Tag Archives: social media

Lessons on Reaching Customers Remotely

Although insurers have readily adopted technologies to serve their customers, they’ve been less enthusiastic about using the same technologies to support their employees. Perhaps that’s one reason only 4% of millennials in 2018 showed an interest in working in insurance and 28% of financial services employees expected to leave their employers within five years.

To remedy this talent problem, there’s been a call for insurance companies to adjust their organizational structures, give young talent greater flexibility and improve their work cultures. If collective calls for change were the push, then the pandemic was the shove. Practically overnight, insurance companies had to adopt tech solutions for their employees and agents to maintain business continuity without being in the office or visiting prospects and clients. One recent survey reports that 60% of insurance professionals who responded have been working from home 100% of the time during the pandemic.

It’s clear that the insurance industry may not return to “normal” for the foreseeable future. When the first wave of the pandemic hit, companies learned to use tech to facilitate business. Now, the challenge will be adopting tools and practices that balance the best of technology without losing the one-to-one connectivity that’s the industry’s lifeblood.

Social Media and the Future of Work for Insurance Companies

The insurance industry’s evolution may have been slow until recently, but the industry hasn’t been stagnant. Most companies have shifted toward providing more customer-centric experiences.

Some have leveraged artificial intelligence to deploy more personalized services, such as using chatbots to answer inquiries or process claims. These solutions can serve as a framework for using even more advanced technologies. For instance, casualty companies are using IoT-connected sensors, real-time satellite information and unmanned aerial vehicles to assess accidents and natural disasters with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

No matter how useful these solutions may be, however, they cannot replace the human connection, an essential element in insurance. In my view, success with technology starts with taking the authenticity of relationships to digital channels, social media being chief among them. Here’s why:

1. Social media helps maintain smooth, consistent communication.

Communication skills have always separated the underperformers from the superstars, and, in insurance, effective and proactive customer communication is king. In fact, a survey from Collinson showed that two-thirds of customers want further communication from their insurance providers, and three-quarters would like to receive product and benefits recommendations. Yet most insurance companies reach out only for transactional matters like policy updates (67%) and renewal notices (79%).

The tech industry has mastered digital communication because tech companies have always sold products and services to customers remotely. Now, it’s time for the insurance industry to adopt a similar communication style, and social media is the medium of choice. This is especially true now that American adults are using social media more frequently. Insurance companies must prioritize consistent, engaging social media communication with prospects and customers to future-proof their businesses.

See also: Insurance Tips for the Remote Workforce

2. Social media allows agents to connect with customers from anywhere.

Many tech companies were already experimenting with remote work before COVID-19. Twitter, for example, was testing ways to create a decentralized digital workforce. Now, more are pledging to embrace remote work permanently

While a permanently digital workforce might not suit insurance companies as well, there is still a lesson to be learned: The impacts of the pandemic have launched us into a lasting transition to the future of work. As agents turn to social media as a new way to connect with their customer base without the opportunity to meet face-to-face, they’re discovering that no other marketing channel can come close to replicating the two-way dialogue of face-to-face conversations. The benefit of connecting with customers from anywhere at any time won’t be lost once agents can meet with clients in person again. Social media outreach and engagement should continue alongside traditional communication tactics as an efficient way to form connections.

3. Social media amplifies the voice of your best brand ambassadors.

Tech companies have understood for years that people trust other humans over brands and companies. It’s no wonder tech influencers on social media can gain millions of followers. Insurance companies should take note and put real people behind the face of the brand to build trust.

An insurance carrier’s agents have, arguably, the most intimate knowledge of the company’s culture, service offerings and customer needs, so the marketing team would be wise to tap this organic source of advocacy. Empower agents to use social media on behalf of the brand, whether that means posting branded content to humanize the brand, sharing educational articles for customers and prospects or simply answering questions and concerns directly.

Don’t forget to arm them with the right tools and content to represent your brand properly. As digital natives enter the industry, they’ll want access to resources to help them succeed and organizations that will offer egalitarian structures. Social selling gives each agent a voice and flattens the organizational structure. However, as agents have greater geographic flexibility, it’s important to manage social media activity for compliance and brand continuity.

