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“Get Out Of My Facebook”—An Insurance Industry Innovator’s Guide To Social Media

As I observe and listen to the challenges, approaches and results of social media in the insurance industry, I cannot help but think about the original cast of Saturday Night Live and their skit called “Land Shark.”

It evolved out of the hype from the movie “Jaws.” Basically, the shark is trying to get inside the apartments of unsuspecting people. But the character played by Laraine Newman is somewhat “onto” the shark. As he tries to disguise himself as a flower delivery guy or a candygram, she sees right through it (until he says something that melts her heart; she opens the door and he has his shark way with her).

That’s the way some insurance companies are approaching social media, and their potential customers can see through it too. Though there’s nothing new about social media as a marketing channel, and many of these points have been discussed before, there are many industries that have not successfully cracked the nut of conversation with consumers.

Social First, Media Second

While social media is a powerful force in reaching large numbers of people, one must remember that the users are not going to this source for products and services. They are using it to make connections, stay in touch and network with people they choose.

The biggest mistake that I see in the application of social media in the insurance industry is that they are taking the messages used in traditional advertising media (like TV and print), and placing them on the social media “channels” like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The best result an insurance company can expect from this traditional approach is a small number of followers and fans and, more likely than not, annoy users to a point where even relevant messages are ignored.

Innovation In Communication

Innovative marketers need to remember that social media works because of “who and what.” Who is saying it and what they are saying. “Who” is someone of trust and expertise in an area. “What” is the resonating message that makes sense in a sound bite or two. It means translating products and services from what they are to what they do, and having it said by someone who is both genuine and credible. The innovation lies in “breaking open” the traditional message into small, relevant pieces and using them to pull interest versus push product.

The Basics Of Getting It Right For The Insurance Industry

  1. Give the page a human face and name, not a company name and logo.
  2. Tell a story versus listing features and benefits.
  3. Be short and use plain language.
  4. Make sure the fit is genuine. Don’t put your message in a dialogue where it doesn’t fit with what the group cares about (classic Land Shark moment!).

This Is Not Your Father’s Marketing Campaign

How does one think innovatively about this? Infusing outside expertise can reveal obvious solutions and challenges. If someone outside your “jar” is able to tell you it is relevant and effective, then it probably is.

In this case, getting the opinion of someone who is:

  • not in your business, BUT
  • has a need for your product and service, AND
  • is a heavy social media user, AND
  • in the target market, OR
  • who has dealt with a similar issue in another industry.

If the insurance industry can agree to start with consumer needs first, the rest will follow suit, social media included!

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