One of the potential benefits of social media is the ability to build and strengthen relationships with customers and business partners, and insurers are looking for ways to leverage these sites to do just that.

Sun Life Financial sees social media as an emerging way to connect with customers online on social sites they are comfortable using.

The provider of insurance and financial services offerings, is taking advantage of a new partnership between social media site LinkedIn and Hearsay Social, a company that provides a social business platform for the financial services industry.

 In the partnership, Hearsay Social is providing its unified software product across various LinkedIn resources, an effort designed to allow financial firms and their advisors and wholesalers to use social media to engage clients in an effective, scalable and compliant manner.

Hearsay Social for LinkedIn enables financial services firms to manage and amplify their brands via LinkedIn Company Pages and advisors to expand their online presence and client engagement.

LinkedIn has expanded its APIs so that financial firms, through Hearsay Social, can manage their brand and communicate more easily and effectively and within regulatory guidelines from multiple areas of the site, including company pages, adviser pages and group forums.

The partnership by the companies reflects the trend of financial and insurance companies increasingly embracing sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as a way to boost sales and marketing while maintaining compliance with industry regulations.

See also Insurers and Social Media - Where are We?

Sun Life uses Hearsay Social globally for brand page management, including LinkedIn company pages, and is starting to use it for advisors and inside sales teams that use social media to connect for business, says Cynthia Stark, VP, Global Digital Strategy, at Sun Life Financial.

 

“The software enables us to monitor and archive all our activity in social media for compliance purposes,” Stark says. It also allows the company to plan its content and then publish to multiple social platforms simultaneously, easily track consumer engagement and participate in meaningful two-way dialogue, she says.

The business driver for using the technology “all comes down to building relationships,” Stark says. “Whether it’s on a corporate brand page, or an advisor’s LinkedIn profile, we’re in social media because that’s where our customers are. We want to provide content that can help customers with everyday financial challenges, demonstrate that we’re listening to their concerns, and learn from what’s going on in their lives.”

These are the things that build trust, Stark says, “and that’s the foundation of any good business relationship.”

Sun Life’s social media connections, both at the brand level and the advisor level, are growing significantly every year, Sharp says. “More people are finding us in social, and are finding value in connecting with us there,” she says. “We’re particularly excited about enabling our advisors to use social in a compliant and meaningful way, since those personal connections are very powerful.”

Another key metric for the company is engagement. “We value engagement that happens in social channels, but we’re even more interested in how much of that leads to even further engagement on our sites or in-person with our advisors,” Stark says. “We know our content is providing real value when someone clicks through to read an article and then continues to engage with even more content or an advisor after that.”

Sun Life is also benefiting from the opportunity to enhance customer service. “Social media is allowing us to publicly demonstrate that we are listening and taking action,” Stark says. She says the company was recently ranked 33rd out of 475 global companies in the 2013 Social Media Sustainability Index by Social Media Influence—the only North American-based insurer to make the list.

“One of the key things that index measures is how transparent we are in allowing and responding to comments and conversation, and I think it’s our efforts in this area that drove our ranking in particular,” Stark says.

The Hearsay Social software helps makes Sun Life more efficient and effective when connecting with its customers, Stark says. “Everyone—from our brand page managers to our advisors— has a ‘mission control’ that lets them manage content, publishing and conversations across multiple social platforms all in one place,” she says. “So they can share more helpful content, respond to comments faster, and gather insights from social media that builds better relationships.”

Sun Life’s overall social media strategy is to be where its customers are, adding value to their lives and engaging in meaningful two-way conversations that make it easier to do business with the company. The Hearsay Social offering fits in well with this strategy, Stark says, “because it enables us to do all of this at scale, both in terms of the number of social platforms we use and the number of people who are using them.”

On a corporate level, Sun Life uses several social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest. Today, the majority of its advisors who use social media are focused on LinkedIn, so the new enhancements recently announced are especially useful.

The company’s IT department plays a significant role in the social media initiatives. “The business establishes the need, and sets the pace for implementing social media within our organization,” Stark says. “However, any technology solution that enables social media use is thoroughly vetted by our IT team to ensure that it meets our high standards for security, privacy and reliability.”

IT is also looking for opportunities for the company’s various technology solutions to work together, to make it even more effective. For example, the Hearsay Social software has the potential to integrate with its customer relationship management (CRM) applications, which would bring even more insights about its customers into the dashboards of advisors, Stark says.

Sun Life has been fortunate not to have faced any major challenges in its social media efforts, Stark says. “Our most significant challenge has been internal compliance and legal feeling comfortable with how we are managing our reputation through social channels,” she says. “However, leveraging the Hearsay platform, we have successfully worked through this hurdle.”

See also How Country Financial Gets the Most Out of Social Media 

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