Since the financial crisis, insurance companies (and financial services companies in general) have had a monumental mountain to climb rebuilding trust and broken reputations with customers, media, and government alike. Most are nowhere near there yet. Generally speaking, the products of these firms are low-interest, low-engagement commodities, so even before the sky fell in, marketing and communications for these companies and products was a struggle.
Partly due to the category challenges, partly due to the highly incentivised sales culture within the industry (I know this as a veteran of the bancassurance industry before my digital renaissance), there has long-existed a notion that insurance is sold and not bought.
So, against this backdrop, how can social media help those companies struggling with their joint reputation rebuilding and sales mission? To my mind, there are three areas where social media can play a key role:
1. [Re]Building Brands
Social media has always been great at the brand [re]building side of things. The media naturally lends itself to raising awareness of brands, through the networked nature of the platforms. As a place where people are, in the first instance, interacting with family and friends, colleagues or communities of like-minded individuals, putting a human face on brand communications pays dividends by growing reach, increasing preference, and propensity to buy.
In my adopted home city of Hong Kong, a recent campaign by AIA Insurance produced amazing results by doing just that. As part of the firm’s repositioning exercise as the “real life” company, they asked people to share photos of what “real life” meant to them using the hashtag (#reallifehk) which was rewarded with small spot prizes for participants related to the photograph shared. The firm tripled its Facebook community during the course of the campaign and saw significant consumer engagement. (Source: Campaign Magazine, Nov 2013)
Back around the world, to my original home, a social campaign by RBS Insurance in the UK that was aimed at the motorcycling community showed how social can increase preference. The campaign consisted of a branded forum with a host of video content, integrated with key social media channels. It showed results that members of the community were 31% more likely to take out insurance with that brand. (Source: RBS Insurance)
2. Generating Leads
The channel also lends itself to being able to generate warm leads for products. A great example of using social media and content marketing in this capacity is the Allstate Blog from the U.S.
This blog, provides tons of content connected to its product categories, sometimes closely linked, sometimes more tangential. For instance, in its “My Home” category you can read, share articles and infographics as well as watch videos on subjects as diverse as “Firewood: Tips on Buying, Storing and Using”, “5 Creative Ways to Announce Your Next Move” and “Lessons Learned from “The Walking Dead”’! All of the articles add value in some way, either through practical advice, ideas and / or entertainment. None of them push the products overtly, but at every opportunity there is an ability to “Get a Quote”, “Subscribe to blog” and “Find A Local Agent”, as there is to share the article content with friends on social media channels.
3. Building Loyalty
Increasingly, customers wish to obtain customer service from brands using digital and social channels. This is in part due to younger demographic coming through who are much more comfortable with non-voice communication, but not unique to younger people. Forrester found that there’s a shift in channel preference toward digital channels for customer service across all demographics. Although voice is still the key channel, this is changing rapidly. Social in this regard is increasingly playing a key role in servicing customers in the insurance industry. Another example from Allstate, who appear to be doing it right, is the Twitter profile @Allstatecares that provides a working hours question and claims customer service channel.
In summary, social media can help insurance brands appear more human and interesting and with that comes the ability to repair battered reputations, drive sales leads and better service existing customers, building loyalty. The trick though, is to appeal to the emotional rather than the rational needs of customers by talking less about product and more consumer benefit in this channel. As always in social media the best results come from openness, transparency, direct engagement, providing utility and making the experience enjoyable by focusing on the needs of the customer and not the brand.
Jon Wade is head of digital, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick.
This article first appeared on the ClickZ website