Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Limitations of Social Media

I ran across a great piece by writer Franz Wisner who lamented about social media, that in “the rush toward the instant and the intimate we’ve left something vital behind: our core stories. We’re awash in the information of now, ignoring our pasts and our futures. The problem is you can’t have one without the other. What’s the meaning and value of snapshot information without a deeper context?”

I am a passionate advocate of social media for both insurers and producers, however also understand its limitations as well as its power. The insurance industry needs to tell its story to buyers, not by beating them over the head with wordy ads and dense legal explanations and arguments, but rather with concise, accessible, spontaneous, accurate and ongoing dialogue. Clearly, this is a role that social media can and must play. However, this does not mean social can or should replace other forms of communications. The rule, however, that states that social media’s effectiveness starts with compelling content applies equally to other tools such whitepapers and reports. These longer documents can deliver critical details and insights that social media cannot provide. But their value and effectiveness is diminished if they fail to engage the reader in the same way social media must engage.

The fact is, our industry needs to do a far better job telling the insurance story in plain English, regardless of the forms they take.

Insurance Is a Customer Service Business Too

Regulatory oversightAn insurance policy is a legal contract. Insurers and producers are also bound by laws and regulations designed to protect both the insurance buyer and the industry. That is why it is easy for some to dismiss social media. Either they ignore it completely in the belief that it participation is just too risky or they treat it as just another communications tool to push out the corporate, and highly scripted, message.

The insurance industry is also in the customer service business — just as much as any local restaurant, shoe store or national retailer or airline. Insurers represent a lifeline to their policyholders when disaster strikes. Increasingly, today’s consumers want to be reassured from time to time that their selections of a carrier and agent were the right ones. They want to know they are getting value for their money. They want to be given the information and tools to make their own choices. They don’t want to be lectured or scolded.

Airlines and many retailers have discovered how social media can overcome even the most difficult customer confrontations. It is a bit trickier for insurers to navigate in a medium that depends on transparency and spontaneity for its effectiveness.

Being a regulated industry is no excuse, however, for ignoring or dabbling with such a powerful a tool with which to tell the insurance story.