Insurance companies rely on genuine connections and risk management expertise daily, but the workforce won’t be back in the office anytime soon. With digital transformation already underway in the industry and the astronomical growth of social media use among adults, it’ll be easier for them to find their footing in the future of work.

To Post or Not to Post? Choose Wisely

Social media can be a rewarding place for insurance agencies – it provides a platform to build relationships with customers and prospects and, ultimately, grow revenue. The benefits have never been greater. In fact, a recent study from Sprout Social indicates that, after consumers follow a brand on social media, 91% will visit its website or app, 89% will make a purchase from the brand and 85% will recommend the brand to a family member or friend.  

But social media can also be an unforgiving place. Over the last year, we’ve seen an uptick in social media fails as businesses tried to join conversations about trending headlines and serious issues – from pandemic developments and racial justice to election validity – sometimes causing irreparable reputation damage and business impact.

As consumers increasingly turn to social media to inform decision-making, it’s critical for agency owners to build their social media skills to navigate the risks and reap the rewards. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Establish the ground rules.

Creating general social media guidelines for your agency will help you make faster and smarter decisions in any situation. The guidelines can be as simple as a one-page document that outlines:

  • Your social media objectives 
  • Your target social media audience
  • Your social media “voice”
  • Topics you will/will not address on your channels 
  • Frequency of posting
  • Engagement approach 
  • Who has access to post on your social media accounts
  • When and when not to respond to conversations

These guidelines can and should evolve along with your agency. Revisit them regularly to ensure they still complement your overall business strategy. 

2. Be a good listener.

While you shouldn’t make posting decisions based on what everyone else is doing, you also shouldn’t make decisions in a vacuum. It’s important to truly understand a trending situation as well as the mood on social media and in traditional media before making a decision about whether to post. 

As you evaluate the situation, look at the conversation that’s already happening. Are other agencies jumping in? If so, what’s driving that? How are people responding to that content? Are the media stories about agency response positive or negative? Are your customers and prospects joining the conversation? Are they asking you to join? Why? Understanding the landscape can help make a decision that feels right for your business and the moment.  

See also: Personal Connections Via Social Media

3. Walk the walk.

When the racial and social justice movement gained momentum last summer, businesses were eager to show their support on social media. Those with a track record for actively discussing and addressing these issues were greeted with positive feedback. Those that issued hollow statements about support and solidarity without action were savaged. For example, Ben and Jerry’s statements were viewed as appropriate because the brand and its founders have a long history of social activism, while the NFL’s statement that included the phrase “we need urgent action” was blasted. 

4. Pause when appropriate. 

Sometimes, you just need to hold off on any kind of social media posting – either because everyone’s attention is elsewhere or out of respect for the situation at hand. For example, many insurance agencies we work with paused on posting around the presidential election because that event dominated the social media conversation. And we’ve advised them to pause during moments of national and world crisis because of the gravity of those situations. Continuing to post promotional content at these moments can imply your agency is disconnected from the world around you – or simply doesn’t care. Pay attention to what is happening in the world and pause posting during times of crisis.

5. Engage with care.

Treat the content you like and share with the same care you treat your own social media content. Before you deem something worthy of engagement, review it carefully. Verify the content’s accuracy, check for hot-button language, know your source and review the current comments to avoid an inadvertent issue. For example, a controversial news figure might post something completely neutral on Twitter that you think is relevant to your customers. However, your customers might view a retweet of that post as an endorsement of the controversial figure.

6. Live the brand. 

As an agency owner, you are the brand, and anything you post on your social media accounts becomes a reflection of that brand. In a recent New York Times story, journalist and digital communication expert Sree Sreenivasan summed it up well: “The fact is that it’s impossible to separate the personal use of social from the professional, and everything you say online can and will be used against you. There are ways in which you can try to safeguard your privacy and control who sees particular content, but the onus is on you to be vigilant. So, the more seriously you can take your social media activities, the better.” You can mitigate your risks by embracing the same social media guidelines for your business and personal accounts. 

