Presenting the first in a series of InsuranceSocial.Media Q&As with insurance executives about the need for quality social media in the insurance industry—and their top tips to create it. Today’s subject is John Abbott, Director Agency Communications for Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty. Enjoy!
Insurance Social Media at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty: The Basics
How important is it to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty for its independent agents to be active on social media? How does the company encourage agents to be active on social media?
The decision to build a social media presence depends on a number of factors, and those have to be weighed individually by producers. The only thing we would encourage is that producers take a careful look at how social media might work within their firms and – if they decide to move forward – develop a plan for how they’ll use it.
In those cases where our producers already have an established presence, it’s certainly helpful to support our marketing programs. We don’t provide specific resources to producers such as training, but we may on occasion work with them on cooperative marketing campaigns in which we use social media as one of the channels, and in those cases our producer partners often learn new techniques and best practices.
How does social media marketing impact the individual agency?
I think for most producers experimenting with social media, they’re still in a “walk before we run” phase. But I also think that there are several ways in which producers can participate in social media and see fast results. For example, producers can post tip sheets on hurricane or wildfire preparedness on their Facebook or LinkedIn pages, which help to deepen relationships with their clients by sharing content that provides real value. They can use LinkedIn to recruit talented young producers. And in the event of an emergency, they can communicate immediately with their digital audience – and in a very cost-effective way.
If you’re looking to be found today, you’re just as likely to be discovered via your LinkedIn profile, blog or video as through your website.
Is there a social media tool or resource you’d like to mention for independent insurance agents?
I don’t have a specific social media tool I would recommend, although there are many good content marketing platforms available depending on the producer’s situation. A great place to start is the Content Marketing Institute, which offers training, certification and consulting. Another great choice is the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA), which also provides a ton of resources.
Insurance Social Media at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty: The Specifics
How does Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty plan its social media campaigns?
The ways in which we use social media can vary dramatically based on the situation. For major campaigns like the “12 Days of Christmas,” we build social media into the plan just like any other tactic, so development may begin several months in advance.
But of course the real benefit of social media is its inherent capability to transmit information quickly to our target audiences – making it the perfect vehicle for messaging during catastrophes and other crisis situations. We have specific plans and protocols for using social media in cases like these, because response time is measured in minutes, not hours or days.
In terms of staff, we have a single point person who manages our social media strategy and provides consultation to our internal teams, such as claims and customer service. In addition, we have several other team members (and back-ups) in support roles who post messages and monitor traffic.
What is the biggest problem you notice in agents’ social media efforts?
Most steps that producers take to make social media part of their marketing efforts have a good chance of enhancing their digital “credibility.” But my biggest warning would be this: Don’t use social media if you’re not going to be “social.” In other words, if you’re just using social media to broadcast ads – without any sort of meaningful content or engagement behind them – your investment will never pay off, and could backfire. If you’re not taking the time to build a relationship with your digital audiences, your sales pitches on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are not going to get much traction.
What is your top tip for independent agents using social media?
If you’re going to start using social media to grow your business, do it right. Many firms aren’t providing enough support for it, haven’t dedicated enough resources to it, or haven’t hired the right people to help. They’re looking for an easy, push-button solution – or they’ve hired a consultant to produce homogenized content for them. To use it effectively, you’ve got to be willing to make the up-front investments in time, money and resources.
For your agents, what seems to be the biggest social media marketing challenge?
The biggest challenge to overcome is getting producers to see that social media isn’t just an add-on to your technology platform. Their smartphones, websites, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles should all be working together as a seamless whole. The producers who integrate these activities – instead of using them as separate tools – will see much better results.