Canadian Underwriter

Focusing on sales may be hindering your social media strategy

December 16, 2018   by David Gambrill

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Most brokers see social media as a way to increase sales and generate leads, according to a new study by Aviva Canada, but social media are more effective for brand awareness, building an online community and retaining customers, according to social media practitioners in the insurance space.

“While many brokers see social media as a way to increase sales and want to jump directly to generating leads, it’s more important to start by nurturing and building relationships with followers,” says the Aviva study, The Social Media Landscape and How to Navigate It.

Conducted in the spring of 2018, the survey found that 78% of almost 250 brokers said lead generation is a “very or extremely important” social media goal. But that’s not necessarily the first step for brokers wishing to build an online community.

“If a broker said, ‘Exactly how many leads am I going to get if I go on social media?’ I would challenge that, because that’s not always the goal you should be striving for all the time,” says Jennifer Kim, a member of Aviva Canada’s Digital Marketing Consultancy (DMC) team. “Social media isn’t just for building leads. It’s also for building a community, getting your customers engaged, providing an extra level of customer service, and to be another entry point for people to get into contact with their brokers.”

Focusing on lead generation may in fact be holding back your results. In Aviva’s social media survey, of the brokers who reported that lead generation was their main goal, only 35% said they were meeting their targets.

“Brands who are successful in social media focus first on social networking — being social and building communities,” Aviva’s report says. “Once you’ve formed strong bonds with your audience, then you can add ‘lead generation’ to your goals.”

Having a strategy before entering the social media terrain is critical. About 93% of brokers in the survey said they were either using social media already or planning to use social media. But out of that, 83% of them do not know how to use it effectively. This suggests brokers aren’t always clear about their social media goals before they dip their toe in the waters.

“A lot of people would just join social because they think they need to be there, but they may not necessarily say they did it because it would be a channel that would help them in terms of conversion, or because that’s where their clients are,” Charlene Ramdeo, a member of Aviva’s DMC team, commented.

Before using social media to enter a market, brokers are advised to plan their social media goals or objectives in advance. To help, Aviva Canada has produced a social media guide highlighting five steps for seizing social media opportunities. They are:

  • Identify your goals and audiences
  • Identify which social media that your target audiences use. Will using these channels further your goals?
  • Establish what kinds of resources — time and budget, for example — will be required to reach your goals (more than half the brokers in the survey said they did not spend any money at all on social media (30%) or less than $1,000 (25%). On the other end of the scale, 19% of brokers said they spent more than $5,000. “The more that brokers invest in social media, the higher perceived value of social media they had,” Kim reported.
  • Measure your progress against objectives. Although this is critical, only half the brokers in the survey understand whether their content is working
  • Introduce small, meaningful campaigns, test their success, and learn from what happened.

Cheep Insurance started up online three years ago; it now has a presence mainly on Facebook and Twitter. While LinkedIn is another popular choice for brokers (particularly commercial brokers), Cheep Insurance is a personal lines insurance brokerage only; consequently, Cheep uses LinkedIn mainly for recruiting purposes or communicating with other brokerages. Once on Facebook and Twitter, Cheep Insurance started building up a following, and then worked on engaging the audience with relevant content.

Perhaps most importantly, brokers need to remember why people are on Facebook in the first place, says Jennifer Jackson, director of digital experience and business development at Cheep Insurance. They are not there to buy insurance, for the most part. (If they were, they would be plugging search terms into online search engines.) So, brokerages may need to reconsider a hard-sell Facebook strategy.

“There are many theories about what percentage of your content should be self-promoting, what should be value-add content created by you, and the content that’s curated by you,” said Jackson. For example, one popular formula suggests 30% of the content should be owned by the brokerage brand; 60% should be curated by the brokerage brand; and 10% should be self-promotional. “You need to find a rule, or a version of that 60-30-10 rule, that works for you,” Jackson advises.

It helps if the content is funny, or edgy, or stands out in the crowd. Jackson recalled a Facebook campaign in which Cheep was trying to explain liability insurance. Facebook followers were told liability insurance would cover damages caused by a friend at a party, for example. The brokerage asked its Facebook followers to tag a friend who they felt would be the reason why the follower would have to buy liability insurance. The brokerage then re-targeted the tagged friends with content.