Attend any presentations about social media at an insurance conference and you will undoubtedly see a slide that displays the latest data on the incredible number and variety of people active on social networks. I do not question the numbers but do question the value of the slide – social media is about connections, not mass marketing. Visualize social media as an upside-down sales funnel diagram. Instead of broadcasting to “many” in order to reach a few as with traditional marketing, social media is about connecting with a few and incentivizing them to amplify your reach through their own social networks. The combination of technology, especially mobile, and social networks has enabled everyone to be a publisher, a reviewer, a recommender or brand disparager.

Funnel

But if you want to leverage the social connections of others, then you must ask the question: what’s in it for them? It can no longer be just about your message or story.

The most pragmatic approach is to look at your immediate networks. But why would a customer, an employee or an agent pass along information from an insurance carrier to friends and family? For an insight, we can learn from an industry that has long struggled with a distribution and message control problem: the music industry. According to a presentation by Marcus Collins and Chaucer Barnes at Social Media Week on “Creating Cultural Contagion,” people share for one of four reasons, to:

  • Generate social currency: we share things that make us look good.
  • Evoke emotion: “This is unbelievable – you have received this!”
  • Provide utility: a practical value that feeds into our intrinsic need to help others.
  • Tell a story: facts we forget – stories we retain and retell.

But where do you start?
The obvious place is with employees, agents or even a small number of customer-brand advocates. Alternatively, it could be the local community around head office or people with specific interests or occupations. The premise is that people like and communicate with people like themselves. New parents connect socially with other new parents, truck drivers with other truck drivers, and college kids with other college kids. If you can reach one member of a group with content that meets the criteria for contagious content, then they are likely to share with others.

The major problem arising from this approach is that relevant content is required for each community for this to work which fragments marketing and expands the need for content almost exponentially. This is part of a great content balancing act. It is not the ultimate business goal of insurers to have people to share content, there must be business value. In some cases it is relatively easy to earn shares. Insurers have gained, and still do gain, hundreds of thousands of social interactions by posting images of kittens and puppies, but for what business value? Other insurers get minimal social amplification because there is no value to the sharer.

Social networks are viewed by some as simply plumbing. In that case, insurers need to learn how to use the pipes for maximum business value – not too much product but not too social either. One thing is clear, effective social media use will be harder, more expensive and less successful than anyone has ever suggested in industry presentations. But that does not warrant standing on the sidelines. Current and prospective customers, whether business or personal, now have access to information and advice that just five years ago would have been unimaginable. At that time it was a controlled environment and information was carefully guarded by industry professionals. Insurers now need to learn how to play with the new rules.

This blog was posted with the permission of the Customer Respect Group.

Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, has covered technology issues and innovations in the insurance industry for many years.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Terry using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He also can be reached at terry@customerrespect.com.

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

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