This post originally appeared in print in 11/13/15 issue of The Standard, found here.
You’ve heard it a hundred times, perhaps from another independent agent, a friend who works in another industry, a carrier or a customer: “You really need to be active on social media.” It’s a familiar refrain. But, really, why? Why should independent insurance agents care about social media and be active on social networks?
The answer is simple: it’s good for business. Social media can help with two of the most critical challenges facing independent agents in today’s highly competitive market: customer retention and the creation of new business.
Oftentimes, it’s difficult for independent agents to stay top-of-mind and demonstrate value to their customers throughout the year, beyond the time of policy renewal or in the unfortunate case of a claim. Activity and interaction on social media directly addresses that challenge. It’s a great way to build stickier relationships with your custom- ers to help retain your existing book of business.
Social media can also be very effective at generating new business for your agency at an affordable cost. While a typically sized agency may not be able to acquire customers via social media at scale, the amount of new business that can be generated by social media can more than off-set an agency’s cost to build and manage a social media presence.
Here are five tactical things that every independent agency can do to build a more effective social media presence:
For decades, independent agents have functioned as trusted ad- visors and conveyed their expertise to consumers via personal interactions. Social media provides the opportunity for independent agents to play this same role for consumers, but in a different medium.
Independent agents should freely share their knowledge and expertise via social media and provide valuable content and insight on social media networks. Your social media content can be inspired by your proficiency in insurance. Don’t try to sell. Instead, educate.
According to a study by ODM Group, a digital marketing agency, 74% of consumers utilize content on social networks to guide purchase decisions. Independent agents are uniquely posi- tioned to take advantage of this trend to aid both retention and creation of new business.
Fit the right content to the right channel.
There are so many social networks in 2015, and it feels as if the market is in a constant state of expansion. Consumers are using a wider variety of social networks than ever before, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of options that are available to independent agents.
At most agencies, time and resources are at a premium. As a result, you should consider what kind of content you want to create and distribute that content through the appropriate social media channel. For example, if you find that it’s easy to share insurance factoids or brief insurance buying tips, Twitter is the channel that’s the right fit for content of that type.
If longer-form content is what you’re most comfortable creating, Facebook is ideal. If you’re a visual communicator and enjoy using images to convey ideas, Instagram is excellent.
The point is that you don’t need to be in all channels at all times; focus on getting your content into the right channel, even if that means fewer channels.
Embrace paid media.
It can’t be un- derstated how much social media has changed in the last half decade, and the primary change is the sophistication of paid media available to advertisers like independent agents.
You may not know it, but paid media opportunities on social networks represent a highly unique digital advertising opportunity for independent agents. The reason for this is targeting. Social networks can allow independent agents to target marketing by zip code, gender, interests and affinities.
Do you want to target prospects that live in one of five zip codes and know someone who follows your agency on social media? Independent agents can do that using paid media placements on social networks. It’s a unique opportunity. If you see a path to using social media to grow new business, paid media on social networks is an effective way to enable that strategy.
Focus on engagement, not numbers.
For agencies of a typical size, it’s unlike- ly that you will achieve the kind of scale of fans and followers that a big brand or a company with a national footprint will have. That’s completely fine. As an independent agent, you don’t need scale to be extremely effective in social media.
To be effective without scale, focus on quality interactions and engagement with your customers and prospects who have the largest reach. If you have a customer with 2,000 Facebook friends, try to build a strong social relationship with that customer in hopes that he or she will help amplify your business and brand message by liking or re-tweeting your content.
Be shameless; ask for that follow.
It’s challenging to build a following of customers on social media, but it’s even harder when you don’t directly ask for help and participation. Don’t be shy; ask your customers to like you and friend you on social media.
Add this “ask” into your normal pro- cess when interacting with customers, add social media links onto your website and make sure your team adds social media links to its email signatures. Social media follows that are generated by personal interactions are most likely to stay with you longer and amplify your message.
If you put all of these one-off tactics into play, and you’ve had enough success to get your attention, what’s next? A content marketing strategy, which would include a full social media strategy, is the natural evolution for independent agents who want to double down on so- cial media. Full coordination between social media, content production, mar- keting and sales unlock further social media opportunities for independent agents to leverage.