noted."

Terry

Posted by: Terry Golesworthy | June 21, 2011 3:05 PM

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Terry, Thank you for this! As an insurer that partners with independent agents, one of our goals is to provide content and resources through social media that agents can share with their customers and prospective customers ... in addition to providing resources to help agents participate in the social web in the first place. I'd love to hear more ideas on how we can make this content available so more of our agents subscribe to our blogs and use them as a source of content for their own websites, blogs and social network postings. I think sometimes agents hesitate to use our content, feeling that they need our permission, and my answer is always, "Please! Take it! Use it! Wash, rinse and repeat!" The point of all of this is to share.

Posted by: Katie H | June 17, 2011 10:40 AM

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