A couple of months back, I talked about the insurance industry's secret weapon when it comes to analytics: agents.

In a new piece in Ad Age Digital, Clara Shih takes the concept to the next level: insurance companies have a leg up in the social networking realm as well with their well-organized agent structures.

“Insurance agents are the most natural 'social networkers' on the planet, she points out. “They were educating clients, investing in long-term relationships and growing their businesses through word-of -mouth referrals long before social, mobile and digital technologies existed.”

Accordingly, the research firm IDC considers the insurance industry to be one of the early adopters of social networking.

And not just through endless tweeting or friending, which often doesn’t translate into real-world quality relationships. Agents have the personal, in-depth relationships of which social-media companies could only dream. “Any savvy chief marketing officer knows that social media ROI cannot be computed just by soft metrics like fans, followers or retweets,” Shih adds. “The effectiveness of your programs comes down to customer acquisition and retention, and the insurance industry has cracked the code.”

The agent culture that has driven the industry for years and decades has added incredible punch to insurance companies' advertising capmaigns, Shih says. Consider the successes of Mayhem the Allstate villain, Flo the Progressive Girl, Snoopy representing MetLife and the GEICO gecko, she elaborates. (And, I would add the Geico cavemen to this list.) “For an industry completely dependent on selling a product that you can't hear, see, smell, taste or touch, this is nothing short of impressive.”

Shih's column is another good case for continued strong investment in solutions that enhance communication and collaboration with their agents. Agents need to have access to all the training and support possible to provide the highest and fastest levels of service possible with their customers. Before pouring all that money into analytics software and servers, be sure there is enough investment in the most powerful and intuitive social network on the planet—agents.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

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The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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