Every day on social media, agencies of all sizes are judged by what they say and what they don’t say. Understanding the risks that come with a social media presence – and how to mitigate them – is just as important as understanding how to use these platforms to connect with customers.

Want to See Social Media Genius?

Over the weekend, Korean pop made news because fans supposedly helped bait the Trump campaign into overestimating by an order of magnitude the number of people who would show up for a rally in Tulsa, Okla. No matter how big the actual effect, K-pop can serve as an exemplar for insurers and agents as we all try to figure out how to engage with clients more often and increase their affinity for our brands.

Yes, there will have to be considerable translation — and not just from Korean to English — to bring ideas from K-pop’s outreach into our industry. Insurance customers would never even want to hear from companies and agents as often as K-pop fans engage with the idols — “idol” being an official term for a K-pop group member.

But K-pop is very much an industry, with “factories” that create idol groups from among the thousands of youngsters who sign up for several years of training on how to sing and dance and on how an idol should act. And the interactions with the fan base are carefully and skillfully designed.

Now, no insurance company will ever get 750,000 fans to simultaneously do anything, as the most popular K-pop group, BTS, did with a live, pay-per-view concert last week — my daughters stayed up to watch from 2am to 4am California time. But let’s take off our insurance hats for a moment, look at the sorts of outreach BTS does and see if we can’t be a bit more creative about what insurance clients might appreciate.

The group of seven young men, ranging in age from 22 to 27, have released four albums in two years, an aggressive schedule. But it’s the steady stream of creative ways they interact with fans in between albums that stands out for me. Since my younger daughter found time to indulge her BTS fan-dom — when her law school classes went online and her side gig as a waitress in the D.C. area was put on hold — I’m sure a week hasn’t gone by without some lengthy bit of new material. Sometimes, it seems that barely a day goes by.

In their seven years as a group, BTS has produced more than 100 episodes of Run BTS, a sort of variety show where they do things like bungee jumping or competing at a water park. The videos are engaging on their own, despite the need for subtitles for those many of us who don’t speak Korean, while letting fans see the individual personalities in ways that can’t always come across in the group’s highly choreographed, elaborate shows.

Members of the group appear regularly on a live streaming app where they may, for instance, talk to the camera about what’s going on in their lives or may answer fans’ questions. There’s nothing slick about the production values. A recent one showed two members sitting in a kitchen trying to figure out how to make gimbap, a traditional dish akin to sushi rolls that their moms made for them growing up. That’s it. But fans love the videos. (An American singer learned one day that a song he had released a while ago had popped to the top of the iTunes charts in South Korea. What was going on? A BTS member had sung the song on one of the live streams. That’s all it took.)

BTS recycles old material creatively, too. For instance, the group “held” a festival in April that replayed eight of their concerts from 2014 to 2018.

The group leans into social causes, as well. For instance, BTS donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter causes — fans almost instantly raised a matching amount, then an individual fan, pro wrestler and actor John Cena, added a further $1 million. This week, the group announced that it was donating an additional $1 million to a cause helping those whose work at concert venues has been canceled by the pandemic. BTS, and K-pop in general, have become so identified with social causes that fans in the U.S. identified hashtags associated with white supremacy and flooded them with K-pop videos to drown out expressions of hate in the wake of George Floyd’s death. (The New York Times detailed the K-pop activism this week.)

If BTS itself ever posts a photo on Twitter, well, look out: There could easily be two million likes.

The steady interactions with fans have produced unprecedented popularity for a K-pop group. They were not only invited to appear on the YouTube “graduation ceremony” in early June, alongside the Obamas and others, but were given two large blocks of time, first so each of the seven could offer thoughts to the graduates and then to perform three songs.

Of course, that sort of exposure just feeds more popularity. When BTS released a single a few days ago, called “Stay Gold,” it instantly went to the top of the iTunes charts in more than 80 countries. BTS’s last four albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, a Herculean feat given that songs in Korean get so little radio play in the U.S., and radio play is such a big factor for Billboard.

