Social media is this newfangled communication gizmo that comes with lots of bells, whistles and even kazoos, but what’s it for? Simple answer: To communicate, but with a few wrinkles.

What are the wrinkles?

It is a two—way conversation. So is the telephone, you argue — no big deal. But these conversations are conducted largely in public. So when we talk to people, others may be watching — can’t that be awkward? Yes, and it gets worse. More often others are the ones doing the talking or shouting, or airing your dirty laundry in public. Then again, they might be talking about you without ever inviting you to join the conversation.

What do they say? Whatever is on their minds. Sure, there are some good things, but there’s probably more bad stuff.

Could we ignore it? Sure, you could, but the conversations goes on — you’re just not included.

What’s wrong with the tried and tested process of creating product literature, having our compliance folks make it largely incomprehensible and then ramming it through the channels?

Have you heard the story about Marie Antoinette’s response when, just before the French revolution, she was told that the peasants had run out of bread? She said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (“Let them eat cake”). That would be an appropriate analogy — the communication revolution is here, and the peasants are taking charge.

As such, many insurers have already started to play with this shiny new toy but have found it hard to adapt. Social media demands a “repartee” with people referred to as connected consumers. It looks and feels awkward. That doesn’t mean it can’t work, because, simply speaking, it must. Social media, despite many of your best wishes, is not going away.

All aboard — A few hints and tips:

You cannot sell insurance on social media. But that’s what we do, you say, we sell insurance — what else is there?

You can’t be dull or boring. But we are insurers, you say — we pride ourselves on our ability to bore the pants off anyone, anytime.

You need to develop a “voice” or personality, to be chatty, quick to respond and friendly. Now you are going too far, you say. We are zero for three on that list.

So How Do We Do It?

First of all, to have a repartee, you need partners; but who wants to have social banter with you? The definition of banter is “playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.” Perfect description of insurance. No, I didn’t think so. But before you write it off: While there are plenty of documented failures, many can be attributed to choosing the wrong voice, dancing to the wrong tune, bantering with the wrong crowd — in simple terms, not having the right strategy.

To explore the issue deeper, we’ll use data supplied to us by Facebook. We’ll use Facebook simply because Facebook seems to have the least respect for privacy (that’s a good thing for our analysis).

Simplistically, there are two distinct options an insurer can choose. Most insurers end up with a blend but with emphasis on one or the other.

Option 1: Be Likable

This is simple; recruit fans, as many as you can afford. Now make them laugh, coo with delight, and vow them with your philanthropic generosity. Your goal is to entertain while slipping in the occasional insurance post and hoping not too many of them notice and kick you off their newsfeeds. In short, pretend that you are not an insurance company but that you play one on TV.

You want to post messages that prompt a quick reaction — this I call the “lazy like.” For this to work, posts need to be simple and easy to understand, and ideally should come with a compelling image. Think pictures of kittens.

Why do you want these lazy likes, you ask? Well, two reasons: First, Facebook will think that the “liker” regularly engages with you and must really like what you say. Facebook will then send more of your messages to that person. This I call the “Shameless Edgerank Manipulation” technique. (Edgerank is Facebook’s algorithm to magically calculate affinity between two parties).

I said it has two benefits. The second is better: Friends of the “liker” might notice this “like” and that triggers the reaction, “Huh, I need an insurance company and my friend likes that one — and that insurer is so very funny — that’s one of my top reasons for choosing an insurer.”

Now, be warned, this option is getting harder. Fans are getting bored with brand messages blasting onto their newsfeeds, so you’ll have to pick up the pace a bit over time. Luckily, Facebook (well, all platforms) can help here by offering you greater access in exchange for some coins.

So here are the most “Likeable” Insurers:

So from the table, we see that the leaders, by likes as a percentage of interactions are mostly national carriers, many of whom have big ad budgets and creating brand awareness is a valuable part of the marketing program.

The Like option is a natural extension of brand awareness. When we look at the normalized likes, there is a very different picture. Almost no correlation but we see higher number, that is, greater fan penetration when there is a higher emotional connection as with American Collectors and Classic Car enthusiasts, Farmer Charlie and the farmers of Tennessee and USAA and their service members. But it also shows the strong appeal of Mayhem as a brand mascot, easily eclipsing other mascots.

Option 2 — Be Shareable

Given that you are not “likeable” (strictly in the social media stakes — I am sure you are all very likeable), what is the second option? Well, back to the repartee point — who would dance with you, or actually care about what you have to say? Revolutionary, I know, but you need to provide content that is interesting for some people. Now, we want to trigger the reaction, “Huh, that’s so helpful and fascinating that I must share that with my own (real) friends.” Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but you get the point.

This is called social amplification — you have something to say but need help. Social amplification has great benefits. Information reaches the next person in the network (someone you have no connection with) from one of their real friends and not from the big bad nasty insurance company. Consequently it is more likely to pass through Facebook’s big brother Edgerank algorithm because it is now between parties with true affinity. In addition, coming from a real friend, it is blessed with some degree of recommendation — someone you know personally thinks this would be helpful.

The frequency of posts will be lower, and as there are a limited number of people that find you interesting, the number of fans will be significantly lower. This is quality, not quantity.

This option seems more obvious for most insurers, but it is actually much harder to implement. Remember, this is where we are looking for the reaction, “Hey this is really interesting…” Frankly, very little you have produced in the past 10 years would fall into that category — tough love, sorry. Your fans are people, and however much you think they like you, they like their real friends more and they are not going to bug them with boring insurance information. So who are the top dog sharers?

In the table above, the leaders are not large national players to the most part. Shelter, Travelers, Auto—Owners and Erie all focus on providing content to field agents, which drives up their share rates. California Casualty (nurses, firefighters, teacher, police) and Allstate Motorcycle have natural communities that are emotionally connected. Modern Woodmen and Thrivent are fraternal organizations with community membership. In short, the sharing leaders are connect emotionally with their communities. GEICO are on the sharers list as are Farmers but penetration is extremely low among the fan bases.

Most regional insurers are best advised to explore the sharing option. You do need to accept that you not very likeable, but you knew that already. Deep down, you knew, despite someone telling you that you have thousands of fans, that these were not really fans, not in the way Justin Bieber thinks of fans or, more important, how fans think of Bieber. Your Facebook fans are not going to scream and shout each time they see one of your ads, mob one of your local agents demanding autographs or camp outside the next Insurance and Financial Services Conference.

So who are these fans? Well actually, and this is where we get back to basics, some customers might like you, certainly most of your employees should like you, and even some of your agents find you tolerable. All these people have social networks. So before you go out and recruit strangers, consider your friends and family. Give them information that makes them knowledgeable. Helpful hints and tips work well, and so does advice about preparing for new seasons, disasters, etc. Leave the jokes to others; there are plenty of entertainment sites on Facebook, and you really are not that funny.

This analysis is simplistic, but I make no apologies. We did not include information on comments, for example, because writing a comment can be a big investment in time but equally can be manipulated by simple questions such as “Cheerios or Cheetos?”

Who Are the Top Dogs and Most Connected?

According to EdgerankChecker, a share gets nearly five times the social amplification of a like. Taking these two actions alone, weighting shares by five and dividing the result by fan count gives up some view of the most emotional connected insurers are for Q2 social leaders. This figure is listed in each table under the column of “Connected”. Most of the leaders in the sharers table with only American Collectors and Farmers Charlie representing the “Likeables”. The leaders are Hancock, Shelter Insurance, Auto-Owners, American Collectors, Safeco and Allstate Motorcycle.

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

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

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