Accenture’s New White Paper on Social Media for Insurers Misses the Point

There are times when the insurance industry looks a lot like Superman. A disaster strikes your life or business – a flood, a bankruptcy, a lawsuit – and an insurance carrier flies in to save your day.

When it comes to social media, I think a number of insurers run the risk of looking powerful but passive…like they just got handed a bar of kryptonite.

Though many insurance companies are now aggressively pursuing the potential of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, some see it only as a new distribution point or as an extension of CRM. After all, those are the “safe” opportunities.

Make no mistake, there is real risk involved in managing regulatory compliance and reputation in the insurance sector. Fears about “who you can talk to” and “how you can talk to them” make this a complicated marketing decision.

Nevertheless, it still seems a bit short-sighted to minimize the real power of social media – the chance to engage with your audience and build significant relationships with your policyholders.

A new report by Accenture sizes up the digital opportunity for insurers – and also loses sight of the real prize. “Achieving High Performance in Insurance through Social Media” makes a case for companies to:

  • Establish listening posts: Capture customer “life events” to improve alignment of customers, offers and channels
  • Engage Customers through Inbound Marketing: “Implement automated solutions…to ensure accurate, compliant content in the environments that can be controlled”
  • Leverage social media in the Insurance Sales Process: Identify the next generation of agents that excel at developing online relationships

Insurance leaders will find useful “Examples of U.S. Regulations Affecting Insurer Use of Social Media” and “Examples of Leading Practices for Insurers.” They’ll also find a “Social Media Management Framework” to help clients develop a roadmap for their social media strategy.

What you won’t find – in the chart or the white paper — is much discussion of consumers. Social Media is meant to start and end as a conversation. A rich dialogue between two people offers the opportunity to build a mutually beneficial relationship, not just act as a “touchpoint.” Therefore, after gathering the data that Accenture suggests, insurers should:

  1. Turn data segments into “characters” or “personas” that can guide content development
  2. Assess current website traffic patterns and KPIs to see what’s getting your visitors excited – and what’s not
  3. Create conversational themes that help the company understand what really matters to their policyholders…then start talking to them about it. Use a digital PR firm if it makes sense.

Ironically, insurers understand human behavior better than almost anyone. After all, they are in the business of managing the risk and messiness that most of us would prefer to ignore. If they start by sharing their experience and hard-won advice, they’ll already be walking down the right road. And better sales and agent development will swiftly follow.

How do you think insurers are handling social media? Do you see any trailblazers?

(photo by DavidChief)

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