Tag Archives: social networking

4 Reasons Why Insurance Must Embrace Social Business in 2014

The past several years provide ample perspective on what it means to grow a business via social media, teaching us what works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. Early adopters are getting their social strategies down to a science; insurance companies commonly generate significant business value by enhancing existing customer relationships and expanding business  through social channels.

Research shows that the initial rush to get customers to simply “like” corporate pages on Facebook was misguided––“likes” for a brand have little value when compared with interactions between agents or reps and customers on an individual level through social media. Personal interactions can lead directly to sales, whereas a “like” rarely translates to dollars. Our own data at Hearsay Social supports this. One major insurance client shared that its agents who used social media to personally connect with customers and prospects had an average of greater than 20% more sales than those who don’t. Customer retention also improves drastically.

Based on our experiences working with numerous large, multi-line companies, I want to share four simple reasons why insurers need to become “social” businesses.

You will notice that these four principles have always applied to successful agencies and businesses; the communication channels are simply evolving.

1. To get found

Being “findable” used to require significant up-front marketing effort and spending. Agencies often invested heavily in ads, sponsorships, and prime real estate to be discovered and considered by prospects. But the way people research has fundamentally changed. Today’s buyers go online to research products or services before purchasing. Whether people are buying a book or a complex financial product, it’s safe to assume that digital research factors into the purchase process. Today, social media is one of the most powerful ways to help an agent or business get found. If a customer searches on Google, social media pages and profiles are typically at the top of their results.

Google Search Results
In this example, 3 of the top 4 results in a Google search for the name of a Thrivent Financial Advisor are for his social media pages, demonstrating how a social media presence greatly improves “findability.”

Additionally, with complex products like insurance or financial services, where the decision-maker relies on expert advice, they look for people whom their friends or colleagues recommend. Where one might have previously called friends and colleagues about where to take their business, people increasingly turn to social networks as the easiest way to find the right expert.

2. To grow networks

An extensive network has always been a key indicator of a good businessperson. Historically, new agents were trained to continually build and maintain strong personal networks. The same is true today, and the rise of social networks has made this entire process more efficient and powerful. Social networks online act just like shared connections in the physical world– online social networks provide the context, familiarity, and trust that allow good sales people to effectively establish a credible rapport to represent themselves and their brand.

Building and maintaining long-term personal relationships is also essential to gaining referrals and repeat sales. On social media, this means connecting with all your friends, colleagues, and business contacts from the offline world. Successful social sales representatives then use social media to connect with customers and continually engage before, during, and after a sales cycle.

3. To “hear” customers and start meetings warm

Listening to and understanding clients is a key characteristic that separates successful relationship managers from the pack. People share valuable information and buying signals on social networks, and gathering insights from posts makes it easy to identify and understand customer needs so that sales reps can truly go into meetings “warm.”

Hearsay Social Signals
Agents and reps can “hear” what is going on in their networks with Social Signals alerts that highlight key life events, such as weddings or new babies, that could be opportunities to reach out.

Companies that embrace social business provide their teams with powerful ways to pay attention to what’s going on with customers, which increases productivity. Information shared by consumers via social networks also helps relationship managers understand the appropriate time to reach out, with exactly the right information.

4. To build credibility

In the insurance industry, customers must rely on their agent, advisor, or wholesaler as an expert. Buyers don’t have the time to do their own research and stay up-to-date. Social media makes an enormously powerful and effective tool for sales reps to demonstrate expertise and consequently build trust. Industry-leading relationship managers share content via social channels to build credibility and educate customers. In addition, sharing content on social networks helps relationship managers stay top of mind with prospects with whom they haven’t yet engaged. When the prospect is ready to move forward, they know exactly who to contact to initiate sales conversations.

Social Media And The Insurance Implications

Most marketing and communication departments know all too well that social media and social networking sites are a treasure trove of opportunity for elevating your personal or corporate brand. Employees use social media for personal use, but also use it as a forum to talk about their boss, their company, their products, their problems and whatever else is on their mind. There are 200 plus social media sites in English alone, Facebook recently reached one billion users, and Twitter puts out more than 170 million tweets per day. That is a lot of free advertising!

However, what many businesses fail to remember is that, despite all of the positive aspects social media brings to a firm's marketing, communication, and sales efforts, it's also ripe with opportunity to damage their brand and cause a financial loss. While it's free marketing, it's also a lot of unedited content being published online that could be about your business, about your products, or attributed to you. Could a competitor feel that your employees are slandering their people or products? Could a competitor gain inside information about your organization? Could an employee divulge information that could get them fired? Could you or your employees inadvertently offend prospects and clients? In short, yes. As social media use continues to evolve and grow, it's important to consider this exposure to your organization.

Using Social Media To Generate Business Leads
All of this can be scary, but you can't ignore the great opportunities created by social media. Any organization not taking advantage of social media sites is signaling that it is not evolving with the times, and there is nothing close to matching the immediacy of broadcasting your news through social networking sites. A well-crafted social media strategy can generate a lot of interest in your product or services and drive traffic to your website where more specific information can be provided.

