Insurers and producers who truly benefit from their use of social media do so because for them, consistent, honest, give-and-take communications with consumers is not just a tactic but a habit. In his new book, “The Power of Habit — Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business,” New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg talks about “keystone habits,” i.e., those habits that “have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization.” If a company is always focused on the policyholder, always listening instead of just selling, always making customer-focused decisions, its social media participation will be natural, spontaneous and compelling. Conversely, if social media is treated as a “paint by the numbers” exercise, the conversations will be stiff and scripted and the results will be disappointing.
Some insurance executives still question whether social media represents a threat, an opportunity, or just another discretionary communications strategy. At the Insurance Marketing & Communications Association annual meeting in Toronto last week, Sam Friedman of Deloitte listed the six major threats/challenges facing the insurance industry. Social media plays a role in all of them.
- Struggling Economy: Every insurer is trying to find ways to cut costs and increase sales. Traditional mass advertising can be costly so savvy insurers are using lower-cost social media tactics to reach new markets and strengthen old ones.
- Regulatory Reform: State regulators are starting to focus on not just how insurers are communicating but also how they are mining and using social media data.
- Virtual Consumer: Social media is an indispensable bridge to those consumers who rely primarily on technology to obtain goods and services.
- Carrier-Producer Relations: Insurers are rapidly discovering the necessity and benefit of empowering and supporting their agents on the productive use of social media.
- Data/ERM Demands: Insurers’ appetite for reliable data is seemingly insatiable and social media delivers a treasure trove.
- Tech as a Game-Changer: Smartphone commerce and communications is a wave that is a becoming a tsunami that will overwhelm insurers which do not embrace it in all its forms, including social media.
The principal take-away: Insurers who believe they can wait or take half-measures until the economy improves or when policyholders and prospects demand social media engagement make a serious miscalculation. The soft market, lean marketing budgets, growing data needs, aging producer population, and tectonic tech shifts demand a new marketing paradigm. Younger insurance buyers won’t demand social media engagement from any carrier — they will just move to one that does. A portion of older, less tech-savvy buyers may be content for now with not using social media — but a growing percentage will also be lured away by competitors which demonstrate how social media delivers more value.
The principal take-away: Insurers who believe they can wait or take half-measures until the economy improves or when policyholders and prospects demand social media engagement make a serious miscalculation.
“Content is king” is a phrase touted as the key to successful social media participation (which it is). But what makes content compelling? What makes an insurance buyer want to come back to a producer’s or company’s Facebook page or blog again and again? And more importantly, what makes that buyer want to share that content with their friends and neighbors?
Ways to save money on a homeowners or auto policy or how to avoid straining one’s back shoveling snow are valuable topics. But just like your mother telling you one too many times to eat your broccoli, a steady diet of lectures wears thin quickly.
Not every post needs to be a masterpiece, but every one should pass the smell test. Will this post deliver a bit of advice or insight or humor? And will those reading it take it in the same spirit in which it is being given?
Productive social media is more about listening than it is about talking. If you are listening carefully to your current and prospective policyholders, what content would they most value? And are you sending signals that you want their comments and suggestions and stories? And when they do comment, criticize or praise, do you respond in a manner that invites them to return?
What Insurers Need to Know Before Taking Action
For every insurance company that has embraced Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, many others have remained on the fence or decided against participating at all. There are legitimate concerns about how social media can and should work in the insurance industry and what liability exposures may emerge, however, the decision to either wait or not to participate at all is often based on faulty assumptions or outright myths. To cut through the clutter, the following are some of the common misconceptions held by insurers. Continue reading