How can insurers match BTS?

They can’t, not even if Greg Case, Brian Duperreault or some other executive sings and dances a whole lot better than I know. But it seems to me that there are still lessons that can be learned from the group’s outreach, about the benefits of continual (welcomed) communication, about the different possibilities presented by various media and about the lack of need for great production values, even from the industry heavyweights.

In personal lines, I imagine that health and auto insurance present the greatest opportunities.

During this pandemic, especially, there are loads of reasons for my health insurer to be keeping me updated about what’s being learned about how the coronavirus is spread, what preventive measures I can take, what therapies are showing promise, how many cases are being found in or near my ZIP code, etc. I already gather that sort of information on my own, but I’d certainly welcome an occasional email from my health insurer that promised me updates. I might well click through to a video that illustrated some key point or to a brief Ask Me Anything-style post, whether in word form or just as a Zoom-style recording of some expert sitting in her living room answering questions I might have. Nothing fancy needed: just some good information delivered periodically.

Al Lewis delivers through Quizzify the sorts of updates I’m imagining; his employer clients send monthly trivia quizzes that educate employees about COVID and other current topics, as well as broader healthcare issues, both to help employees and to keep them from undergoing unnecessary care that can cost employers dearly. But, as far as I can tell, health insurers could be doing a lot more.

My auto insurer has kept me updated about premium credits as long as mileage plunged for months, but why not also tell me about how quickly driving is picking up, what the new version of rush hour looks like and is likely to look like, etc.? Auto insurers might run out of topics much faster than health insurers, but there are still event-based communications that I’d welcome. For instance, I relied on personal experience when teaching my daughters to drive, but surely there is a host of collected wisdom that an insurer knows about and that could have been flagged to me as soon as a teen showed up on my insurance. Again, the advice could have taken a variety of forms, many of them low-cost, along the lines of an Ask Me Anything — perhaps augmented by a slick video designed to scare the bejeezus out of kids about all the bad things that their phones can suck them into doing.

The same sort of email/social/video outreach could work in small commercial lines, too, especially at a time of so much uncertainty. Think a pizza parlor or small retailer wouldn’t welcome a stream of advice, with the promise of additional resources, on how to reopen while protecting customers and employers? Think they wouldn’t welcome help thinking through all the workers’ compensation issues that are floating around?

The really good agents and brokers are, of course, pulling together all sorts of advice and providing it to clients in our current health and economic crisis. But it seems to me that the advice outreach could be much more systematic, could be organized more by the insurers so that more agents can provide top-notch service and should be set to extend long after the crisis passes.

So, think BTS. You’ll never be as popular as they are. But think about the language barriers they overcame while establishing links straight into the hearts and minds of so many, and take heart.

As the latest single says in its opening:

In a world where you feel cold
You gotta stay gold

Stay safe. And stay gold.

Paul

P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:

We Are Open for Business; Now What?

Expectations for success continue to rise as more businesses reopen with safety as a top priority.

Keys to ‘Intelligent Automation’

Combining robotic process automation and machine learning, IA accomplishes the end-to-end automation of business processes.

Insurance Innovation — Alive and Kicking

An abundance of startups shows the industry adopting a two-speed strategy, around speed of operation and speed of innovation.

3-Step Framework to Manage COVID Risk

Insurers need a comprehensive yet customizable approach to assess operational risk quickly and dynamically and chart responses to COVID-19.

Epic Policy Failure on Contractors

California is making a mess as courts, the legislature and possibly voters sort out who qualifies as an employee and who as a contractor.

Loss Prevention or a Trojan Horse?

“Ecospheres of prevention” sound great, but they may just be a way for insurers to use, say, leak detection devices to gain leverage on clients.

How Social Selling Can Boost Results

Not that long ago, people didn’t have information at their fingertips, and businesses were successful in using outbound sales and marketing methods such as cold calling and email blasts to close sales.

Today, the buyer’s journey has changed thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and other advancements in technology. Now, 57% of the purchase journey is completed before a customer has contacted a business (according to CEB), and 67% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally (SiriusDecisions).

