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Introduction to Social media – and applications to motor insurance


In this article Ben Dunn provides an overview of some of the latest trends in social media and explains how they can be used practically in the direct motor business. The article is designed for senior managers and executives who are starting to think about how social media could be used in their business and uses direct motor insurance as an example to illustrate some of the principles.


Editorial Comment from The Digital Insurer

Ben Dunn is one of a rare breed in that he has a sold track record in both digital marketing and in it’s application to financial services. Organisations looking for new thinking in the space  would benefits from his insights and approaches. The article Ben has written for The Digital Insurer will hopefully provide an easy starting point for companies starting their  own digital marketing journey.

We are all experts now?

Last year a blogger pointed out that more than 16,000 Twitter users described themselves as ‘Social Media Experts’. This figure was greeted with appropriate derision, but there is a deeper message here. The advent of Social Media has made all of us content creators and social media experts since never before have consumers had this kind of power and reach. And yet, as Lord Macalpine in the UK is currently proving, with great power comes great responsibility – if everyone can publish libel, then everyone can be sued.


Key lessons on effective use of social media

So what does this mean in the context of marketing, and more specifically, in the category of motor insurance. There are a number of important lessons:


  1. You can’t get a little bit pregnant: social media marketing is not something you can dip a toe into. Starting a Twitter feed not only creates an open form of dialogue with consumers, it creates an expectation of a response and even action. Consumers’ first reaction to a Twitter feed from a brand they recognize is to use it for customer service, so you’d better make sure the feed is populated by people who know what they’re talking about and are properly connected with the people in your company who can do something about the complaints. If not, even amateur Twitter users can get very vocal very quickly.
  2.  Content is king: content is very easily shared across social media (Facebook refer to it as ‘frictionless’) regardless as to whether you want it to be or not. The fact is, consumers are creating content on your brand all the time whether you know about it or not, even if its only a tweet or a status update. Better to spark or get involved in the debate then be the unwitting victim of other’s content, as you are likely to be right now. Content needs to be very carefully crafted and must revolve around relevance. Too many brands have seen Old Spice Man’s success and diverted media funds into creating an ad that was expected to go ‘viral’ only to attract single digit viewers. Content needs to start and end with a problem or an opportunity which consumers would recognize, and then treat that in the usual funny or interesting way that grabs attention and communicates your message. So clarity around the insight and the relevance of your solution is more important with social media than any other medium.
  3. Context is queen: whether that context is providing a solution to ice in winter or builds on a recent event, the technology exists now to create content quickly, even if its an interview with an expert, and distribute it even faster. I’m working with a client in financial services who is unwilling to press their sales people into writing articles for a newsletter, but have no problem setting up a simple studio in a corner of the office and creating 90 second interviews which can be quickly uploaded onto their website or shared on an iPad app. That will allow fast reaction to events as well as information delivered in a medium which is easy to create and compelling and simple for clients to digest.
  4.  Be clear on your target and segment accordingly – the classic Segmentation/Targeting / Proposition model has never been as relevant as it is today, even if you believe social media has the power to reach ‘everyone’. Not only do different messages resonate with different targets, as ever, but there are constantly new social media sites growing up outside of the Facebook and Twitter that everyone knows about. Pinterest and Path have seen astronomic growth, and offer very real value to its users. Understanding who use these and what they use them for is vital to any campaign.

An Example : applying social media to Direct motor insurance

So what kind of ideas would work for insurance ? Obviously its difficult to make specific recommendations without proper knowledge of the brand and its target insight but the potential is infinite. Here are some examples:

  1. How to videos – whether its filling in forms, navigating the claims process or even what to do about common problems which can become unexpectedly big issues down the line like a small crack in a windscreen. Consumers are getting used to using YouTube to search for instructions on anything from how to ride a skateboard to cooking a turkey. Consumers will share insightful and useful content that solves their problems, and that’s an excellent position for any brand.
  2. Funny insurance claims – I’m sure, in your corporate archives, you have some excellent (anonymous) examples of ridiculous claims where claimants have clearly stretched the truth, or at the very least, claimed for an outlandish event or for something embarrassing. Sharing this type of content positions the brand as human and not taking itself too seriously, almost making insurance fun. Comical and/or amusing content is unsurprisingly popular not least because the sharer is able to bask in the reflected comical glory.
  3. Gamification – this is a phenomena that has arisen out of the social media industry, specifically around ‘check in’ apps like Foursquare, whereby a user checks into a place with their smartphone as is awarded a badge for checking in to, say, more than five airports. This may sound childish, but it seems users find it strangely compelling to collect these virtual rewards and compete with others. They can be used to positively influence and positively reward behavior. It has the added benefit of increasing the frequency a consumer would touch your brand, especially relevant for an insurance brand where awareness is likely to be around renewal time only.

Social media is only in the foothills of its development, but already it has completely revolutionized the way marketing can be executed to build the kind of awareness and consideration which is previously required enormous budgets to achieve. As the man said, the revolution will not be televised.


By Ben Dunn



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