You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

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“Engagement” is the buzzword of the day in social media. Brands have shifted their focus from recruiting fans and followers to creating dialogues with them. The hypothesis is that engaged fans will see the organization as more than a vendor of financial services products. Indeed, in a survey of members, Thrivent found that 42 percent of people who are age 45 and younger are more likely to consult the company about financial matters because of its presence on Facebook.

Engagement, however, is not that simple, because most insurers struggle to work out with whom they want to have a dialogue. Simply being a customer is not a compelling reason to have a conversation – account questions, maybe, but surely they are handled better via a telephone call.

On Facebook, the average number of interactions (a like, share or comment) by fans to an insurers post is a little more than three per 100 fans. This number, as with all averages, hides a very complex picture since engagement can come in many forms.

A common bond that exists with natural communities is an obvious advantage to a “let’s chat” conversation, and fraternal- and membership-based organizations such as Thrivent Financial, Modern Woodmen of America and USAA enjoy higher engagement levels (5.3 interactions per 100 fans, or 5.3 percent). Even higher engagement (12 percent) comes from pages that focus on lifestyle or occupation; good examples are found on the Facebook pages of Allstate Motorcycle, Acuities InGear for truckers and Horace Mann for teachers. Fans visiting these pages see beyond the insurance policy and into the community.

Social media engagement does not need to be a conversation or community, however; it can be the virtual equivalent of the high five. This is prevalent among the industry mass marketers that often accrue huge fan bases, thus rendering conversation a largely implausible goal. Flo, with more than 4 million fans on Facebook, can do little more than post content interesting enough to draw a smile or attract a like. Engagement rates are generally low (a little more than 1 percent), with Mayhem from Allstate as the current undisputed leader. The objective is less to do with engaging in a conversation but brand awareness, persuading consumers to spread your message through their networks.

Another form of engagement is “pass the parcel” – creating content compelling enough that the recipient immediately passes it on to his or her network. This can expand the reach dramatically, but also provides content for each person in the chain. This works effectively in the insurance industry because so much already builds on the distributed model. Agents are fast recognizing the value of social media to keep in touch with the connected consumer, but often struggle to develop a steady flow of interesting content. Insurers that address this agent need are enjoying strong engagement rates, especially from shares. Auto-Owners Insurance not only have an engagement rate of 35 percent, but 60 percent of that is the result of content shares. AGLA and Primerica also boast high engagement rates, and like Auto-Owners, the vast majority is with content-starved agents. In a recent survey of 293 independent agencies by B.H. Burke & Co., 60 percent have a Facebook page and 37 percent a Twitter feed. The problem is that 68 percent of those with social media activity have no plan.

Therefore, before embarking on social media and engagement measurements, it is critical to understand which community you most want to engage. Success, or lack of it, is very often the result of attempting to speak to multiple audiences and, as a result, speaking to none.

A sample selection of Facebook engagements statistics for insurers can be found at http://customerrespect.com/blog/collections/facebook-fan-table/

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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