The rise of social media has encouraged organizations to look into ways that they can use the technology, which has led to the development of social selling. 

What are the benefits that social selling offers? 

1. It appeals to the modern buyer

B2B buyers have 12 to 18 non-human and human interactions along their buyer’s journey (Sirius Decisions), and 68% of buyers prefer to research products and services online (Forrester). It’s essential that you develop and push information and content on social channels that resonate with your target audience and provide the solution to their problems. 

This will enable you to influence their choices and position your business as front of mind. 

2. It allows you to build “real” relationships

How many cold calls do you actually answer, listen to and respond to? 

It’s time for businesses to break down the barriers around selling and get on the same page as their customers. Social selling supports this as, through social media listening tools, you’re able to listen to topics and conversations that are relevant to the insurance and risk management industry.

Added to this, a survey from IBM revealed that only 43% of consumers trust the insurance industry, and the lack of trust in insurance providers has remained above 50% since 2007. Social selling helps you build trust among your audiences by giving you insight into what’s important to your prospects and presenting new opportunities and leads. 

3. Your competitors are already using social selling

71% of all sales professionals are already using social selling tools, so if you aren’t you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage (LinkedIn). A report by ITDS revealed that 100% of insurance firms are active on LinkedIn.

According to a study by Capgemini, 22% of insurance policyholders cite social media conversations and interactions as having the highest impact on their purchasing processes. This ranks above the influence of the advice of friends and family, which only 17% of policyholders indicated as most important.

4. The Mere Exposure Effect 

The Mere Exposure Effect was first spoken about in 1968 by social psychologist Robert Zajonc. This social phenomenon states that the more a person is exposed to something, the more the person will develop a preference toward that thing over time.

Social media lets businesses tap into this theory through regular and consistent posting and updates. When you’ve created and put into action a dedicated strategy, you can begin to use social media channels to your advantage and ensure that you have messages trickling through all the channels that your audiences use, creating multiple touch points with them.

See also: 7 Business Models of the Future for Insurers  

If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail…

To successfully leverage social selling, you need to optimize your social channels to showcase your expertise. For example, research from LinkedIn revealed that members with a photo receive 21X more profile views and nine times more connection requests compared with those that don’t.

So, what do you need to do to give a positive first impression on your social channels?

Here are my top tips: 

  • Post a professional head and shoulders image of yourself 
  • Write your bio/summary to highlight your expertise and what you do on a professional level
  • Include links to your website and other social channels to encourage visits 
  • Use hashtags that your prospects follow
  • Create lists on Twitter to monitor content from specific accounts 
  • On LinkedIn, include your job title and keywords in your headline, ask for recommendations to boost your credibility and join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and begin networking in them 

Social selling best practices

Once your profiles are ready to be rolled out, it’s time to kick off your social selling strategy. 

Dedicate yourself

Start by creating a plan and setting aside time to dedicate yourself to building your social presence. Being present on multiple social channels can be time-consuming, but if you spend 30 minutes every day monitoring your channels, engaging with others and posting content it’ll help ease the pressures and ensure your feeds are always up to date. 

Create and stick to a content plan 

The purpose of a content plan is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging and sustainable content that engages, resonates and attracts your target audience. In today’s social web environment, getting the right message to the right customer at the right time is crucial. To stay front of mind, build rapport and trust and position yourself as an expert, you’ll need to have a solid content plan in place. 

Take advantage of social listening

Create and use social lists and monitoring streams to collate what people are saying about you, your company, your industry and competitors, and identify what questions they’re asking and topics they are talking about. 

Maintain relationships once you’ve created them 

Once you’ve made connections, it’s important to stay engaged with them. So, comment on and like the content that is posted by your prospects. 

Be sure to offer advice and guidance to them and contribute to their conversations in a meaningful way if they ask questions.

Share testimonials 

Success stories from other customers have a lot of weight, and research from Pretty Links suggests 92% of buyers trust recommendations from peers, and 70% trust recommendations from strangers.

