Insurers have built Facebook fan pages, but it seems that almost nobody visits them, according to a joint study by Facebook and Comscore. So why build them and spend time and money recruiting fans to “like” the companies? It turns out that consumers spend a lot of their time looking at the News Feed page. According to the same study, insurers are between 40 and 150 times more likely to be noticed on the News Feed than on their own fan pages. So how do you get on the News Feed?

The answer is dialogue – not a natural thing for insurers that are generally not known for witty and chatty conversation. You need fans because every posting may be seen on the News Feed page of every fan. Should a fan interact with a posting, you hit gold – pass GO, collect $200 and go straight onto the News Feeds of the friends of the fan, increasing your reach 50-fold. The key phrase was “may be seen on the News Feed page.” Facebook acts as a gatekeeper, deciding what its consumers would most likely enjoy reading. Facebook calls it “Top News.” It should not surprise you that this works against insurers. One critical parameter used to determine likely interest is the regularity of dialogue between the fan and the poster – which requires a constant stream of two-way dialogue.

Postings about annuities or life insurance – while interesting to (some) readers here – look less compelling on News Feeds where baby announcements, holiday pictures and Lady Gaga information are posted. Even then, if a fan reads a post, is he or she likely to engage by posting “Nice annuities” or “Wow, life insurance kicks”?

So what is an insurer to do? One thing is to play the game. Progressive was one of seven insurers in July to ask, “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” Mayhem from Allstate posted, “I’m the crying baby who really doesn’t see what your schedule has to do with my issues.” Even relatively conservative USAA posted, “’Me no dum-dum. You dum-dum. You bring me gum-gum?’ Name that flick and then share another line from the movie.” These simple postings get responses, sometimes in the thousands, and that dialogue opens the door for more business-related posts to appear.

It is, however, a game, and to many carriers, insurance is not a game. It is hard for carriers to be trivial, funny and personal. They relate to traditional, conservative and careful. This illustrates why social media is a challenge; it is not just another marketing channel, it is about developing relationships, engaging and even altering the company’s public image.

And, if you know the answer to USAA’s question, please add it to the comment box.

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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