This post originally appeared in PropertyCasualty360 on December 17, 2015.
For most independent agents, social media is a hobby at best and an afterthought at worst.
Social media is classified as something that independent agents “just have to do” — and there’s very little emphasis placed by independent agents on social media strategy or tracking of results.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Social media is capable of being a viable tool to help you retain existing customers and grow new business. As a medium, it will allow you to interact with your prospects and customers on their terms.
But, it’s difficult to commit. Where should an agent begin? What should the focus be? What if you’ve already developed a social media presence and you want to expand it into something more successful?
So, starting now, you’re a social media marketer. Welcome to the team. Follow this social media playbook to get your agency off the ground or expand what you’re already doing on your social channels:
Pick a lane
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. YouTube. Vine. LinkedIn … I’m just scratching the surface.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of social media platforms available to a business looking to get active in this type of marketing.
The first step in improving your social media presence as an independent agent is to choose your lane, and stay in it.
Do you really need to be on Snapchat or Periscope (or both) to have success in social media for your business? Perhaps, but probably not.
The reality of social media is that it is so ubiquitous and attracts so many users that you could quite literally invest in a single social media network and still get results. The first step, then, is to decide what you want to invest in — and for most independent agents, the answer will be Facebook and Twitter, with the possible additions of Instagram and LinkedIn, depending on your content ambitions. More on that later.
Don’t go this alone — set up your social media tools
I can’t stress enough how many great social media tools are out there: Hootsuite. Sprout. Buffer.
Many of these tools are free, they’re awesome, and they can create lots of efficiencies for you in your social media efforts. Once you’ve chosen what social media networks you want to focus on, utilities like the ones I just mentioned are next on your to-do list. It will take mere moments to integrate your accounts with utilities such as the ones mentioned above.
Create content and play to your strengths
Let’s put social media aside for a moment. Why should customers do business with an independent agent like you?
Certainly, your focus on customer service and your underwriter relationships are two key reasons. A third reason is your industry expertise and ability to give unbiased, relevant insurance advice. This is the exact kind of content that plays well in social media — content that brings a unique perspective and educates the reader.
Once you’ve got your social media setup and your social media management utilities working, leverage your strengths as an independent agent and use social media to distribute content that will highlight your insurance knowledge and how consumers might use that expertise to make more informed decisions about their insurance purchases. According to HubSpot, lists pull well in the finance vertical, so how about “Top Five Things Insurance Buyers Screw Up When They Buy Insurance”?
Another way to play to your strengths is to be yourself, which is to say, be local. Most independent insurance agents serve local or regional geographic areas. Don’t try to write content for the masses when you don’t care about the masses — you care about your immediate customer universe. For example, MassDrive is a Massachusetts-specific independent agent that is part of the national auto and home insurance platform at my company. If you look at what our team is doing on social media (you can check that out our Twitter and Facebook), it is very Massachusetts focused and stays true to messages and content that will resonate with MassDrive’s local audience.
Create some visuals
Social media — even those historically text-based such as Twitter — have never been more visual. The creation of a social media presence that is visually strong can be very intimidating for companies new to the medium.
Luckily, it’s never been easier to create visually compelling content for distribution on social media. Sites such as Canva exist purely for this reason — to help social media marketers who don’t have a design background create great-looking visuals for social media.
Let your most satisfied customers do the heavy lifting for you
You’re lucky. As an independent agent, a member of your team exceeds the expectations of at least one customer or prospects daily. There is no better way to elevate your brand on social media than to capture testimonials from those customers and distribute via social media.
As it turns out, testimonials are hugely effective at helping companies be more successful in social media. Get your best customers to agree to allow you to use a quote in your social media efforts. If you want to be really ambitious, film a video testimonial and post that content on social media. The point is, social media is the best venue available to empower your customers to sell for you.
Hype your social media efforts to your customers
It’s an online/offline world. Your offline interactions will bleed into your social media and a customer you interact with online may be knocking on your office door the next day. That’s the reality of customer-centric marketing in 2015.
As independent agents, this reality can be spun to your advantage. It’s my guess that your agency touches a lot of customers each day; face-to-face, via the phone and via e-mail. Each of those touchpoints is an opportunity for you to hype your social media efforts and gain greater traction.
So, once you’ve gotten this far down your social media to-do list, make sure that your team adds social media links to their email signatures, integrate social media messaging into any scripting you may have, add social media icons to your website, and train your team to talk about your social media presence when speaking to prospects or customers.
Keep an eye on results
You’re a businessperson first and a social media marketer second, so you need to worry about the return on investment of your social media efforts.
After all, what is the point of doing all this marketing if it’s not going to drive results of your business?
Brandwatch has a stellar list of free social media monitoring tools you should review. I personally like using Hootsuite, FollowerWonk, Topsy, and Google Analytics for most of my social media monitoring, but there are plenty of viable options.
If you want to pay for more extensive monitoring tools, those are available as well. Look for metrics like reach, engagement, and amplification to understand how your message is amplified. If you have the technical chops, use custom variables in Google Analytics or other tracking tools to more directly track how users who interact with your social media engage with your website after they’ve clicked on your content.
There is so much nuance to what success looks like in social media and this list should serve as a set of foundational building blocks for the independent agent.
Don’t forget to interact with your followers in a timely manner and that, in combination with this list, will put you on the path to social media success.