By gaining and sharing third-party testimonials, you’ll start to build your credibility with prospects, and it’s more likely that they’ll begin to trust your business.

See also: Business Models, Moats and Startups  

Track engagement 

Tracking metrics such as likes, comments and shares will allow you to identify the types of content that resonates the most with your audience. And, it’ll enable you to determine if your social selling activities are paying off.

Understand when to take your connections offline 

To land a sale, you’ll need to escalate the connection with a prospect by offering a call to continue the conversation offline and on a deeper level. It’s important not to push a call before prospects are ready. 

Research revealed that the dollar value of the opportunities for insurance companies to drive results through social media is over $15 million a month (Marketing Tech).

9 Social Do’s and Don’ts for Agents

Social media can be a great tool for insurance agents. It can help connect them with current and potential customers, grow their network of industry colleagues and share and be aware of timely information that affects their business. However, being active on social media as a professional is easier said than done, for both new and experienced users alike.

Our team has outlined some key do’s and don’ts that agents should keep in mind:

DON’T disclose anything proprietary. It’s imperative that agents understand what is confidential when referring to their clients. You also don’t want to give away any trade secrets, your business growth strategy or the names of your partners that would give competitors a leg up.

DO use case studies on social media. They can be a great way to illustrate a point or show how you were able to bring a creative solution to a client problem. Just make sure the case study is generic, broad and doesn’t mention any participants specifically.

See also: Important Perspective for Insurance Agents  

DON’T use inappropriate language. Curse words are a given to steer clear of, but the importance of the language you use extends far beyond that. Make sure the language you use is concise and clear and, what’s more, that what you say is tailored to your audience. Using too much industry jargon and posting about things that your audience can’t relate to will alienate readers. Lastly, don’t be self-promotional or sales-y – for example, capitalizing on selling your flood insurance program after a natural disaster.

DO present yourself as a thought leader. Providing industry expertise by sharing timely articles on industry news and trends and commenting in a smart way on others’ posts when you can will set you apart on social media. Be timely and provide quality content – not just fluff. Give your audience something that is useful to them and, when appropriate, invite them to respond to what you post with a call to action, such as signing up for a webinar you’re hosting or joining you at a local networking event.

DO interact with your network. It can be intimidating at first to put yourself out there and interact with your network, but doing so is an important part of maximizing the potential of social media. Liking, commenting and sharing posts that you see in your newsfeed or that are posted by colleagues are the easiest ways to interact with your network. In turn, be sure to respond to those who comment on your posts.

DON’T let negative comments or posts linger. Arguably even more important than responding to positive interactions on social media is addressing the negative. While your first reaction may be to ignore a negative comment or post, knowing when and how to address them makes the situation much less daunting. First, always respond in a timely manner – but make sure you have your thoughts together and don’t respond brashly. Second, take the conversation offline as soon as possible. This can be as easy as responding with a polite comment and offering a direct number. It’s also important to recognize that each negative comment should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis – there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

DO measure your social media activity. Agents should have metrics in place so they can measure against true success on social – likes and follows don’t always mean success! One key way to do this is to be knowledgeable about engagement rates. For example, it’s much more meaningful to know how many people have seen your content and are taking an action on what you share (i.e. liking, commenting, sharing) – or, better yet, navigating to your website! – than if you’ve added one or two followers.

DO stay authentic. Independent insurance agents are based on community – the more you can be active on social media, the more you’ll raise engagement with your brand as a professional and with your business. That being said, show personality. People want an agent who is a human, not a social media robot.

See also: Find Your Voice as an Insurance Agent  

DON’T get intimidated. Social media is somewhat intimidating to independent insurance agents, in general, especially the ones who aren’t as familiar with social media and who are older. Regardless of age, don’t hesitate to get started. This is vitally important because, to be successful in today’s world, you have to meet your customers where they are. Ramping up your activity level on social media can be slow – break things down into manageable tasks. For example, start by spending 20 minutes per week on the platform connecting with people or sharing an article, or liking or commenting on three posts.

This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice. It is not intended to be a substitute or replacement of any workplace policy on the subject matter.