Consultants' Corner

Which Insurer is Best with Social Media and How Long is a Piece of String?

Terry Golesworthy
Insurance Experts' Forum, April 13, 2012

Augie Ray, head of Social Media at USAA, says “Social media is not a strategy, it is a channel. If your company does not have a telephone strategy or a postal mail strategy, it doesn’t need a social media strategy. And never build a strategy around a social network. Instead, build it around people and their needs, then see what social networks fit. You do not need a YouTube strategy or a Facebook strategy; you need customer service, product, marketing and content strategies that include YouTube and Facebook.”

This is great advice and insurers would do well to refer to it regularly. Often I am asked “Which insurer is doing best with social media?” This brings to mind an equally hard question: “How long is a piece of string?” There is no simple answer to either question but in the case of the former, it depends entirely on the business objective. The only true thing is that putting up a Facebook page because everyone else has one is wrong.

As an example, how can you compare recent initiatives from Progressive and Foremost Insurance?

Susan Rouser, social media manager at Progressive Insurance, says about the “Best Day” campaign: “We understand that not everybody is in the market for insurance right now, so when it comes time for people to shop, we want to be top-of-mind as the last brand that made them smile.”

Jeff Bair, executive director, strategic management at Foremost, in describing their social media strategy says, “Supporting our distribution base, independent agents and producers are a key element of our value proposition. In strategic marketing, our informal mission statement is, ‘We think up cool stuff to help producers add and retain more customers.’”

Both are excellent campaigns, but with such different objectives, they cannot be compared. Equally flawed is any comparison of common metrics such as fan count and engagement rate. Don’t get me wrong, these metrics can be vital and interesting—and we spend a lot of time collecting them—but they are only important in the context of the business objective. Progressive’s Flo has a Facebook page that has 3.9 million fans and even though it attracts interaction, full-scale one-on-one dialogue is impractical. On the other hand, Modern Woodmen of America is highly engaged with its 1,300 fans. Just as valid are Allstate Motorcycle, with 60,000 Facebook fans that engage extensively with each other, and the Facebook fans of Joel McKinnon, a Farmers Insurance agent, that provide him a constant flow of news about their life events.

This is the exciting and possibly most challenging aspect of social media; it's about the most versatile channel we have experienced. While phone and email are primarily one-to-one and a website is one-to-many, social media can be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many and many-to-one. So expect an ever-increasing array of uses and initiatives but don’t focus on social media, focus on how the channel is used to advance the business strategy.

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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