Social media has become part of our daily lives, and most of us would be lying if we said we only checked our various feeds once a day. In fact, 98% of internet users spend time on social networks, according to a comScore study. Social networking has changed how we get our news, interact with companies and brands and keep in touch with friends and co-workers.
But many insurance professionals view social media as a distraction or a fun break, especially when it intersects with their professional lives. They’ll check Facebook during lunch or scroll through their Twitter feed while waiting for a conference call to start when they could be using that online downtime to jumpstart their careers. In fact, only 21% of millennials say they’re using social networks for professional reasons more than they did in the past. In failing to use social networking to its fullest career-boosting benefits, insurance pros are missing significant professional opportunities — and they’re simply being left out of the conversation.
Research shows that people use social media for 10 broad reasons, ranging from the somewhat professional (sharing information) to the decidedly leisurely (just killing time). While it may be more fun to share that cat video or like all your friends’ baby pictures, engaging with other insurance professionals, using social networks as news aggregators and providing value to your followers, can have a much greater impact on your life.
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Let’s dig a little deeper into four specific ways insurance professionals can leverage social media to fast-track their careers.
1. Share knowledge
Research has shown that collaboration, especially when it involves individuals from a variety of disciplines, is one of the most effective ways to drive innovative ideas and solutions. Social media creates countless opportunities for one-on-one collaboration with some of the top minds in the industry. It also gives you the chance to establish yourself as a thought leader on a specific industry topic. Whether it’s a specialized coverage type or a particularly tricky step in the sales process, find the niche you spend a lot of time researching and share your results over your social networks. It’s an effective way to set yourself apart from job applicants or show your current employer that you’re ready to take on new challenges.
Finding the right Facebook and LinkedIn groups or Twitter hashtags are great ways to share knowledge, but there are even more niche insurance websites that offer their own opportunities to share knowledge with other industry professionals, such as sending out a quick, informal survey.
2. Engage in knowledge
Social networks also offer an opportunity to bounce ideas off people outside of the traditional insurance industry. Have a question about ridesharing services? Tweet an Uber driver. Have a tech question before a presentation? Tweet a self-proclaimed PowerPoint expert. The opportunities for finding — and providing — knowledge are only limited by the time you can commit to engaging through social networks.
Niche industry networks can provide a huge opportunity to learn from your peers’ experiences. Trying to get the skinny on that tough CPCU course? Some of the most common user-started threads in The Community relate to study advice for #CPCU exams. Industry professionals love helping others in the same boat they’re in, so don’t be afraid to post your question, no matter how specific or broad.
3. Gain knowledge
You don’t need to personally connect with every insurance thought leader to reap the benefits of social media. Perhaps the most straightforward way is to use it to stay current on emerging industry news and trends. Discussions about some of the most cutting-edge industry topics, such as drones and big data, are happening on social media, especially Twitter.
Facebook’s recent news that people are sharing 21% less personal information than in the past may not be great for Facebook’s stock, but it reveals an interesting trend: People are using Facebook to share news more than ever, providing users with an opportunity to use Facebook like a customized news aggregator. Staying on top of trends is a great way to learn how to prioritize designations to pursue and decide what new opportunities to seek as the industry changes. Being able to speak knowledgeably about emerging industry topics comes in handy during a job interview or networking event, too.
4. Network your knowledge
All these methods for engaging on social media can ultimately add to an increased ability to network, either directly or indirectly. Celebrities may need handlers and gatekeepers to oversee their social media accounts, but few insurance pros have others to manage their social media presence. Some of the top minds in the field are available for networking and sharing ideas — and most of them encourage it.
If you’re engaging with industry leaders and positioning yourself as an expert in various topics, it only makes sense that career opportunities will follow — just make sure your social media presence doesn’t contain anything too controversial or unprofessional. If you’re up to date on the emerging trends in the industry, you’ll be more prepared to chew the fat at the next conference or speak knowledgeably about a particular topic at a coming job interview.
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The key is to make the most of the networking opportunities that come out of your social media efforts. If you meet someone online, keep an eye out for opportunities to meet in person and to develop the relationship further. If you meet someone in person, make a note to connect on social media. Every new connection could be a job opportunity or career advancement waiting to happen.
Have you used social networking to advance your career? Chime in with a comment below.