Tag Archives: social media

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.

Directive Communication Systems’ Lee Poskanzer

Lee Poskanzer, CEO and Founder of Directive Communication Systems, talks with ITL CEO Wayne Allen about the growth of digital assets and why access to these are at risk of being lost in estate planning without specific legally compliant steps to protect them for heirs. DCS, he says, aims to make this process easier for individuals to decide which assets—from social media, cloud storage, bank accounts and more—should be passed on and to whom..before it’s too late.


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A Scary Future for Life Insurance?

Web users, especially business owners, already have plenty of good reasons to be careful with what they put online. Shifts in public perception, the increasing threat of data leaks and continual attempts to steal your identity might be enough. However, new state rules for New York’s insurance companies could highlight another worrying trend. What you post could affect your premiums.

It’s already legal for insurance companies, including life insurance and business protection insurance providers, to use public data to decide what you pay. From credit scores to court records and now including your Twitter feed, they can effectively use nearly anything they want to set insurance prices.

Now, however, New York is taking a bold step forward as the first step to codify the practice. Discrimination by race, sexual orientation, faith and other protected classes is still illegal, but the use of personal data to inform insurance decisions is a trend that many are worried other states will follow.

See also: New Efficiencies in Life Insurance  

Your data is just another way for insurance companies to measure your risk and make more efficient decisions. Regulations are designed to keep the needs of the companies and their customers both satisfied, but many are concerned that it’s just giving the providers license to be more invasive when deciding premium rates. Your rates aren’t only decided by what information you fill out; examinations are reaching further and deeper into our data than ever.

The automation of the industry is making it easier to collect and collate data from many sources, but there’s always a human involved in the judgment, and many are concerned that business protection and life insurance providers expose too much.

Social media use in setting insurance premiums isn’t commonplace, yet. Only one of 160 insurers in New York use it, but “big data” is spreading across industries, showing the power of using data from diverse sources. At the moment, social media is used to determine falsehoods in applications, but there’s no reason it can’t be used in ways that customers might consider more invasive. And while discrimination is prohibited, some fear there’s nothing to stop providers from doing deeper dives. In many cases, the deeper you look into anyone, the more likely you are to uncover something that could be used to raise their premiums.

Algorithms may seem impartial, but they are designed by humans with all of their own biases. One textbook example is COMPAS, which predicted where crime would occur based on criminal justice data from the U.S. The tool vastly overestimated rates of recidivism for black defendants while underestimating the same risk for white defendants.

This trend of using social media data might not be widespread just yet, but there are justified fears that social media surveillance and investigation will become more common as reliance on the technology spreads. As such, it may be even harder for customers to see what affects their premiums, as much of it could be determined by big data gathering information from dozens of sources and obscure algorithms used to highlight risk factors.

This risk of surveillance, even if it has no application in reality, affects how we use the internet. A trend toward “deleting Facebook” arose shortly after its sizable data breach last year. Data-sharing from sites and businesses of all kinds has seen use of virtual private networks (VPNs) skyrocketing. This might seem prudent, at first, but if our social media use is being so closely monitored, then we’re less likely to use those platforms to talk and associate freely.

The issue isn’t just in the data we share, but also the data we consume. If a business protection insurance provider looks at who you follow on Instagram, what’s to stop it from deciding premiums based on whether you follow high-risk individuals, even if you are not a high-risk individual yourself? The same goes for health and life insurance companies, which could raise premiums because someone is seen as a higher risk because they are part of suicide prevention groups on Facebook.

Business are already under great scrutiny for their social media, mostly by customers, which is justifiable. However, when it comes to business protection insurance and key man insurance, the premiums for protecting the people and assets most important to your business’s growth could be rising for reasons that are more obscure than most will be able to work out. We don’t know how far into your posting history insurance providers can go in their search for data, so it’s best to create a strong social media policy as soon as possible.

The law is always slow to catch up on technology. While many fear that the wheels may not turn in time for smart, context-driven regulation, other solutions are being looked for. Some want broad restrictions on the ability of insurance providers to use public information, while others are fighting for great transparency. Some consider it of utmost important that insurance companies be clear with what data drives their premium setting, as well as when new algorithms and data sources are used to adjust them.

