Effective use of the various forms of social media can play a huge role in the success of your business. Therein is the crux of the issue — “effective use.”
To simply start using social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc., without a plan has the potential to result in several problems, including some legal in nature. After all, when you started your agency, didn’t you have a strategy detailing what type of business you wanted to write and what type of agency you wanted to become? I doubt you just opened the doors and shouted, “We’re open!”
There is tremendous power to social media and what it can accomplish. For example, do some YouTube searches to see “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Many businesses have turned to social media to get their message out and tell their story. A well-developed marketing strategy should incorporate various degrees of social media. Whether your agency is currently using social media or if you have been thinking about it but didn’t quite know where to start, there are important issues to consider.
Define Social Media Goals
Begin your social media efforts by securing some of the many useful resources available on the web, at the library or at your favorite bookstore. Look for resources that go into the details/benefits of each of the possible approaches.
A solid step is to write down on paper what you hope to gain from using social media and what you are trying to accomplish. While jumping in with “both feet” might sound exciting, it is probably best to start with a cautious, conservative approach. You could also avoid some potential legal issues with the proper thought and planning.
Develop a Guide
Develop a social media guide that provides “dos” and “don’ts” for the agency. This will ensure you have the proper procedures/controls in place. It should include all media your staff may use (email, face-to-face, online forums, chat rooms, blogs, etc.) and should be developed with input from human resources, marketing and other departments. Your guide should include comments that:
- The “rules” apply to information not only on your agency’s site, but to comments made about the agency by employees on their own personal sites.
- Employees should not reveal secrets or speak ill of the competition.
- Confidential/private consumer information should not be communicated via social media.
Advise all employees of this guide and secure their agreement with the contents.
Education: A Great Objective
Due to the ability of social media to deliver compelling ideas and advice on a variety of topics, education is a common objective. This should be effective in branding your agency as a reliable resource in that industry, which should drive clients and prospects to action: buying, subscribing, applying, etc.
This information must be accurate and presented professionally. Many agencies require that all content be run through a “point person” for final approval. This will help ensure that incorrect advice or incorrect statements are not inadvertently published. Because social media exists forever, extra caution should be taken to prevent the posting of inappropriate or defamatory comments involving specific people or specific organizations. Obviously, these could be exceptionally damaging to your agency’s reputation and could present some legal headaches.
If you will be posting articles on the web, make sure the material is from reputable sources. Whether you are viewed as an information provider or a content provider could determine any potential liability.
Educate your customers, too, on proper protocol when using social media to communicate with your agency. Make sure they know the “do’s” and “don’ts,” such as:
- No policy change requests can be made via social media.
- Do not provide any key information via social media. This information is often quite sensitive and private.
- Coverage cannot be bound, modified or deleted via social media.
There will be potential customers who want to do business with you because of your education and expertise. Develop a procedure that identifies the point where the interaction between the prospect and the agency should be moved in-house and become part of the normal agency process.
This can be a great way to communicate your knowledge and reach your target audience. If you have not done this before, proceed cautiously. Comments must be accurate and proofread before being posted.
There is tremendous power to social media — it can be among your best of friends, or your foe and one of your biggest headaches. With a well-thought-out strategy and guide, it can yield solid growth and a professional reputation for your agency.