Trade publication “Insurance & Technology” recently featured an article about social media’s dangers. The article cited a quote from a VP at a life insurance company and a consultancy in the insurance industry. There was some alignment in their perspectives. The VP at the life insurance company stated that “the value in terms of selling” for social media hasn’t “warranted a huge investment.” The consultancy discussed the dangers in the social media space, but also mentioned social media monitoring as having value.
What the executive in the life insurance company said may hold value in their organization. At the time of this writing, I’m not entirely familiar with what their social media practices have been to this point. While it is easy to start a presence in social media, curating a social media presence in a beneficial way is a challenging blend of an art and an science, with no one size fits all, single correct answer. Selling is one way to measure a social media presence, but selling shouldn’t necessarily be the one and only metric in measuring social media ROI. There is a lot more that goes into a social media presence than just broadcasting messages to increase sales. Social media can be used for brand awareness, for education about a topic and for meaningfully connecting your brand to something that has entertainment value. Goal setting, reasonable expectations and goal alignment with the various mediums within social media are some of the keys to success in the social media world.
I would agree with the idea that social media monitoring, at the very least, is essential. A brand needs to have a feel for the outside world and the way that the brand is perceived out there. Social media efforts can enhance surveying and targeted focus groups but shouldn’t necessarily be perceived as a replacement of these methods for measuring sentiment. If a brand doesn’t have the right insights and conduct the right research, how are they going to make the right branding decisions? Research and analytics are great guides in making the right branding decisions.
While monitoring is good, monitoring without participation isn’t a panacea. At the very least, in discussing the insurance world, perhaps insurance brands would be wise to think about a social media presence in the same manner as they often position their products. Insurance product offerings, regardless of category, are meant to be a safeguard against catastrophic events. Social media can be thought of in the same way. A social media presence could be perceived as an insurance policy in the event of a brand crisis. Brand crises seem to happen sooner or later to nearly every brand. It warrants taking steps to be prepared to deal with these situations when they arise. Swift, decisive action communicated rapidly is much of the equation in having a quality response to a brand crisis. Social media plays a big role in this.
No matter what line of insurance a brand is in, their target market is likely to be found in social media, as well as their current policyholders. Customer acquisition and retention are fundamental keys to any business. Retention should always be a priority as it is usually easier to keep your current clients happy than find new ones to replace the departed ones. Social media can be used to play a part in retention. It can impact retention through facilitating meaningful discussions with current policyholders and addressing issues while they are less severe, with the hope of preventing escalation to a point where there is major dissatisfaction and the desire to change insurance companies.
Certainly, there are dangers in a social media presence. I feel that the greater danger is complete non participation. Each brand will have to determine their own goals are and their comfort level in social media participation. Regardless of organizational goals, social media earns a place in the marketing communication mix.