See also: How to Resuscitate Life Insurance 

However, insurance companies have a vested interest in protecting their algorithms and how, exactly, they find their premiums. Protection of trade secrets and other intellectual property is part of what keeps them competitive. Furthermore, if the widespread ignoring of terms and conditions on the internet shows anything, it’s that notices of new algorithms may not register with the majority of customers. Most people simply don’t understand the technology that could be used against them.

More detailed regulations, such as a need for algorithmic impact assessment, are looked at as another potential solution. In answering questions that find out the data that insurance providers use, why they use it, what they test and whether they have tested the system for bias, discrimination could be halted in its tracks. The insurance industry and its customers rely on the ability to use the data available to set premiums based on risk level. However, the threat of discrimination is driving concerns.

Removing Language Barriers for Insurers

One of the bigger issues at InsureTech Connect this year, I expect, is a result of advances in globalization and technology: How can providers more efficiently address multilingual needs without, say, a lot of Rosetta Stone? The challenges aren’t confined to insurers operating internationally; increasingly, geographic diversity presents this challenge within nations.

For example, what happens when an American customer traveling in Spain needs help urgently, but will be routed to the nearest call center–in Germany? And that office doesn’t have a translator?

Perhaps the matriarch of a small family business, run by non-English speakers in the Midwest, needs to purchase a policy? How can you upsell? Google Translate alone won’t work in such a complex situation; we need technology that quickly understands tone, slang and cultural context in addition to intent.

Even Facebook is just now getting into language-barrier solutions. How we communicate with potential customers affects the way they receive the information–and that can go well, or not.

This need extends to the point people for customer acquisitions: brokers. But after underwriting, it is the provider–not the broker–that does all the serving. If brokers aren’t adopting strong translation technology programs, those customers are lost. (Which is why we’re seeing insurance companies providing their brokers with materials in different languages.)

Luckily, advances in automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence have shown to cut costs, boost efficiency and improve capabilities at scale, across industries. For insurers, technology can now provide multi-language support through an automated customer service system, a capability we didn’t have just five years ago.

See also: 26 Most Important Words in Business  

In legacy automated customer service systems, the program looks for individual keywords within an interaction. But today, technology can absorb 100 paragraphs–a library of text that reflects a displeased customer. Agents can even, for example, see whether the customer hung up mid-call, or used profanity.

Simply put, each of those 100 paragraphs is assigned a numerical number–some as long as 100 digits, each with a label that reflects those human details that can get lost in automated service–anger, happiness or anxiety. It’s a sentient technology.

Codifying language using a binary library speeds up processing time by making it easier to find complex combinations of words, as opposed to the previous method of searching for keywords.

Another weakness with the traditional keyword search is that it can throw off algorithms. If a customer declares, “I’m red in the face with your service!” the program will not be able to interpret it for what it is–especially when translating across languages.

Insurers can no longer keep up with the old model of staffing a few well-versed interpreters now that people opt for digital platforms, like text. That’s largely because consumers are opting for text-based communications, like email or messaging apps, over call centers. Translation needs have shifted to digital text, which demands an entirely new solution.

Artificial Intelligence can digest a call in one language, translate it and transcribe it as a ticket–even assigning a score to each conversation. This score is important, because it determines the routing and triage process. If Company X decided to challenge itself and escalate any conversation that scored under 80%, the company can do that–and it can all be automated.

For the past few years, Microsoft has been on the forefront of this sector, but still has drawbacks: Users must train the system over time, because the program is industry-agnostic in its application. When this same cutting-edge technology is built exclusively for the insurance industry, it becomes far more powerful. Over the last three years, we’ve seen that 90% of customer questions will be the same, with only 10% unique to the system’s “brain.” That promises better accuracy and a smoother move across the pipeline.

See also: Language and Mental Health

Because this is a translation issue, it’s no surprise that we are seeing a lot more demand for multilingual support in the travel industry, particularly with EU carriers, which serve a diverse range of demographics. A close second is demand we’ve seen in small business property and casualty insurers. Research has show that Russian is an important language to accommodate, as the population is traveling more.

The value of investing in advanced translation technology is transparent. Policies are sold in a process that involves around eight touchpoints–the referral from a friend, the initial phone call, the in-person visit, the medical exam, follow-up calls, to name some. Customer experience determines wins and retention. When a broker is selling a life insurance policy to someone–and can deftly communicate in their language—it makes sense that customer affinity (and thus their sales) would go up. Add in the ability to do all of this across platforms–messaging apps, email, chatbots, Alexa or social media–and it will make a difference in the bottom line.

