Insurance Brokers – What’s being said about you in Social Media?

The question, to some extent, is no longer, shall we get on board with the use of social media, the social media train has left the station, the world has gone social.  
The rise in popularity of social media amongst insurance broking employees is testament to this.  
They are not alone; customers, prospects and people in the world at large are using social media.  As a matter of routine they are making comments, some of which will flatter and others that will most definitely not. 
At the very least, stakeholders in insurance broker businesses should be closely monitoring what is being said about their business and brand.  As brand is arguably one of a business’s most valuable assets, surely this should form a fundamental part of good governance and reputation risk management practice?  
Before diving in, I don’t go for the sandals with socks look, I don’t own a lava lamp and I don’t wear a kaftan.  I only mention this because, in my experience, as soon as the term ‘social media’ is brought up in an insurance context and moreover its use is advocated, you get funny 1,000 yard stares and people look at you like you are New Age, fresh from a summer festival. 
I am not a social media evangelist.  It is a useful tactic, that’s all and as such offers great opportunity providing its use is managed with due care and skill.
The fact is that some sections of the insurance broking community have been slow out of the starting blocks in terms of carefully examining and considering both the benefits and pitfalls of social media.  To be fair this probably hasn’t been helped by the seemingly endless array of social media ‘experts’ who use a strange lexicon and in some cases offer a very mixed bag of advice from highly strategic to everything in between. 
I would argue that ignoring social media is really not really an option these days.  I write this because the chances are that most insurance businesses are already engaged in it whether they like it or not. Conversations and chatter are most likely happening about insuance brokers businesses as you read this blog.  To some extent this has taken away the should we shouldn’t we discussion.  At the very minimum, even if an insurance broker decides not to use the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook etc, they should be tracking what’s being said, so that they are at least aware and can take action. 
The traditional insurance customer marketing communications model, which historically has seen companies doing all of the ‘sending’ and not much ‘receiving’, is increasingly coming under pressure.
It must remembered, that we have a whole generation of people already in the workforce and coming through, for who social media is their principal method of communication (I remember buying my daughter a Microsoft student Office package that specifically didn’t include Outlook email).
The fact is customers and prospects are increasingly looking to comment, provide feedback and looking for brand interaction.  Communication is becoming far more two-way.  Just think about how Trip Advisor and Amazon, where their star ratings rule.  What next, Insurance Advisor?
This interaction is impacting brand and increasingly we are living in a world where companies’ brands are no longer totally defined by what they say about themselves - clients have never been more king.
Customers and the public are having their say and it is this that is ultimately informing how the wider world responds to a brand.  This applies in equal measure to insurance businesses that source their clients from the local community, where perhaps, it’s even more important that their standing and reputation in the locality is good and well managed. 
This monitoring needn’t happen for purely defensive reasons either. Insurance brokers could find that there are some great comments about their businesses and the services they deliver. Why not capitalise on this? 
There are many tools to help you monitor chatter; here are just a few; Google Alerts, Gorkana, Sentiment Metrics and Radian 6 (there are many more).
Monitoring what is being said about a business in social media is vital; it allows business owners to take action and make informed decisions and even perhaps lead, alter, respond to and reshape the debate.
With the rise of paper trails, increased compliance and shareholder expectation can leaders of insurance businesses ignore the risks? 


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