Social Media Use Growing At Life Carriers

October 24, 2011

 
Social Media Use Growing At Life Carriers

By Linda Koco
InsuranceNewsNet

NEW YORK CITY – Carriers that currently have social media initiatives are including producers in their efforts, according to a LIMRA researcher.

“The companies are using social media technologies primarily to help producers with lead generation and community building,” said Todd A. Silverhart during a packed break-out session at LIMRA’s annual meeting. Silverhart, a director of technology in marketing and distribution research at LIMRA, was reporting on preliminary results from a new social media survey of life insurance companies that the association did this year.

Twenty-five percent of the surveyed companies are actively using social media initiatives this year, up from 20 percent last year, he said. The top platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Producers comprise one of the target audiences for life carrier initiatives on these platforms, the researcher said. But all of the active companies also use social media to interact with the public—primarily for brand management and community building.

Some carriers are also using the technologies internally to foster collaboration between peers and also with the field, Silverhart said.

Compliance Concerns

Compliance has been, and continues to be, a major concern that companies have about social media technology, Silverhart said.

Still, more companies are stepping up their efforts. The three top reasons for doing so, according to the LIMRA data, were: table stakes (“the carriers believe they need to be in the game,” explained Silverhart), competitive advantage and senior management.

Regarding compliance concerns, session moderator Thomas P. Caraher, vice president-regulatory services strategy center at LIMRA, pointed out that the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has put out “very specific advice” on using social media that might help with sorting through some of the compliance issues.

Researchers at LIMRA are looking at the guidance along with the state insurance departments and the Federal Trade Commission— a standard on which to build.

In addition, Caraher said that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is working on a whitepaper on this subject right now.

Even for those working on the fixed side of the business, the FINRA guidance can be helpful, he added, explaining that “it’s something to lean on.”

Gregory M. Weiss, assistant vice president-social media for New York Life, says that a day does not go by that his staff doesn’t have a conversation or two about social media issues with the company’s compliance or legal department.

There are “lots of issues” to go over, he allowed, but the tone of the conversations was that “we can’t do it without you.”

The New Normal

The New York carrier is actively involved in using social media. “It’s the New Normal, not a passing fad,” Weiss said. New York Life now gets 1 billion “positive impressions” a year from its social media initiatives, he said, so “our social footprint has grown.”

It’s not enough just to use social media to “love your customer,” Weiss said. Companies should take an analytic approach, checking not only the tweets containing comments about the company but also the retweeting detail.

He said this analysis should include testing such as finding out what is the best day of the week to tweet, what time of day, how many times a week, what words drive retweets, what messages drive confidence on Facebook and so on.
 
Rather than trying to build up a certain number of Facebook fans, he said the really important metric is a new measure from Facebook called “People talking about us.”  This metric represents posting, commenting, sharing, tagging items related to a specific entity. Use of this metric can help when asked to justify return on investment for social media, Weiss said.
 
For instance, Weiss’ team used the new metric as relates to posting, commenting, sharing and tagging of items referencing New York Life. The carrier divided this metric by the company's Facebook fans, he said. That resulted in a measure of 2.42 percent—a percentage that Weiss said compared “very favorably” to other consumer brands such as Apple, Starbucks, Facebook, American Express, The Beatles, Coca Cola and Nike.

Beyond being mentioned, he added, the metric represents potential sales and insurance protection. As Weiss put it, people might learn more about life insurance through social media conversations – and purchase it. Then, later on, perhaps that policy might help pay for child’s college education.

Online Listening

New York Life does “online listening,” which is essentially following comments about the company and competitors. “That’s the backbone of everything we do,” Weiss said. His team uses the information to generate conversations on its own website, gather ideas as well as spot issues and specific complaints.

If the listening picks up a complaint, the carrier will check it out and follow up if it appears to be an actionable item. It uses software to do the initial filtering.

Roughly 7 percent or 8 percent of mentions include actionable items, he said. “If something we find is relevant—a customer with an issue, for instance—we’re all over it.”

Linda Koco, MBA, is a contributing editor to InsuranceNewsNet, specializing in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda can be reached at linda.koco@in[email protected].

© Entire contents copyright 2011 by InsuranceNewsNet.com Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the expressed written consent from InsuranceNewsNet.com.


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