In a recent interview, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent recently told the Harvard Business Review that social media marketing now accounts for about 20 percent of the company’s overall budget. Five years ago, social media accounted for just 3 percent, but the appeal of improving prospect and customer engagement was too great for the organization to ignore. He went on to say social media marketing would be an integral element of the company’s strategy in the next decade.
Alarm bells will have rung in every advertising, PR and digital agency in the land as they desperately sought out and added social media experts to their teams. Expect every presentation from this point forward to include hockey stick graphs about social media impact and prophecies of doom for those not on the bandwagon.
Make no mistake, I am a big advocate of social media; I firmly believe it has a role to play. We must be careful however not to expect too much too soon from this fledgling paradigm.
Social media is rocket-powered word-of-mouth and anything that can help explain, promote and sell insurance must be good. Consumers, in general, do not like to think about, buy or use insurance products. Now, in the age of the self-serve internet, consumers are desperately seeking out advice, recommendations and referrals and social media is often the vehicle they use.
Before agencies convince you to dig deep into your marketing budgets and splash out to become the most liked insurer, step back and think about the strategic direction that you need to take. If social media allows you to engage with consumers, what consumers and why-oh-why would they want to talk to you? I hate to break it to you but insurance is not the most exhilarating business; I would guess that most of your employees do not like you on Facebook. Do you want to engage with prospects, current customers, agents, or employees? The conversation for each type might be different; engagement goals are different. A single customer category might be too broad, should you target specific age groups, or interests, or professions. The Hartford’s blog is written by the delightfully named “Advance 50 Team”, the company’s in-house team of gerontologists. Acuity, as part of their strategy provide “Timely Transportation News and Information” specifically for truckers. Horace Mann’s Facebook page primarily recruits and engages with public school teachers.
So before, you are inundated, or worse, your CEO is inundated, with highly pictorial, flashy, glitzy campaign pitches about the glory that comes from social media – take control. Think about how social media works for you, what you want to achieve, who do you want to engage with, how does this fit with you distribution model – start small, grow expertise, understand the value.