Like a steamroller moving downhill, social networking is taking its place among insurers looking to beef up their marketing efforts. Such is the news coming out of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Society, which queried members to find that the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook are reducing dependence on more traditional media such as Yellow Pages and mailing-list brokers.

Roughly 60% of survey respondents are using social networking sites for business purposes, notes the study. Three quarters of these (76%) have started using LinkedIn; nearly half are using Facebook.

"As Facebook gains a stronghold among the general public, and as business-related communities like LinkedIn grow in popularity with professionals, agents and brokers are recognizing the importance of staking a presence on these sites," says Kitty Ambers, CPIA, CIC, CISR, CPIW, AIMS Society executive director.

"Not only do these online communities offer opportunities to communicate more quickly and broadly,"  Ambers adds, "they represent an increasingly valuable source of referrals. Done right, an agency can use their presence on these sites to generate leads from people with whom they already interact. Plus, through the networks of these contacts, they can extend their reach even further."

Although business use of social networking tools is relatively new, early indications are that agents and brokers are pleased with the results, particularly with LinkedIn and Facebook. Forty-five percent of those using LinkedIn indicate that they are finding success; as well as 43% of those using Facebook.

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