“In time, the proper execution of a focused social media strategy is an efficient means of staying in front of prospects. When the prospect has a business problem, your positioning as a credible, knowledgeable resource can help you get in the door and, hopefully, close the deal,” says Randy Stoloff, Director of Marketing and Social Media at AmWINS Group Benefits in Warwick, Rhode Island.

It is critical to have all content reviewed by someone within your organization that can be responsible for stopping improper content from being released. It's also important to review applicable insurance policies such as a website media policy or cyberliability policy to be sure social media activities are covered.

Using Social Media For Crisis Response
Imagine a time down the road when your best customers follow your social media feed and you need to get news out in a hurry about something that could cause your most prized customers harm. Assuming you have or hire qualified public relations professionals that can help you craft the proper way to phrase the announcement, you can get important news out immediately to show your concern for your customers and for transparency. Social media provides the most immediate way to communicate to your target audience. There are many insurance products currently available that assist with handling the public relations aspect of a crisis response. Having your social media presence established prior to a crisis will help you deal with the crisis in a targeted fashion.

Can Social Media Sites Be A Network Security Risk?
Besides the potential for hackers to use employee information on social media sites to figure out passwords, the sites can also be used to transmit computer viruses and other dangerous malware. As a result, many corporations block employee access to social networking sites. If the corporation has a cyberliability insurance policy in place, be sure it addresses security issues emanating from social media. The coverage may be limited to networks owned or controlled by the corporation.

Should I Address Social Media In My Employee Handbook?
This is a topic that requires legal counsel with experience in employment law as well as social media. It makes sense as a business owner to establish a guideline on what social media activities are permissible for employees, but it must be carefully worded. The National Labor Relations Board has published guidelines that may help. Most companies work very hard to establish a professional image and reputation. Employees often mistakenly think that commenting in social networking sites is somehow exempt from personal responsibility. The press is full of examples of disgruntled employees commenting on working conditions, complaining about their managers or coworkers, or commenting on confidential internal activities. Employees have been terminated for their conduct and they've sued for wrongful termination. You are likely to find coverage for the wrongful termination claims on your employment practices liability (EPL) insurance policy. Working with a professional is critical for navigating this minefield. You may not be able to avoid the litigation, but you can lay the groundwork for an effective defense.

Do I Need A Social Media Component In My Employment Contracts For My Executives?
Your top executives can also make mistakes using social media. Sensitive information can be leaked out accidentally by people who see the most sensitive information. Similar to non-executive employees, managers who have been terminated due to their social media activities have sued their employers for wrongful termination. Again, look to an EPL policy for coverage for that type of claim.

Should I Review The Social Media Content Posted By Job Applicants?
Many states have enacted laws barring employers from requesting full access to an applicant's social media profile. We have all heard stories about a prospective employer seeing improper pictures or comments by the applicant which influence the decision to hire or not hire them. Some employers have taken it one step further and requested login credentials from job applicants in order to see all the content they have posted. It seems like an obvious invasion of privacy, so laws are being written to protect the rights of job seekers. The claims that can arise from this scenario could have coverage apply under the “wrongful failure to hire” coverage on an employment practices policy, as well as an “invasion of privacy” policy as part of a cyberliability policy.

Scared Yet?
There are reasons to be concerned, but the opportunities need to be investigated with a proper foundation of preparation. It is also important to remember that there are insurance products available to help protect you after missteps. If you have an employment practices liability policy, you likely have some protection from wrongful termination claims and invasion of privacy claims brought by your employees. If you have an internet media or cyberliability policy, you could have remedies for allegations of libel, slander, defamation and invasion of privacy claims brought by other parties. A strong cyberliability policy will have protection from breach of security claims if hackers use social media to access your computer network for malicious purposes. It's possible that other insurance products can offer assistance as well. AmWINS represents multiple insurers with all of these insurance products and can help you select the proper coverage for you and your clients.

The Insurance Implications Of Social Networking Websites, Part 2

This is the second part of a six part series of articles discussing insurance coverage for claims that can be brought against individuals or companies because of the use of Social Media websites. Additional articles in this series can be found here: Part 1 and Part 3.This article discusses coverages potentially triggered under Coverage B — Personal and Advertising Injury and any applicable exclusions.

Personal Injury Offenses Covered In Commercial General Liability And Homeowners Policies
Most Commercial General Liability policies contain Coverage Part B that provides coverage for personal and advertising injury. Some homeowner and renters policies, but not all, provide coverage for personal injury. Carefully review the policy to determine if it does provide personal injury coverage. If not, then coverage must still be analyzed under Coverage Part A for bodily injury coverage, which will be discussed in part three of this series.

The definition of “personal injury” is typically:

13. “Personal and advertising injury” means injury including consequential “bodily injury” arising out of one or more of the following offenses:

a. False arrest, detention or imprisonment;

b. Malicious prosecution;

c. The wrongful eviction from, wrongful entry into, or invasion of the right of private occupancy of a room, dwelling or premises that a person occupies committed by or on behalf of an owner, landlord, or lessor;

d. Oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that slanders or libels a person or organization or disparages a person's or organization's goods, products or services;

e. Oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that violates a person's right of privacy;

f. The use of another's advertising idea in your “advertisement” or

g. Infringing upon another's copyright, trade dress, or slogan in your “advertisement.”

