Consultants' Corner

Who Connects With Insurers on Social Media? What's In It For Them?

Terry Golesworthy
Insurance Experts' Forum, May 1, 2013

Social media for insurers is at a crossroads, with many in the industry having completed the first phase, often in the form of the obligatory company Facebook page. Success metrics have not progressed very far from their early usage, however, they continue to be dominated by easy-to-measure interim metrics such as followers, fans and likes.

To be sure, insurance is not an especially interesting subject and many insurers hardly mention it in their social media outreaches, instead concentrating on trivia, tips and especially powerful graphic images—but for what purpose? Are we are creating an authentic dialogue that helps the business, or playing a social media game?

According to Frank Eliason, now SVP of Social Media for Citibank, whose fame came from being the man behind @ComcastCares, “People are focusing on the completely wrong metrics and not properly educating executives on the real story of social media. Today, companies are focusing on metrics such as ‘likes,’ fans and followers. These metrics tell you nothing of substance. Few companies tie this information directly to their customers through measurements such as the net promoter score of the social customer, what products they are buying, etc.”

These sentiments are echoed by Augie Ray, director of social media at Prudential Financial: “Social media was supposed to strip away the meaningless clutter of the mass media era, exposing true brand affinity and advocacy; instead, social media marketing strategies have encouraged brands to post any meaningless thing in pursuit of a comment, like or share. The irony is that none of this actually helps brands—just as inauthentic fans cannot create authentic engagement, neither can inauthentic engagement build authentic brand value.”

Nobody questions that consumers have flocked to, and spend an unbelievable amount of time on, social media. We also know there is a lot of discussion about insurance and insurers. But how do consumers feel about insurers being part of that conversation?

According to Social Bakers, the average person in the United States now “likes” 70 brand Facebook pages and each page posts an average of 36 times per month—this has the potential to deliver over 2,500 brand-related posts per month. Not surprisingly, therefore, 71 percent of consumers say they're more selective about “liking” brand pages and 81 percent have “unliked” a page. The two most popular reasons for shunning brands is that their wall was becoming too crowded and posts were becoming too promotional. Insurers are certainly not immune to this shifting behavior; indeed, 1 in 5 insurers experienced negative Facebook fan growth in March.

The next phase of social media is going to be more difficult: Consumers are going to seek greater value for connecting, and that might be in search of better customer service on social channels. According to Social Bakers, the volume of questions posted on Facebook (and this is across all industries) has increased 26 percent in 6 months, with an average response time of 13.7 hours. This response time contrasts with the expectation of 60 minutes held by 42 percent of consumers. A few insurers, including State Farm and USAA, have added customer support tabs to their Facebook pages, but the majority of insurers still see Facebook as a digital brand and marketing tool.

To make social media work for the organization, insurers must ask themselves the question, “Who would want to socially connect with an insurance company and what is in it for them?” We need to think of social media as a way to connect with our customers, communicate with our staff and educate our agents—to encourage them to represent us to their own social networks. We need to provide our advocates with content that is helpful and worthy of sharing. Insurance is a business based upon trust, and people now place greater trust in the advice of friends, neighbors and family than any marketing materials.

One simple but effective example is finding an agent or adviser; this is vital to the industry and can obviously benefit from social networks. Potential customers can search for an adviser using LinkedIn with Ameriprise and Facebook for Liberty Mutual. This allows potential customers to find someone they already know or known by someone in their own network. This will likely be more effective than the standard zip code search.

Insurers need to think more about how to make social media work for the benefit of the business and less about how to play the social game, gaining thousands of ‘likes’ for a picture of a cute puppy.

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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