Facebook, WhatsApp Are Dangerous

Facebook’s woes are spreading globally, first from the U.S. to Europe and now in Asia.

A landmark study by researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. has established that Facebook has been fanning the flames of hatred in Germany. The study found that the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and those living in large cities and those in small towns were alike susceptible to online hate speech on refugees and its incitement to violence, with incidence of hate crimes relating directly to per-capita Facebook use.

And during Germany-wide Facebook outages, which resulted from programming or server problems at Facebook, anti-refugee hate crimes practically vanished — within weeks.

As the New York Times explains, Facebook’s  algorithms reshape a user’s reality: “These are built around a core mission: promote content that will maximize user engagement. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, perform best and so proliferate.”

Facebook started out as a benign open social-media platform to bring friends and family together. Increasingly obsessed with making money, and unhindered by regulation or control, it began selling to anybody who would pay for its advertising access to its users. It focused on gathering all of the data it could about them and keeping them hooked to its platform. More sensational Facebook posts attracted more views, a win-win for Facebook and its hatemongers.

See also: Too Much Tech Is Ruining Lives  

India

In countries such as India, WhatsApp is the dominant form of communication. And sadly, it is causing even greater carnage than Facebook is in Germany; there have already been dozens of deaths.

WhatsApp was created to send text messages between mobile phones. Voice calling, group chat and end-to-end encryption were features that were bolted on to its platform much later. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 and started making it as addictive as its web platform — and capturing data from it.

The problem is that WhatsApp was never designed to be a social-media platform. It doesn’t allow even the most basic independent monitoring. For this reason, it has become an uncontrolled platform for spreading fake news and hate speech. It also poses serious privacy concerns due to its roots as a text-messaging tool: Users’ primary identification being a mobile number, people are susceptible everywhere and at all times to anonymous harassment by other chat-group members.

On Facebook, when you see a posting, you can, with a click, learn about the person who posted it and judge whether the source is credible. With no more than a phone number and possibly a name, there is no way to know the source or intent of a message. Moreover, anyone can contact users and use special tools to track them. Imagine the dangers to children who happen to post messages in WhatsApp groups, where it isn’t apparent who the other members are; or the risks to people being targeted by hate groups.

Facebook faced a severe backlash when it was revealed that it was seeking banking information to boost user engagement in the U.S. In India, it is taking a different tack, adding mobile-payment features to WhatsApp. This will dramatically increase the dangers. All those with whom a user has ever transacted can harass them, because they have their mobile number. People will be tracked in new ways.

Facebook is a flawed product, but its flaws pale in comparison with WhatsApp’s. If these were cars, Facebook would be the one without safety belts — and WhatsApp the one without brakes.

That is why India’s technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was right to demand that WhatsApp “find solutions to these challenges which are downright criminal and violation of Indian laws.” The demands he made, however, don’t go far enough.

Prasad asked WhatsApp to operate in India under an Indian corporate entity; to store Indian data in India; to appoint a grievance officer; and to trace the origins of fake messages. The problems with WhatsApp, though, are more fundamental. You can’t have public meeting spaces without any safety and security measures for unsuspecting citizens. WhatsApp’s group-chat feature needs to be disabled until it is completely redesigned with safety and security in mind. This on its own could halt the carnage that is happening across the country.

Lesson from Germany

India — and the rest of the world — also need to take a page from Germany, which last year approved a law against online hate speech, with fines of of as much as 50 million euros for platforms such as Facebook that fail to delete “criminal” content. The E.U. is considering taking this one step further and requiring content flagged by law enforcement to be removed within an hour.

The issue of where data are being stored may be a red herring. The problem with Facebook isn’t the location of its data storage; it is, rather, the uses the company makes of the data. Facebook requires its users to grant it “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content” they post to the site. It assumes the right to use family photos and videos — and financial transactions — for marketing purposes and to resell them to anybody.

See also: The World Doesn’t Need Silicon Valley  

Every country needs to have laws that explicitly grant their citizens ownership of their own data. Then, if a company wants to use their data, it must tell them what is being collected and how it is being used, and seek permission to use it in exchange for a licensing fee.

The problems arising through faceless corporate pillage are soluble only through enforcement of respect for individual rights and legal answerability.