Don’t Expect Many Friends With Boring Posts
Social media is the cover term for the hottest marketing communication tools of today. They include such popular Web 2.0 networking sites as Facebook and Twitter. Both offer exciting possibilities and are used by millions for personal and business purposes. They enable interactive communities and conversations among members, which you can entertain and influence through effective insurance marketing. But as popular as these sites are, they have something in common with ordinary agency Web sites, blogs, and newsletters: creative content. If an agency has nothing interesting to post, then no one will converse, become a friend, follower, or otherwise interact with you.
Agencies won’t instantly go out of business just because they don’t have a presence on every popular social networking site. It makes more sense for agencies to start slow, consider the benefits, learn what’s involved, watch what others do, and then proceed.
Watch What Others Do
Pretty much every business, insurance and otherwise, is new to social marketing. There are no long-term practices to emulate. Still, you can readily see what giants like State Farm, Allstate, and GEICO do on Facebook and Twitter. At this writing, they have fewer than 7,500 Twitter followers combined; yet their total share of the U.S. auto market is about 36 percent. By the numbers, this medium clearly isn’t central to their marketing plans, but like everyone else they are learning what works and what doesn’t. Join Facebook (www.facebook.com) and Twitter (www.twitter.com) and progress along with them. Sign up quickly to get the username you want. For instance, my Twitter account has a URL of twitter.com/agencyideas. Also, decide at sign-up time if you want your messages to be public or private, because public postings appear in certain search engines. Tip: You don’t have to start posting immediately after registration; you can take your time.
Be an Amazon
A well-known example of a commercial social networking success story is Amazon.com’s customer review system. Amazon is a marketplace more than a social site, but it can partially credit its brand awareness and celebrity to its community of product reviewers. Their approach is the best way to look at things. Build a community first and then communicate to them wisely. Start by inviting your insureds to friend and follow you. Encourage interested prospects as well. Reward them with useful and entertaining insurance-related information. After all, that’s why they asked to be included.
Posting boring, rehashed material borrowed from old issues of your newsletter won’t increase your following; in fact, it will probably do the opposite. Instead, think entertainment value in addition to practical insurance information and resources.
Here are a few ideas. Record a series of self-made videos, featuring your agency principal, discussing policy discounts and other money-saving tips. Don’t worry about production values. Create printed “transcripts” of imaginary conversations between the prospect and your agency about various insurance coverages and topics. Include links to free and low-cost software tools like the Insurance Information Institute’s home inventory site (www.knowyourstuff.org) and various insurance-related iPhone apps.
To distribute your creative work, post the videos directly in Facebook and convert print documents into jpeg files (the same format as a photo) and post them as “photos” on your Facebook wall. As for Twitter, first host the items on your agency Web site or blog. Then tweet links to them to your followers. There are also third-party video and photo posting tools that can help you as well.
The Bottom Line
Don’t simply post or tweet links to other people’s work and cliché messages about holiday safety. Be interesting, practical, and relevant. But most importantly, don’t overtly sell or you will lose your flock. Online friends do buy from the agencies they follow, but they’re the ones who want to initiate the transaction. So, set the stage and take the time to build a viable community, and then promote it. Inform and advise your members in useful and creative ways. Show a human personality as well, and in time, you’ll be rewarded with a stronger brand and a healthier bottom line.
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