Remember to be human

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I recently attended the 2014 Social Media Conference for Financial Services hosted by LOMA and LIMRA. One of the main themes that came across from many of the speakers was the need to remember the human interaction on social media. Speaker after speaker emphasized one of the most important aspects of social media-interactions with people.

Oftentimes, companies focus more on PR and marketing and very little on the people interaction behind social platforms. A customer in need of a question answered does not want a canned marketing response such as “We are sorry for the inconvenience, we’ll get back to you in 24 hrs.” They want to engage with the people behind the brand.

During the conference, participants saw examples of this idea in action. Such as an insurance agent connecting with his clients by sharing things such as studying for an insurance certification exam, or a company that shows their employees participating in volunteer work. Many of us can certainly relate to studying for an exam and doing work around our community. This highlighted the fact that behind every insurance company, there are people just like you and me – after all, insurance agents are people too! We also saw examples of companies launching successful social media campaigns to empower agents to increase sales through social selling, to improve customer engagement to drive brand advocacy and effective use of social media platforms to attract new customers.

One of the major obstacles to using social media platforms in Financial Services is meeting compliance and regulation requirements. However, it seemed that companies that were considered leaders in social media engagement have largely figured out how to meet compliance and regulation requirements and also allow employees and their distribution partners to interact with customers and prospects. They do so mainly though pre-approved content that can be customized by users and content monitoring across social media platforms.

In my presentation, I highlighted the idea that while social media platforms are where customers go to be “social” they are increasingly becoming a destination for interaction and engagement with companies. In the spirit of the conference, I’ll share the top 5 tweets from my presentation.

  1. “It’s not what you know, it’s what you share” Social isn’t limited to B2C engagement, it is also about social and collaboration within the company for expertise , innovation and knowledge sharing, amongst other things. However, after additional discussion with some conference attendees, “what you share” doesn’t mean share everything.
  2. “Go where your customers are, the interaction with your core  customer is dictated by the medium they use” Most companies have a social media strategy where they try to manage engagement over many platforms. However, a company’s core customers may have a higher usage on one platform over another for brand engagement e.g. high net worth individuals use LinkedIn, 68% of Instagram users are women and over 90% are under the age of 35, according to Business Insider. If your core customer segment is high net worth individuals, it should be obvious where you should focus your social engagement strategy in order to reach them. Companies still need to “listen” across multiple platforms and engage when appropriate.
  3. “A social media strategy should not be platform dependent” This may seem contradictory to the previous statement, but it isn’t.  Who knows what the “next big platform” will be for how people interact in the next 2-5 years? While it is important to go where you customers are, it’s important to remember that change is inevitable, so be flexible and be ready to adapt. Someone pointed out that a company should have a strategy for all platforms.  A strategy for all platforms casts a wide net as more social platforms rise in popularity and others fade. So where should a company draw the line, and are all platforms good for financial services engagement?
  4. “No one ever woke up and said they want to be an insurance adjuster” it’s true for most, but social recruiting and creating a smarter workforce can be beneficial to attracting people, especially younger workers to the industry.
  5. “Customers don’t engage with your marketing department, they engage with your staff” Remember to be human!

Manager, Insurance Industry Solutions Leader, IBM Analytics

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