Canadian Underwriter

When social media makes sense for insurance correspondence

April 14, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Facebook, Twitter and similar web services can suck up a lot of a worker’s time, but insurance brokers should figure out how to use social media to support the business.

“There is nothing supremely special about social media,” said Kat Macaulay, a Calgary-based social media consultant, in a recent interview. “It’s just another way for people to communicate.”

Many consumers who had to leave Fort McMurray in 2016 due to wildfires relied on social media to talk to their brokers, recounted Macaulay, who is scheduled to speak May 9 at the Insurance Brokers Association of Alberta (IBAA) annual convention in Banff. Her IBAA presentation is titled Leveraging Social Media & Nurturing Brand Champions.

The 2016 northern Alberta wildfires resulted in the evacuation of the entire city of Fort McMurray. That catastrophe tops the list of Canada’s most expensive disasters, with an industry-wide insured loss of nearly $4 billion.

“It was chaos for people who were leaving Fort McMurray and they did not have all of their [personal financial] information with them,” Macaulay said, suggesting some insurance companies were using Facebook Messenger to get a “heads-up” from clients that they had a property loss.

“That was a critical moment in communication, especially for insurance, because it was like, ‘Wow, we really need to use these tools to their highest capacity in order to communicate to people in a way that makes sense,” Macaulay noted.

“Obviously, you may not be able to put a claim through entirely on Facebook,” Macaulay added, but social media could be used to initiate the claims process.

For a broker, social media could come into play when trying to use a client’s “preferred method” of communication “instead of forcing people to come in through a brick and mortar” if they prefer not to visit the brokerage office.

“It’s not always pushing everyone to the digital side either, so there has to be balance,” Macaulay said. “But what we are definitely seeing is people want to be able to do everything online. If someone contacts me on Facebook, and they are working through an issue or a problem, it doesn’t make sense for me to say, ‘Okay you call me, join the queue on the 1-800 number.”

There is some resistance among those in the industry “who are trying to understand why an insurance broker or an insurance company should even be on social media,” she said. Concerns about wasting time are valid but employees sometimes waste time on offline activities, such as three-hour lunches with clients.