The policy may contain additional offenses or endorsement that modifies the definition of “personal injury.” However, typically only subsections d (libel/slander) and e (invasion of privacy) are typically implicated when a claim is presented for claims related to social media.

To trigger “personal injury” coverage, the complaint must arguably allege a claim that constitutes at least one of the offenses listed in the policy. The policy does not provide coverage for other torts alleged in the complaint that do not constitute specifically enumerated offenses contained in the definition of “personal injury,” but that may bear some similarity to those offenses listed in the policy. There is no coverage if the complaint does not allege or the plaintiff does not recover for an enumerated offense.

There may still be coverage under the policy for a claim asserted in the Complaint that alleges a non-enumerated offense so long as it occurred during the course of an enumerated offense.

In Western Cas. & Sur. Co. v. International Spas of Ariz., 130 Ariz.76, 634 P.2d 3 (1981), for example, the insured had leased a portion of its premises for the operation of a beverage service. The insured had terminated the lease and excluded the lessee from the premises. The lessee sued the insured for breach of the lease, conversion of personal property, conspiracy to interfere with business and contractual relationships, and imposition of a constructive trust. The insured sought “personal injury” coverage under a Commercial General Liability policy, arguing that the lawsuit alleged a wrongful eviction even though no such claim was asserted.

The carrier argued that the policy only provided coverage for wrongful evictions of patrons to the insured's facilities and not the wrongful eviction of its customers (i.e., lessees). The Arizona Supreme Court rejected this contention and stated that the policy contained no such restriction limiting liability. Instead, the Supreme Court held that the carrier had an initial duty to defend because two of the counts (conversion and interference with business relations) alleged torts committed during the course of the alleged wrongful eviction.

In the social media context, a complaint may not specifically allege an invasion of privacy or a defamation claim, but alleges that the defendant intentionally or negligently inflicted emotional distress when it published defamatory comments about the plaintiff. Under those circumstances, the policy may provide coverage because the emotional distress claim, although not an enumerated offense, occurred during the course of an enumerated offense; namely, defamation or invasion of privacy. A similar analysis would apply if the complaint alleges an intentional interference with business relationships claim that arose out of the publication of defamatory materials or material that invades the privacy of an individual.

Some policies contain the enumerated offense “outrageous conduct,” but may not define what constitutes the offense of “outrageous conduct.” A savvy insured's attorney may argue that because the term “outrageous conduct” is undefined, it is ambiguous and should be construed against the carrier to provide coverage for the social media claim; more specifically, that the conduct of posting any comments, pictures, videos, or other items on the Internet is outrageous. Some jurisdictions have held that the lack of a definition of an operative term in a policy does not necessarily render the term ambiguous. In determining whether a policy term is ambiguous, a court may first examine the purpose of the term or phrase, public policy considerations, and the purpose of the transaction as a whole and also construe the policy's provisions according to their plain and ordinary meaning.

The term “outrageous conduct” is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as “Conduct so extreme that it exceeds all reasonable bounds of human decency. See EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.” Black's Law Dictionary also defines “emotional distress” as follows:

A highly unpleasant mental reaction (such as anguish, grief, fright, humiliation, or fury) that results from another person's conduct; emotional pain and suffering. Emotional distress, when severe enough, can form a basis for the recovery of tort damages. — Also termed emotional harm; mental anguish; mental distress; mental suffering. See INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS; NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS. Cf. mental cruelty under CRUELTY. [Cases: Damages 48-56.20. C.J.S. Damages §§ 94-104; Parent and Child § 344; Torts §§ 66-83.]

Thus, the offense of “outrageous conduct” involves the infliction of mental distress. Indeed, the term “outrageous conduct” is a legal term of art that refers to a claim typified by the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46. Various courts have concluded such, albeit in the non-social media context. See, e.g., Hines v. Hills Dept. Stores, Inc., 454 S.E.2d 385, 390 (W. Va. 1994) (“Our review of the case law discussing the tort of outrageous conduct illustrates that it is a difficult fact pattern to prove. A certain level of outrageousness is required, as explained in the Restatement (Second) of Torts….”); Kelly v. Resource Housing of Am., Inc., 615 A.2d 423, 426 (Pa. Super. 1992)(“The tort of outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress is outlined at the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 46….”); LaBrier v. Anheuser Ford, Inc., 612 S.W.2d 790, 793 (Mo. Ct. App. 1981)(“Missouri has recognized the tort of outrageous conduct as defined by § 46 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts”).

Whether posting inappropriate comments, pictures, videos, etc. constitutes outrageous conduct is probably a factual issue that will not be addressed in this article. Suffice it to say that in reviewing policies, attorneys, adjusters, and insureds should be careful to review the actual offenses listed, review the relevant case law addressing those enumerated offenses, and any legal or common dictionaries that may define such phrases before making a determination whether the social media claim may be covered by the policy.