Thoughts, real-world observations, and anonymous examples – good and bad – regarding the use of Web/Social/Mobile technology in the insurance industry. Follow Mike Wise, President WebWisedom LLC, for the latest in Social Technologies.
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Note to self: Extremely rare event, perhaps once in a life-time. I’m writing this post from 30,000′, rockin’ the MacBook on a free Airtran WiFi connection on my way to L.A. (UCSB) to shoot the NCAA D1 College Cup Men’s Soccer Final between my boys from #3 Akron and #1 Louisville. (Pictures will be here.) Clock says 2:10am, slept a little, eyes are stinging, have the earplugs in, silence except for the white-noise of the air at 300mph, smooth, dark, and quiet. Get to LAX at 3:30am EDT.
Btw, before I forget, a tip to bloggers and commenters: Remember to subscribe to the Comment email feed if you post a Comment. It’s good form, and a little bit of security and good Online Reputation Management, to see what other people post to a thread on top of yours. I only say this because I asked a few of the commenters from last week’s post if they had seen all the subsequent comments to theirs and they had not because they didn’t see the subscription button at the bottom of the Comment form. (Probably another reason I’m going to change from IntenseDebate as my comment tool, although they did respond nicely to my request for help this week.)
Last week’s thread about Exec’s and Social was quite simply amazing. As I had hoped, some of the people I’m connected to via Social Media, people a LOT smarter than me, took the time to add some brilliant insights. Seriously. I don’t think I’m overstating things. As I alluded to in the original post, the next step is to figure out some ideas on what to do to fix the problem. I’ve got some ideas, but again, I’m interested in others.
My favorite extracts, especially considering the sources. (I appreciate ALL, but just to narrow the focus.)
Mike, Charles, and Chris started the discussion well: Social is a lot to bite off for Exec’s, requires change, and threatens control.
John Heaney, former Corp Exec now consulting on Social, spoke of a misunderstanding about what Social is, who uses it, and essentially, and the need for Case Studies. Legit.
Barb Giamanco (a great Follow on Twitter and RSS, btw) add the insight about Social blocking and the need for training, but then dropped the first bomb of the thread: “They are stubbornly refusing to accept that control is a complete illusion. Their customers and potential buyers are now in control of the brand.” Is this true? Yep. As mind-blowing as that is, the constituents wield considerable power with UGC (User Generated Content). United Breaks Guitars is a great example. Spot-on, Barb. Thanks for the bomb.
Jim Gallagher’s add: Do exec’s need to do Social well for their companies to do Social well? Could it be that they fear transparency as it might reveal personal ‘issues’? And it might be hard to determine the ‘done well’ part. Yep.
Matt Shields, very bright guy… Passing fad or not, it’s working for people when other more traditional strategies are in a state of decline. Get in the game.
(Side note: I’m now on the return flight from the game mentioned above. THEY WON! The boys from Akron WON! An epic, once in a lifetime trip I will never forget.)
Interesting that the next commenter I’m going to curate is Bill Tyson. I spent the night last night with Bill and his terrific family. What a balm to my soul! Bill cooked up some terrific ‘Tri-tip” beef and a fantastic salad – awesome. Great conversation as you might expect. Bill’s Blog. So glad I have Social to stay connected and foster that kind of relationship and meet-up.) Bill’s comment about the burden of email is correct. Interesting note: Since I started using Social, I use email less. And I’ve heard that from others. But the solution there is an easy one, don’t you think? And the Betty White remark is correct as well. Executives are foolish to make decisions about Social based on incomplete, inaccurate, or biased information – just like anything else. Check your sources – or better yet, develop your own USING Social.
Bob Leonard, who I met via a Linkedin Group and who is a great resource for B2B Content, raises the point about money, one that will come up again.
John Pogas, as brilliant as ever, makes one of my favorite observations. It’s the economy stupid. It’s holding back enterprise innovation (along with a whole lot of other stuff). Here’s a savvy insurance marketer that is recommending investing heavily in Social – and mobile. Yup.
Terry Lawrence, a deep, eclectic thinker you’ll want to listen to, and an executive himself, asked how many of the commenters were C-level. A quick count indicates over half are Senior folks. Most of the rest are former corporate exec’s who are now doing their own thing. There are ton’s of case studies out there about Social ROI. Google and Twitter searches Good point about fact-finding and allocating resources. Absolutely.
Finally able to catch my breath after a whirlwind few days. Wow!
