Guidelines to Limit an Agency’s Risks in Social Media

By Robert M. Dietzel | June 14, 2011

Social media has become a powerful way for members of the insurance community to communicate with clients, prospects, referral sources, underwriters and colleagues. However, improper usage can result in serious consequences. At our property/casualty insurance agency, we have sought to mitigate the risks by publishing the following guidelines for social media participation by members of our staff:

1. Know Your Audience – Write knowing that everyone, including the folks who sign your paycheck, will be able to see what you post. Remember that your post will be globally accessible today and long into the next Ice Age.

2. Be Respectful – Do not disparage competitors or criticize others. This obviously includes current and former clients. After all, who among us is perfect?

3. Be Conversational – Write as you speak to real people in a professional situation. Avoid stuffy corporate-speak and mannered language. In fact, avoid words like “mannered.” That said, also avoid slang that will unfairly diminish you and your superior intellect.

4. Add Value – Social media is no different than other types of communication. It should help others build their business, improve their skills, solve problems or understand our firm better.

5. Spread the Good Word — When you have something good to say about our firm, say it on multiple social media sites.

6. Honesty is the Best Policy – Never represent yourself or our firm in a false or misleading way. Be transparent about your identity and relationship to our firm.

7. Stay In the Zone – Cover your areas of expertise, especially when referencing corporate products. If you are not an expert, make this fact clear to your readers.

8. No Demagoguery – Limit personal opinions to your personal life. Even then, keep controversial opinions off personal social media pages.

9. When In Doubt, Don’t – If you have to think twice about a post, this is typically a good sign that it should not be published.

10. Observe Copyright Laws – Give credit where credit is due.

11. Respect Confidentiality – Ask permission to repeat conversations and forward communications.

12. Avoid Hot Buttons – Do not participate in social media when the topic is a breaking event. Gilbert Gottfried’s posts regarding the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and his subsequent dismissal by Aflac, serve as Exhibit 1.

13. Follow the firm’s Code of Conduct.

14. Follow the firm’s Privacy Policy.

15. Adhere to the firm’s E-mail & Internet Usage Policies.

16. What Happens At Social Events Stay There — Photo sharing sites like Picasa and Flickr are social media. Post photos taken at company gatherings with the greatest care and consideration.

17. Be Non-Confrontational – Avoid sarcasm and be mindful of tone. Do not escalate a potentially volatile situation. Politely disengage from the conversation instead.

Dietzel, ARM, CIC, is managing partner of KMRD Partners Inc. Risk and Insurance Solutions based in Warrington, Pa.

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