The insurance industry happily plods along as befits an industry that essentially hasn’t changed for 300 years. There is the occasional moment of excitement or panic such as with the emergence of Insurtech but once startups stopped talking about “disruption” and replaced that with “partnering” things calmed down.

Previous to Insurtech, social media very briefly threatened to be disruptive with policy-holders taking control of the message. With anyone capable of becoming a publisher, negative stories could go viral in an instant with insurers unable to challenge the veracity constrained by compliance and natural inertia. Well, it didn’t happen, or not to the level feared and people have reverted to using social media to stalk family members and discuss the menace of dog owners that don’t clean up after their pets.

But social media also promised an intriguing upside; inexpensive or even free direct access to customers. By 2015, over 100 million people had signed up as ‘fans’ of insurance companies on Facebook in the US. Insurers scrambled to exploit the opportunity, creating new forms of content and learning how to manipulate social platform algorithms. However, the upside or at least the free part was short-lived as platform vendors decided that their investors wanted to see revenue.

Eight years on, few insurers have closed social media accounts and continue developing and posting content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Instagram. But it’s no longer free or even inexpensive, content creation is expensive, as is getting that content in front of the right audience. Add to that the cost of educating or supporting local agents, the increasing cost of necessary tools and the growing expense and time needed to collect and analyze data. Social media is now, like the industry itself, starting to plod along as a nice but not critical add-on to marketing and public relations.

The growing cost of social media demands greater scrutiny and it is increasingly common for senior executives to ask for increased justification. As part of this examination, it is appropriate to ask deep and uncomfortable questions.

 The growing cost of social media demands greater scrutiny and it is increasingly common for senior executives to ask for increased justification. As part of this examination, it is appropriate to ask deep and uncomfortable questions. How much original content needs to be produced? Should local agents be supported on social media and for what benefit? Do  Facebook pages provide value? Can visual platforms like Instagram really help insurers reach millennials? and of course, what are other insurers doing on social media and does that create a competitive advantage?

Social media has a role to play, in no small part as an influencer channel. But marketing through influencers, be it agents, employees, or partners and gaining implicit endorsement is more challenging than paying for targeted ads. Taking the case of local agents, they have proven to be an essential but very unpredictable social media route to the customer. Agents have other priorities and, as a group, not totally convinced of the benefits. Even those agents that show favor towards social media are inundated with similar content from multiple insurers. There are just so many times agents can offer advice on frozen water pipes. Insurers need to provide differentiated content around a strategy to maximize distribution and influence but most importantly help agents drive business.

It is time to step back, conduct a competitive social media audit, reposition overall strategy, business goals, and budget requirements.

The Customer Respect Group have reviewed the social media activities and strategies for more than 400 insurance companies over 9 years. While the most practical aspects of social media have changed, the fundamentals are the same. It is fair to say that we have seen and reviewed thousands of social media initiatives and probably seen every technique, campaign, and initiative. Our ability to conduct Social Media Audit is unrivaled.

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