Are you confused and overwhelmed by social media and where to begin? Well, don’t feel bad, most insurance agency owners are. In this blog post, I’m going to lay out a few of the best social media sites for insurance agency owners and why I feel you and your agency need to be there.
First off, when considering your insurance agency’s online marketing strategy, your website MUST come first. It’s very important to your marketing ROI. Agency owners must think of it as sort of a “base camp” that you will connect to/from any number of external points. Your agency’s website is property owned by you (agency owner), whereas social media pages are owned by someone else. Look at social media sites as simply a vehicle to get your agency’s message or brand out there and drive traffic back to what you have control over. Still, getting “social” is an important component to any marketing plan and getting more and more important as social media continues to grow in popularity.
Did you know there are more than 100 thriving social media sites online today and more popping up on a daily basis (you see them here at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites ). With so many social sites, it’s enough to make your head spin!
Where do you start when deciding what sites to include in your marketing strategy?
Here is my personal list. You don’t have to do them all right off the bat but I would recommend that you put a strategy together that has using the majority of them, eventually. Decide which ones (3 or more) will most benefit your agency and go from there.
Facebook was launched in February 2004 as a website for college students. It was launched from the inside of a dorm room. Facebook has come a long way in a short eleven years. Now with an estimated one billion active users, it is ranked as the most used social networking service in the world and that stat comes from the number of active monthly users.
Lucky for you and your agency, starting a Facebook business page and tapping into the power of Facebook is very easy. Once your agency’s page is created, users ‘like’ it (opt-in to get your posts) and your news will be posted to their ‘wall.’ Remember, you and your agency will have to create a budget because it is pay-to-play and if you want your agency’s posts to be seen, you will have to pay to promote them.
The Facebook interface makes it easy for your fans to ‘like’ or share your posts and when they do, their friends (the average Facebook user has 145 friends) will see this activity and/or post, therefore putting your agency’s brand (or your personal brand) in front of an audience that you may not normally have access to.
Why start with Facebook or why maintain an emphasis on Facebook? Well that’s easy to answer. It is because the audience is getting older on Facebook and if you’re an insurance agent, you’re not interested in insuring 18 year olds. You are interested in insuring the older, more mature drivers, right? With Instagram taking over the audience of 13 to 24 year olds, Facebook is only improving for us agency owners and the prospect list continues to improve in this social arena.
2. Twitter: Tweet Tweet.
A micro-blogging social media site that was started in 2004, Twitter has an estimated 350 million users world-wide. It has been described as SMS of the internet, because posts are short, 140 characters or less, which makes it sweet and to-the-point.
Twitter is a tidal wave of information, but it’s important to remember it only lasts 7 seconds – it hits fast. Posts come in at 140 characters or less and can be organized via hashtags (#). Hashtags play a huge role in the world of Twitter so go to www.hashtags.org to learn more about popular tags that are out there. Topics range from totally practical (I often search #Insurance) to the absolutely absurd (#GymPetPeeve). You must get creative and a little bold to be seen, so have a strategy.
Twitter differs from Facebook in that users ‘follow’ each other. If someone follows you, you can follow them back, but it’s not required. Therefore it is easier to gain a following, but the followers may not be as targeted as they are on Facebook.
I have found that Twitter is an awesome way to connect with people, business owners and/or other businesses participating in the same event. Following a hashtag at a concert, insurance conference, live performance or webinar creates a richer experience (my personal feeling). As a business owner, you can utilize this at events your agency participates in (we do here at Paradiso Insurance and for our Flag Week celebration it’s #FlagsFromParadisoIns, hope you look us up). Try it! I’ll bet you’d be blown away by the response and the effect it has on you and your agency.
3. YouTube (Visual and Music)
YouTube is a video sharing social media site that is owned by Google. This is a very important social site because we all know Google makes the rules. Some facts on YouTube are:
- YouTube has more than 1 billion users
- Every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views
- The number of hours people are watching YouTube each month is up 50%, year-over-year
- 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
- 60% of a creator’s views comes from outside their home country
- YouTube is localized in 75 countries and available in 61 languages
- Half of YouTube views are on mobile devices
- Mobile revenue on YouTube is up over 100%
(Stats provided by www.youtube.com)
As an agency owner, using video in your online marketing strategy is just as important as your other online and social strategies. Our agency uses YouTube videos to say Thank You to our clients along with wishing them a happy birthday and to reach out to them for many other holidays.
YouTube will also play a huge role in your agency’s digital marketing strategy because you will have a much better email open rate with either a great visual or a YouTube video. Your agency needs to be in the YouTube world.
3. Google+(The Power of a Circle).
Google is a powerhouse, this is no surprise. Originally launched as a search engine in 1996, Google has continually added, updated and created new products that will appeal to its 1 billion unique visitors per month.
Google Plus was introduced in June 2011 for personal use and in November of 2011 it was opened up to the businesses and brands. Some of the features of Google+ include: Circles, Hangouts, Messenger, Instant Upload, Hashtags and more. These products are definitely designed with the user in mind. With this being said, please get your agency’s Google+ page opened up as soon as you finish reading this article.
Even though this is Google’s fourth go at a social media site, you cannot deny the importance of adding your agency’s brand or personal brand there, if for search engine rankings (SEO) alone. Social media plays a huge role in search engines so don’t ignore social media just because you may not like it.
To compete against the Lizard and other direct writers, social media can be our best friend because it helps even out the playing field.
Founded in 2002 and then launched in 2003, LinkedIn is THE premier B2B (Business to Business) social networking site. LinkedIn gets 2 new members every second, putting it at 145 million active users in more than 198 countries.
