Many in the insurance industry have been slow to adapt to the world of social media due to compliance concerns, skepticism and fear of the unknown. But more industry professionals are warming up to the idea each day as the potential benefits become harder to ignore.
Amy McIlwain, president and CEO of Financial Social Media, has been around the industry long enough to see the change firsthand. During a breakout session at NAILBA 32 in Dallas titled “Social Media — Back to Basics”, McIlwain explained how insurance professionals can overcome their concerns and most effectively use the top social media sites to grow their businesses.
What is social media and why should you care?
“Social media is fundamentally changing the way we communicate,” she explained. But what is social media? It’s not the networks themselves — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — but the conversations that take place on these networks, she said. It’s a dynamic environment that changes every day.
Social media has altered the way businesses work because it levels the playing field, allowing the smallest business to share equal footing with the largest. It also provides communication without borders, allowing people and businesses to contact anyone, according to McIlwain.
And social media is word of mouth on steroids. People are already talking about you and your brand on social media, McIlwain warned. “You have no say unless you join the conversation. They’re listening to someone — shouldn’t it be you?”
The session provided a breakdown of each social media platform and explained how it can best be used.
LinkedIn is the golf course of social media, McIlwain explained. People are there for business networking purposes. Many advisors say, “Social media isn’t working. I have a LinkedIn profile but it’s not doing anything.” But according to McIlwain, simply creating an account is like going to a tradeshow and not talking to anyone. You need to engage.
One way to do so is simply by ensuring you have a complete profile. “If you’re at a tradeshow,” McIlwain said, “you don’t want to be the booth in a corner with just a little table tent up. You want to have dynamic displays and interactive media. You want to be doing the same thing with your LinkedIn profile. Complete your profile, and add images and videos.”
If LinkedIn is the golf course of social media, Twitter is the cocktail party, McIlwain said. Lots of conversations are occurring at once, and it’s all about what’s happening right now.
And while Twitter provides a great tool for driving traffic, it’s also ideal for listening. McIlwain provided some advice for those who feel they have nothing to say: “Don’t worry. Just set up an account and listen to others. Once you feel comfortable, join the conversations.”
Another way to think of Twitter is like a radio station, where you are the content DJ. You need to share quality content on a regular basis so people will have reason to tune into your station, according to McIlwain. Play some of your own songs by promoting your blogs and events, and then mix in third-party content, as well. The key is to provide whatever is most relevant to your audience, and, like a radio DJ, be sure to add your own personality and humanize the brand.
Facebook is the giant of the social media world. In fact, if it were a country, its population of more than one billion would make it the third largest on earth. McIlwain suggested thinking of Facebook like an enormous shopping mall, where each shopper is represented by their profile page and companies’ business pages are the storefronts.
Facebook is more personal than the other networks, and provides a great way to connect with current clients by sharing photos and info about what’s going on with you and your business.
And while many advisors and industry professionals believe boomers and seniors aren’t on social media, they’re dead wrong, McIlwain said. The fastest-growing demographic on Facebook is 55-65 year-old women, who are connecting with friends, families and businesses.
For those who are looking to begin social networking but don’t know where to start, McIlwain provided a few simple steps.
- Identify your target audience. What networks are they on? Who’s influencing them? Focus on the 20 percent of your clients who make up 80 percent of your business. What are their hobbies? What industries are the in? Find your niche.
- Set goals. Do you want to generate leads, grow your brand, or increase website traffic? Set two or three goals and then track them using performance indicators. But start slowly so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Start making connections and building an audience. Seek out other advisors, consumers, centers of influence, associations and media and begin commenting and sharing their content. Be seen.