In my first blog on this series on the impact of social media on insurance, I argued that the most compelling benefit that social media offered insurers was the ability to build trust with consumers.
However, we need to take a reality check here. Social media channels are used for personal, non-business interactions, so they are not best suited for selling. Just as an insurance salesman doesn’t use a dinner party to sell (it’s the kind of thing that loses one friends, not gains one clients!), so “friends” on a social media channel do not sell each other stuff.
It’s all about building relationships and earning trust—a long-term process that cannot be directly correlated with sales targets. In other words, to become a true digital insurer, companies can’t just transfer their existing mindsets and processes onto digital channels—they have to develop a digital mindset to go with the change.
In the process, insurers will gain a lot of customer information that they can use to refine product design and marketing strategies. Along the way they will enhance customer loyalty. But they won’t make sales. Ironically, this most immediate of media has to be part of a long-term plan. This may require a change in thinking by the marketing department.
Because of the long-term nature of relationship building, insurers have to be authentic in the way they interact on these channels. All too often, social media are farmed out to junior employees who do not have the empathy, experience and product knowledge that is required. In fact, social media requires people who are not only natural social communicators but also experts in the topic, otherwise the customers won’t get the “real” experience of the company.
In building personal relationships, one has to develop trust—and trust is a byproduct of authenticity. As I said earlier, insurers have to be using social media, but because of the commitments it entails, they need to be very clear about what they are doing, and why.
Or, to put it another way, it’s not really about the number of followers you have on Facebook or Twitter, but the quality (or authenticity) of the engagement you have with them.
And it’s the why that I want to explore in more detail in my next blog.