Traditionally viewed as the spot to put your resume and search for a job, LinkedIn has grown into a robust social networking site. From job listings to interest groups (there are more than 910K LinkedIn groups) there are great benefits to keeping your profile up-to-date (you need to be an AllStar Profile). Look at it like an after hours networking event: put on your suit, have the right attitude, add a smile to your face and be on your best behavior because you never know what kind of business leads you’re going to get.
I always recommend dedicating at least an hour or so a week to maintain your LinkedIn profile because it’s like a full out business card where prospects get to understand your brand as well as who and what you stand for. Also, be sure to add your agency listing, and update it as well.
Use your LinkedIn agency profile page like a resume for your business.
The world has gone to visual content marketing and if your products are visually appealing, then this social media site is for you because the rest of the world is here. Pinterest is a visual board-styled social photo sharing site that was launched in 2009. The mission is to connect everyone in the world through shared taste and the things that they find interesting. This is one of the best social sites you can go on to find commonality, which will help you and your insurance agency to build trust.
Nothing is ever purchased without TRUST.
Users find and create theme-based boards, populating these ‘boards’ with a ‘Pin It’ button. Pins may be divided into pictures, videos, discussions, and gifts.
Users may follow anyone or any brand. Users can also ‘re-pin’ your pinned items. Companies with product should pin photos, insurance agencies can pin houses or classic cars they insure, and pictures of the agency’s staff. This will help you and your agency to gain a huge following and fast. Another great opportunity within the world of Pinterest is the ability to hashtag and backlink within your Pins. That could be great for your agency’s website.
Instagram opened in October 2010 and now has 350 million daily users (stat came from expanddrambling). Instagram is an online mobile photo sharing social media site owned by Facebook. Instagram does other social sharing such as video sharing and social media networking. Instagram services and enables its users to take pictures and videos and share them on a variety of social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Flickr. There are other social sites too. A distinctive feature is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic or the Polaroid images, which is in contrast to the 4:3 aspect ratio which is typically used by mobile (smart phones) device cameras. Users can also apply digital filters to their very own. You can also post videos – Instagram’s maximum duration for videos is 15 seconds.
Started in 2001, Ryze is a social networking site for professionals – particularly entrepreneurs. It’s free to join and there are paid memberships available. There are currently over 1 million professional worldwide, which is small compared to the other sites we have talked about.
More than 1000 organizations host networks on Ryze. According to their website, networks on Ryze let existing organizations and communities, in addition to new ones, use Ryze’s technology to connect their members with each other (a powerful networking tool).
As of this article, Ryze is not accepting new members but it sounds like shortly they will reopen it.
How intriguing is that, they halted all new membership!
Do you write business insurance? If so, it’s time you look at Talkbiznow, a web-based business community that provides business services for small businesses and professionals. In addition to the basic functionality of creating a profile and connecting with others in the social world, users can manage a calendar, store files (up to 50MG of free space, but of course you can purchase more if you so choose!), host webinars, manage all other social media sites with “Social One” and lots more. Take a look at this social site if you want to meet others in the business social world.
The company’s mission is to simplify the essential business services and seamlessly integrate and deliver them through the internet for free. Yes for free! Making it possible for businesses of all sizes from single member businesses to large businesses to network, collaborate and essentially expand their services in avenues they might not have explored before.
Signing up is very easy and the profile builder and management is user-friendly. We all love the free collaboration and desktop services: file sharing, web conferencing and voice conferencing.
This is a place to explore and check out. Hope you enjoy.
This is a social media site for the “affluent”. This is like no other social site. In fact, you must prove your worth before you can even join Affluence! Yes this is intriguing and it might work for you or your agency!
Affluence is a private social network where “accomplished individuals” connect, share information, and engage in meaningful conversations. Members also enjoy exclusive, high-quality content and feature advice from many different industry experts on subjects such as art, technology, insurance and travel.
So, if you fall in the income range of a “verifiable minimum household net worth of $1 million (US) or annual household income of $200,000”, then this most certainly could be the spot for you! This is a social site for those who insure high-net worth individuals and those who want to insure up. This is a great social site for those agencies that insure those in very affluent areas. Hope you can make the cut!
Not long ago, LinkedIn disabled their popular Answers feature; Quora is a great place for small business owners or smaller agency owners to be. Benefits of Quora:
- Agency Blog topic ideas: Quora is an excellent resource to find trending topics that you could incorporate into your agency blog posts.
- Establish thought leadership through Quora.
- Connecting with others: I mean “connecting” in the social media way, of course. You can set up your Quora account by connecting it with your Facebook or Twitter pages or several other social sites. Once you’re connected and engaged in Q&A’s, you may find a whole slew of new followers who could potentially follow you on your other social networks. Becoming an expert in a certain industry where people come to you to ask certain questions is a great way to get business from educating others with a small amount of time invested.
- Research & Development: Let’s say you have an idea for a new clothing line made out of bicycle tubes but you’re not in a position to hire a focus group. Use Quora instead! Under the Topic of clothing or designer clothes you could ask, “Would you wear an upcycled clothing line made out of tires?” You just never know what you may find out.
- Tighten the Talk: So, if you’re in a quandary over Quora, PLEASE don’t be! Quora should be seriously considered as a part of your agency’s online marketing strategy, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet in the social media arena. Quora offers a clean and very easy-to-navigate interface, especially now that LinkedIn Answers is no longer available. This is a wonderful resource for small business owners and could be a great place for your agency to find prospects and sell more insurance.
So with all these sites (and this is just a few of them), do you still think you don’t need a full-time social media marketing person in your agency? This question answers itself. Take the time to look at these sites; you do not have to jump into all these right this second. Or you can hire a full time social media marketing person to put together an action plan. Good luck and I hope you have great success in the social world. And remember, social media is not about you; it is all about your audience!