With every Facebook announcement detailing yet more restrictions on brand messages in newsfeeds, it is important to keep in mind the business objectives for using Facebook for marketing insurance products.

Don’t make the mistake of acting impulsively – for the foreseeable future Facebook will be a vital digital platform which insurers and agents ignore at their peril. This is true for most brands, not just in our industry, and this market reality affords Facebook the cover to unilaterally make changes without consultation. This is part of social media marketing, Facebook holds a lot of the cards but you must remain true to your own business goals and not seduced into trying to “game” Facebook for short term gains.

Is ad driven Facebook a bad thing?

Being able to select the exact delivery time, audience and message is taken for granted in most ad driven mediums – so the same must be true for Facebook. We have been playing a cat and mouse game trying to outwit Facebook’s algorithms to earn free content distribution and this has resulted in some very poor design and campaign ideas that should have never left the white board.

See Facebook for what it is – a social platform that demands a slightly softer sell than traditional ad platforms but don’t lose sight of the fact that we are there to sell insurance. For most insurers, social posts should encourage the reader to engage and take a step that can be measured. That could be to add a comment, read further blog-based information, set up an appointment, share the information with friends, watch a video or just be more aware of your brand. The key is to articulate the desired next step on the customer buy journey and take advantage of the ability to measure everything and iterate.

Facebook for many insurers, and this is a gross generalization of course, is delivering “lower cost per action” numbers than Google and other social platforms. But it should not be about clicks or likes, it should be about positively growing consideration of your brand for ongoing business. Logically, Facebook costs will increase as brands get booted off the newsfeed and need to delve into paid ads. Facebook has a limited stock of ad space on the news feed so in the bidding model, the price goes up. Of course, the opposite may also be true – increased costs may drive some brands away that have not matched cost to a satisfactory business outcomes. Many insurers were initially attracted to Facebook because it was “free” but that was never likely to be a solid long term business strategy.

Is Organic Reach a Nice Memory?

Not at all – organic reach is alive, maybe on life-support but alive.  It’s certainly harder but marketing insurance has never been easy. Facebook is not restricting brand access just to increase its ad revenue, even though that’s not a bad outcome for them. Facebook is understandably worried that their users have become more discerning and resent being inundated with brand messages. The old adage of “if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product” rings true. For Facebook, its user base is their product which they cannot afford to devalue.

So where does organic reach come from? Mostly from the simple act of post sharing – Facebook remains the most efficient word of mouth engine ever conceived. Traditionally most creative marketing across print, TV, radio and even the internet is designed to appeal to the targeted audience – one step from marketer to potential customer. The occasional pass through by word of mouth was an attractive add-on.

Now we need to consider two-step marketing where the pass-through (sharing) is the primary objective. People trust (most of) their Facebook network so shared posts comes with an implicit badge of trust. Take a simple example, posts about renters insurance enjoy strong engagement – is the average renter engaging with insurers on Facebook? Some yes, but probably this is parents of millennials doing some gentle nudging. So Insurers and agents have to think hard about what content will people deem of value or interest to others.

So summarizing,

  • Facebook is here and not going away
  • Facebook holds the cards and willing to make changes without consultation
  • Facebook ads can be very effective
  • Facebook ad costs will likely increase
  • Facebook is the most efficient word of mouth engine ever conceived
  • Shared posts come with an implicit level of trust
  • People will only share posts that are deemed of value to their friends

Insurers that rely solely on organic reach will struggle to maintain adequate reach and will inevitably curtail content creation overheads. Equally, insurers that employ a paid-only approach neglect Facebook’s digital word of mouth capacity and not maximize the return of investment. Marketers need to blend paid with organic – paid posts will generally be more effective in reaching the first audience layer but organic sharing amplifies the reach to outer layers while adding a coating of trust. But most important, reach, engagement, actions are only valuable if they contribute to the stated business objective.

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