Patrick Clark netted it out as well. It’s about risk and taking chances. Although I will say, if exec’s do their research as Patrick suggests, they will see that they are actually putting their companies at INCREASED risk by NOT engaging in Social, not only from a declining sales and increasing costs standpoint, but from an Online Reputation Management perspective.
Mike McCarthy, so true, first-movers are definitely going to get an advantage. As always, nobody really respects a me-too. If competitors do something amazingly successful with Social, the rest of the pack will be saying, “Crap, why didn’t we think of that?!?!” Need an example? Ask the Exec’s at Blockbuster if a staff member mentioned 2-3 years ago that they should do an online instant-view service similar to Netflix.
Dan Herrmann, good for you. I see that you are building a powerful River of Information on the topic, as well as getting some results from your Linkedin efforts.
Chuck, aboslutely spot-on about the concept of technology. It’s CERTAINLY not an IT thing. Def. And I laughed out loud at your comment about negative comments. Yep, Social has to “part of” the strategy, not THE strategy.
Scott added good historical perspective. Social is simply the latest advance in business technology, communication, etc. Leaders need to wake up. Get in the game. As I’ve said many times on this blog, the music’s playing right now. Don’t be the last one standing when the music stops.
Mona, good idea to meet with staffers who are savvier. Cameron Herold seems to be a savvy exec, younger though. Hmmm…
Bob Etherington has a good reminder for ALL of us. We certainly live in a “Me” era and blog’s have exacerbated our collective condition. I’m certainly guilty of that as well. It’s a delicate dance. On the one hand, people are curious about people and want to know, as Paul Harvey made famous, “The REST of the Story.” On the other extreme, narcissism is clearly not acceptable. All the more opportunity to stand out by doing it right. Perhaps this post is a good example of how to do it right and engage the audience?
Rick Morgan, the Gandalf-the-Grey of the insurance biz, of course without the beard and long hair, but with huge wisdom based on years of experience in the insurance biz, adds an absolutely critical point about the ‘shift from Outbound “interruption” marketing to Inbound “permission” based marketing’. CRITICALLY important concept to come to terms with for anyone in marketing and sales, IMHO.
Good question by Kevin Gregory. Is Social a discovery tool to find entrepreneurs? What do you think?
Great take from across the pond by Mairi Mallon, who is by the way another great follow on Linkedin and Twitter and manages an active insurance marketing group on Linkedin. Baby steps are key. Slow and steady wins the race. Yup. Margaret Atwood on Twitter – 100,000 followers, 3,000 tweets, Following 123, interactive. How’d you like to be followed by Margaret Atwood!! Bill Marriott’s blog. Blogging since January 2007, lot of Comments on posts, pretty classic CEO blog. Nice. Simple but right.
Solid take by Pete van Aartrijk, although he missed an opportunity to hyperlink to aartrijk.com. Really want to encourage readers to participate in the 3rd Annual Aartrijk Brand Camp next year. One of the most useful conferences in the insurance marketing business.
Jenny Johnson adds a fantastic point about ROI. It’s different for everyone. Again, going back to Chuck’s point, what is the over-all goal of the enterprise and how can Social help accomplish that goal? Check out Shoutlet. I’ve seen the demo. Comparing with other Social Tech tools, it’s incredibly strong and surprisingly affordable.
Now Kristin Brewe is the creator of Erin Esurance, one of the most successful Meme’s in insurance marketing history, so you’ve GOT to pay attention to what she says. I’m humbled to even have a comment from Kristin, now consulting across the pond after a year traveling around the world post-Esurance. A few sound bites:
Great points. The question then becomes, “How???” How did you convince White Mountain way back when in the early days of Erin Esurance???
Not to slight Dave, Pat, Tom, Mark, Craig, and Steve, but for the sake of time, I’ll fast forward to Doug Kreitzberg, CEO of USI Affinity. Doug focuses on Pull versus Push Marketing, a similar comment to Rick Morgan’s. And yet again, what’s the ROI. Exec’s want to know the ROI.
So the key question now is, What’s the pattern here, and what do we DO about it? I’m a problem-solver by nature. What to DO? How can we move the needle and get exec’s involved? Let’s think about it over the holiday’s. I’ll come back this time next week – crap, day before Christmas Eve. Meantime, please Comment… and remember to Subscribe to the Comments email feed right under the Comment form.
Thanks everyone. Merry Christmas. Do you know him?
