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November 24, 2011updated 13 Apr 2017 8:47am

Harnessing an ineluctable trend

Initial concerns about the compliance issues surrounding the use of social networking sites in life insurance marketing have given way to the recognition that Facebook, Linked-In and other networks are here to stay. The inevitability of social media as a force for reaching out to three critical components of the life industry producers, consumers and employees have let to a veritable explosion in the use of the technology.

By Charles Davis

Initial concerns about the compliance issues surrounding the use of social networking sites in life insurance marketing have given way to the recognition that Facebook, Linked- In and other networks are here to stay.

Picture of the Twitter logoThe inevitability of social media as a force for reaching out to three critical components of the life industry – producers, consumers and employees – have let to a veritable explosion in the use of the technology.

“Insurers may have been late to the social media party, but they are certainly engaged now,” said Todd Silverhart, a director of technology in marketing and distribution research at financial industry research organisation LIMRA.

Silverhart was discussing with LII the preliminary results from a new social media survey of life insurance companies that the association did this year.

Silverhart said the survey found 80% of insurers surveyed are actively or tentatively on social media sites, with many operating multiple channels around different audiences, product sets and demographic slices.

“Insurers are using social media technologies primarily to help producers with lead generation and community building,” said Silverhart.

“There is broad recognition that this is no longer a fad, that social networking is here to stay.

“From a marketers’ perspective there once was concern about what percentage of the market was online, but now there is an understanding that almost everybody is online and so the question becomes more about how insurers get to this breathtaking level of engagement and get even a piece of that.”

 

Buying habits changing

Silverhart continued that the embrace of social networking also reflects the insurance industry’s recognition that the ways consumers purchase insurance is changing.

“Today’s insurance consumer is doing a lot of online shopping, and they include a lot of online communication in their decision making process,” he said.

“This means that they increasingly turn to their social networks for recommendations and advice, and there is a real opportunity to talk to these consumers online in the social networks.”

Compliance concerns remain, with the biggest challenges revolving around issues of archiving electronic communications, protecting against inappropriate promises and the electronic solicitation of testimonials.

“Without any specific rules out there, it’s really tough,” Silverhart stressed.

“Insurers have figured out a way to deal with the issues that were bothering them here. Negative posts, for example, are an opportunity to take something into another channel and educate.”

MassMutual is one such insurer. The company recently launched a new Facebook campaign, ‘Why Life Insurance?’, designed to confront common barriers and start families across America thinking about their financial futures.

This social media effort enlists the help of kids to underscore the importance of life insurance and was developed in part to address an industry-wide challenge: the record low in life insurance ownership in the US.

The campaign features a series of videos featuring children taking control of the discussion by questioning a life insurance agent and quizzing adults on their knowledge of the topic. MassMutual’s Facebook fans will also have links to financial resources, helpful tips and a platform to engage in real-time conversation.

The ‘Why Life Insurance?’ page was developed and executed through a collaborative programme involving MassMutual’s advertising agency of record, Mullen, in cooperation with Genuine Interactive.

The campaign confronts common barriers to life insurance ownership in a no-nonsense, head-on tone, tackling such subjects as the anxiety that comes with discussing death, prioritising financial responsibilities and dispelling the notion that life insurance can be expensive. The content is refreshingly candid, and is designed to start conversations rather than push product.

In one spot, a predictably adorable child swipes his father’s spare change as dad returns home from a day at the office, and then shows up at a MassMutual agent’s office clutching a plastic bag full of coins.

“I have this month’s premium,” he says.

“So you parents still don’t think they can afford life insurance?” asks the agent.

“Sometimes parents just don’t learn,” the kid responds, handing over the bag of change.

The exit tag: “They can’t do it for themselves. But if they could, they would.”

MassMutual senior vice-president and chief marketing officer John Chandler explained the campaign evolved from a daylong meeting with Mullen about the digital landscape.

“We were thinking, really just brainstorming about the digital space, and at the same time, we had this societal issue about the lack of insurance ownership, so we saw it as starting conversations,” Chandler said.

“The social networks are just the best, most cost-effective way to have that kind of conversation.”

Chandler said the humorous yet educational tone reflect MassMutual’s desire to address issues larger then mere sales.

“Social media grew as a personal vehicle, and we are very conscious of respecting the network and its tone. We didn’t want to come off like a bunch of corporate stiffs,” Chandler said.

“The underlying message here is that if a child can figure it out, it is pretty elemental.”

 

Different evaluation stance

MassMutual also takes a different approach to evaluating its social network presence, said Chandler.

“A lot of programmes obsessively count likes or leads,” he said.

“Our goal was to foster the conversation, and so we are monitoring much more closely the number of people talking on our Facebook page.

“We have been as high as 10% of the ‘likes’ of our page talking at one time, and that, to us, is a much more meaningful statistic.”

For now, Chandler said, the site offers an ideal listening post for MassMutual.

“The beauty of these comments are that it helps us perfect tonality, hone our message, how we perceive customer need,” he said.

“We see it as a listening tool, and we like the fact that we are addressing a much broader societal issue that we all need to work on.

“The social networks are just incredibly powerful for this kind of conversation.”

Charles Davis

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