Poor services and slow claims are much talked about on social media as frustrated and disappointed customers now take voice online to publicise their situations, issues and discontent. The growing army of netizens airing their opinions is shaping and shifting the image of insurers as they invest in running expensive ad campaigns to build their brands. Insurance firms can no longer afford to ignore social media.
Editorial Comment from The Digital InsurerSocial media is an area that most insurers struggle with – and few are close to mastering. In this article Matt Dooley, one of a rare breed combining both hands on financial services and digital marketing experience, provides some advice for insurers who acknowledge that social media is here to stay and they now need to develop a new set of capabilities.
The insurers’ challenge to going social
Insurance companies have overlooked a cost effective way to promote themselves by responding to tweets promptly and effectively. Your strategy, or even new year’s resolution may be to embrace and leverage social media better but how?
The growth in popularity and usage of social media over the past few years has fundamentally changed the way in which consumers and companies use the internet. It has evolved from being a means to access information to being a channel for people to share, collaborate, comment and contribute to wider conversations. Consumers now have greater power over brands as they have the ability to publicly and visibly address them. The change this is inflicting on the relationship between consumers and brands is one of the greatest challenges facing companies today.
Many companies are culturally not set up to deal with this new medium of communication and are often unbalanced when a sudden change in consumer attitudes explodes on the Internet. To prepare themselves for the future, it is essential that companies have a clear strategy in place to outline how they should engage in social media.
In an increasingly connected world, the way we search for and consume information, shop, entertain, communicate, interact and bank has fundamentally and irreversibly changed. Social media is changing behaviour and becoming integrated into our daily activities. The concept of social media poses both great benefits and significant challenges to insurers and bankers. However, while the benefits are many, such as more efficient communication and greater potential for customer collaboration, today’s digital age can increase pressure and risks to insurers if they engage in social media without a real coherent strategy in place.
You can’t afford to wait too long as you risk losing touch with your customers and potential customers. Conversations today are happening online—with or without you. Some insurers and banks are already using social media to listen, understand, respond to, engage and socialize with their customers and others. But just like learning to swim, what are the things that you need to do first before diving into the deep-end? It is important to consider the realities of today’s business environment.
How do you get started?
Here are three steps to take before entering into the world of social media.
Step 1. Listen, listen and listen
The first and easiest thing for an insurance firm or bank to do in Social Media is simply to listen to what people are saying. Start by speaking with your agents and front-line staff. They have daily contact with and listen to your customers and are experienced in responding to their needs and queries. Ask them to get a sense of what people are saying and doing on social sites, then go online and see for yourself. The social web is public and easy to search, and a variety of good tools are available to help with this. Listening, however, is an activity. The data gathered, whether blog posts, forum discussions or tweets needs to be analysed and processed. As conversations tend to be ambiguous you need to monitor them manually.
Resist the temptation to immediately respond to these conversations. Understand the volume and nature of conversations with possible responses and impacts. Categorise the various conversations by product or service inquiries, ideas and opportunities, and complaints. Which conversations require responses? Is there an existing standard response? Who would be the best person to respond?
Step 2. Identify and engage your internal social stakeholders
It’s time to get representatives from throughout the company into one room to feel out the situation, understand each department’s hopes and concerns, and start building a case for the company’s social media involvement.
It is not vital for everyone to participate personally, the aim is to make everyone comfortable with company participation in social media to provide proper support at all levels to maintain a successful program over the long term. Use the existing conversations as examples of what people are saying and asking of your organization, then gauge the support for the program and what matters most for each stakeholder.
Create a social media committee by identifying and recruiting people from all impacted areas of the organisation, including executive management, marketing, public relations, customer service, IT, compliance and legal. Also invite any social media enthusiasts from your ranks, they might offer input into participation considerations, user expectations, etc. Even if one person will handle all the company’s social media activities, you need the support of the entire organisation, and the person handling social media needs to be aware of potential risks and issues involved with social media.
Step 3. Consider the necessary resources
Think about the passions and skills of your team members, and identify any specific strengths (such as writing, programming, proficiency with social media, legal expertise, video production experience, strength of personality, large personal networks, spare time, etc.) that could be instrumental to the company’s social media efforts. Note team members from different departments and consider how their departments can contribute to the company’s overall social media efforts. Use this exercise to identify the various strengths and skills you need, areas that require work, and whether there are people with whom you may be able to partner to better develop those skill sets.
Determine approximately how much time will be dedicated to social media activities each week and who will be responsible for seeing those activities through. Some activities to consider are:
- Monitoring brand comments
- Responding to user comments
- Updating company profiles
- Engaging with customers and fans
- Strategy/campaign planning
- Developing content
- Analysing campaign and program results
- Identifying new trends and developments
- Monitoring employee activity
Forecast costs by taking into consideration the use of staff time, the requirements of outside experts, software and other IT, as well as some budget for marketing and promotion. But the investment is one that is sure to pay off—social media is something that definitely won’t go away and insurers need to embrace it rather than fear it. Since the introduction of ATMs and the Internet, insurers and banks have been losing physical and emotional contact with customers. Now, social media, if done right, can become an ideal channel to get closer with your customers, engage in meaningful conversations that will ultimately cement lasting relationships.
by Matt Dooley, Managing Director, Connected Thinking
About Connected Thinking
Connected Thinking helps brands and companies reach, understand and engage better with their customers in our changing world. Through a joined up approach to digital, we leverage social media, content, search engines, websites and mobile for our clients so they can better understand, connect, engage and delight their customers and deliver great business results. We can carry out an audit to understand how best to leverage social media for your business. We can also provide corporate training designed to specifically meet the needs of your organisation. Our digital marketing training helps businesses understand how digital trends and tools are impacting their customers and the unique opportunities it creates to connect with your consumers.
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