Social Media and the Class of 2012 Graduate Together


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Social media has evolved from “what” to “why” and now to “how,” but it is important not to overthink the technology. Insurers, like other brands, need to connect and communicate with prospective consumers, and social media is a very useful communication channel.

The 2012 college graduating class was one of the first classes to have enjoyed access to Facebook and mobile phones all through high school and college, and it is not surprising that its members are comfortable with these technologies. It is perhaps fitting that Facebook graduated to NASDAQ at the same time as the class of 2012 were launching their mortarboards skyward.

This class of graduates has probably never used a phonebook, never received personal calls on a home phone and never sent a letter to a friend. It is also likely that, outside of their new work existence, they rarely use e-mail. They watch TV and movies on their laptops, often from the myriad of illicit websites pumping the latest releases without advertising. Reaching consumers is hard, and is even more so for the class of 2012. In a recent study by Deloitte, of the consumers who had no life insurance, nearly two-thirds (62%) had not received an offer to buy life insurance in the past year. For the class of 2012, that number is likely closer to 100%.

So know your audience and understand how to reach it. Many insurers continue to look at social media as some form of virus that threatens to disrupt carefully crafted messages. Some carriers that do have social media programs bury them in dark basements managed by “young” people who “get it.” This is akin to having the call center managed by someone who likes to talk on the phone.

Benefit number one of social media is simple: Social media is a communication channel and, as do other channels, has its own peculiarities and practices, many of which we are still learning. It took us 10 years to understand that websites should not be online representations of product brochures — we even gave these sites a name: brochure ware.

Social media is a massive network of connected consumers, often connecting using small-screened mobile devices. Insurers need to infiltrate that network, but this requires a degree of stealth. Don’t become the online equivalent of the pushy insurance salesperson handing out business cards at the July 4th BBQ. Concept content that helps consumers understand issues travels much better than a product piece. You must enter the network offering value. Content strategy is now more valuable than ever before — witness the current craze for info graphics and pictorial representations absorbed in 30 seconds.

The big difference however between social media and previous channels is that social media is a two-way medium. As marketers, we look at communication channels as an opportunity to push our message, but now consumers have almost equal access, and that scares us. To address this, we institute brand monitoring, reaching out to venting consumers. This is not dissimilar to other corporate communication initiatives, except we are now doing it in the public gaze, so a more delicate touch is required. And this is not insurmountable.

Neglected largely so far is the value of incoming information. We focus on the outgoing channel, but huge volumes of data are posted on every subject imaginable, including insurance. Think again of the class of 2012. Its members post about new jobs, moving to new cities, buying their first cars, acquiring other possessions, entering relationships, getting married. These are triggers for insurance that are there for all to see. Just as valuable is the stream of comments that flood Twitter and other social networks in response to TV programs, ads, current events and sports. Each month more than 60,000 tweets use the Twitter hashtag #Allstate. Many more do not categorize the tweet but still refer to Allstate. Social media is a real-time tsunami of market information, attitudes and preferences.

As insurers look to the class of 2012 as potential customers, social media is not a choice, and neither is the mobile device. But it does not stop there. The class of 2012 is responsible for changing the communications preferences for other consumers. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles have all accepted the reality of the times, realizing that this is the most efficient way to connect with “the young.” If Grandpa Bob can has figured out that social media is the most efficient way to keep updated on the lives of his grandkids, isn’t it time for insurers to do the same?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Terry Golesworthy
As the president of The Customer Respect Group for 7 years, I focus on the online experience of consumers. Online experience has always been bigger than the company website, from the response to email to integration to other offline channels. It has now grown to include social media.


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