Social media is no longer #trending. It's the way the next-generation communicates, entertains, informs, and decides what to buy. Leading brands such as Apple, Disney, Nike, Google, Delta, Amazon, and Coca-Cola already respect and benefit from this reality.
Insurance and retirement services? Not so much. Barely half are even registered to participate, according to a recent Celent survey, which isn't a surprise. For starters, insurance is heavily regulated, which prompts undue producer caution at times when engaging clients.
Second, insurance ranks 97th of the 100 least-desirable industries for college grads. In other words, youthful exuberance isn't ushering in the future as much as it does in other disciplines.
Consequently, millennials are underinsured in discretionary protection products, including life insurance, and have lower participation rates in retirement plans compared with previous generations. That's the price to pay for few digital natives among the ranks.
But it doesn't have to be this way, even with insurance's graying workforce. However challenging, old dogs can learn new tricks and by so doing encourage more youth to engage, learn, and participate on both sides of the table.
Consider a wealth advisor from Harris Financial Group. Managing partner Jamie Cox is a social media standout, amassing 15,000 Twitter followers, 1,000 Facebook likes and more than 500 LinkedIn connections, by one account. Cox converts his digital connections into tangible leads by directing targeted messages to them. Obviously, the setting is different—it's certainly not door-to-door—but Cox's approach is similar to the personal touch that has embodied discretionary insurance for decades.
What if other producers could achieve the same lead success, brand awareness, and constant contact online as Cox? How might participating in social media let others showcase their expertise and enhance sales?
Here are seven specific ways aspiring agents and forward-thinking carriers can do just that:
Monitor social media activity
Start small: Search for a prospect's name on Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram and review their online activity before engaging them. In some cases such as Twitter, registration is not required before viewing their information. Once empowered with these insights, agents can craft coverage options on lifestyle and status updates before meeting a prospect or customer. Focus on supplemental income in the event of injury, a policy increase in the event of marriage, or a son leaving for college and how that might signal changing financial needs.
Maintain a differentiated blog
Although not as trendy as it was a decade ago, blogging establishes deep and lasting roots online. It lets you tell your story more intimately than short-form social networks, and blogs index better on search results. To guide your talking points, ask yourself what you want to be known for, especially areas of expertise. Then build an ongoing schedule of posts around those topics. In addition to original content, your blog is the ideal place to link to "curated" content that others have produced that may interest your target audience. More than anything, your blog should be a personal forum for helpful and practical information and give prospects a sense of who you are and how you do business.
Augment your message with Twitter
If social networking is a valuable tool for driving traffic to your blog, then Twitter is its expressway. Simply put, a mix of tweets and posts helps producers connect more deeply with customers and prospects. For example, after reading LIMRA's newest statistic on health insurance know-how, you might share it on Twitter with a hashtag (i.e., pound sign) to make your tweet searchable and grouped with like-minded comments. For example, #goodadvice. While sharing newsworthy developments is helpful, going a step further by interpreting them is better. For instance, you might follow up or include in the LIMRA tweet a link to one of your blog posts that details the ramifications for policyholders.
Network with influencers
To make the most of social media, you also want to find and connect with popular influencers. Twitter lets you identify influencers and gather them into lists. Through HootSuite, a social media management tool, you can track and monitor your lists, including filtering them by their "Klout" score, which rates individuals' social media power rankings. In addition, Twitter's #Discover section identifies influential members to follow. Similarly, LinkedIn Pulse is a popular newsreader that lets LinkedIn members find influencers based on elements such as interest areas, professional associations, and industries, making it one of the best ways for agents to connect with influencers. Remember: Don't just broadcast your views on social media. Befriend others, learn from them, and recognize their comments as much as you hope others will accept and remember yours.
Promote your blog across channels
If no one knows about the helpful posts you're writing, your content can't do its job. To avoid this, share links to your specific blog posts wherever they may be relevant, whether Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Instagram, e-mail, word of mouth, or industry forums. Consider using checklists and tools like HootSuite to gather all of your social networks in one place to ensure you're on all relevant channels
Don't overlook photos and video
Content that's paired with original photos and videos enjoys broader reach that content without. As such, consider personalized, face-to-face videos and photos on social media, particularly Instagram and Vine. For example, you might post a video entitled "Mo' Money, Mo Problems" while asking the question: What to do now that I am actually making money? Add the following hashtags #grownupproblems #nofilter #financialproducer #SOS and promote the piece across your other channels, including your blog.
Consider a social CRM program
These can help you keep a handle on all your social media efforts. For instance, Sprout Social is a content management system that provides a host of helpful analytics. Like Hootsuite, Sprout lets you systematize your communications across multiple social networks. It also offers advanced analytics that can be useful for insurance producers, including an ability to archive all historical conversations across social platforms, see detailed customer records, and centralize your inbox to monitor all social media messages in one place.
The Time is Now
If you've read this far, hopefully you view social media participation as a requisite tool to reach customers in the mobile information era. Thriving industries already know this. Now it's your turn, discretionary insurance.