Frequent readers might remember that I spoke at the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents last year. (Man, a lot has happened in a year!) Here’s the blog post/podcast from last year. Apparently I added value so they asked me back.
Last year we discussed e-business and social media/social networks. Since then, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about what I now call Social Technologies – more to the point ENTERPRISE Social Technologies. How are business using tools like Blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, YouTube, viral marketing and so forth to accomplish their business objectives?
So I did a poll of the audience as I started. I would characterize the audience, in the words of Peter vanAartrijk, as Male-Pale-&-Stale! Seriously, about 70-80 folks in the insurance business in Kansas. I counted about 5 women, the group seemed to be 100% ‘white’, average age in the late 40′s, early fifties. As to stale? See below. In that context, here are the results of the very unscientific poll:
Stand up if your company has a Web site? 90%
Stand up if you have sent an email? 100%
Stay standing if have written an article that appears on a Web site showing you as the author? about 10
Stand if you have commented on an article on a Web site? about 15
Stand if you are blogging for work? 0 Personally? 2
Stand if you have a Linkedin profile? 40%
Now stay standing if you have derived meaningful business results from Linkedin? 1
Stand if you have a Facebook profile? 40%
Stay standing if you tweeted within the last 24 hours. 2
Reader: What are your comments on these stats? Anything surprising? Why or why not?
Btw, Bob Davies spoke before me. Great speaker for a conference. He wants to be on TV on News Year Eve and wanted to know if Social Tech might help him get there? Hmmm. Yup.
A few reflections on the plane ride back to CLE….
1. At the Awards & Recognition Banquet, I heard several stories about the life and times of insurance agents in Kansas. One agent in particular held the majority of the property & casualty policies of a section of a town that was flattened by a tornado last year – half-mile wide, Cat5, total destruction, loss of life, really bad. I hope I get this right, but I think I heard that his office snapped into action and processed some 200+ claims in just a few days, of course helping people get back on their feet and restoring a semblance of normalcy after a catastrophic event. Kind of brings things into focus as to why they are in the business. Also brings to mind the incredible power of Social Tech. Imagine the powerful video that could be made about that story with just a few images and soundbites.
2. This is the best of times and the worst of times in the insurance business. On the one hand, we see a federal government administration that feels that the FEDS should be the insurance policy for everyone – and thus have ultimate power and control over everyone – of course in their best interest. (Yeah, sure – history has really validated that kind of political system, eh? Let’s make a BIG CHANGE next month. OK, my opinion.) But for sure, the feds seem to be attacking insurance companies and agencies every chance they get. Definitely a hostile regulatory environment right now – worst of times. At the same time, many insurance companies have become ‘quoters’ – faceless companies providing down-and-dirty minimum coverage to people suffering through a depression looking to cut expenses and make it through, further hurting the business model of the independent agent.
3. But I see it as the best of times as well. With the convergence of both insurance technology and marketing technology, the independent agent or agency is getting back into the drivers seat after a decade of being disenfranchised by the Web, especially the search engines, and the high cost of tech. Insurance technology development costs have dropped, crowdsourcing is making new tech development accessible for the small business, and Social Tech is helping the independent agent get the word out and drive sales opportunities in a way never before possible. I dare say that insurance agents are in a PERFECT position to capitalize on Social in a very unique way. Why?
Well, for one, the vast majority of agencies are constantly serving within their communities, doing stuff that helps make their part of the world a better place. Yes, absolutely, they are hoping to generate good will and offset the typical mindset that they are peddlers providing something people wish they didn’t need and hope they never have to use. But community service is a good thing, right? And there are usually good stories that result. And the stories have corresponding pictures, images, and sound bites that can be easily crafted into viral video’s that will help the next customer understand the value of the agency. And imagine the powerful video’s about claims that have been paid as mentioned previously. Isn’t all this perfect for Social Tech? What are your comments? Out in left field, or are insurance agents perfect candidates for Social Media Marketing and innovation? Please share thoughts and stories.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Enjoy a few pictures from the Heartland and the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents 2010 Management Conference. <SmugMug Gallery> Thanks for inviting me. Hope I added value. Great people. The closing entertainer, Jason Hewlett, was PHENOMENAL! Great time. Blessings…
Oh, yeah – as to the “stale” remark above! Well, I didn’t get to know everyone, but the ones I did? DEFINITELY NOT!
First, to explain the hashtags in the title, see my comment on last weeks post here – very powerful reason relative to Social Influence.
For those of you that listened to Part 1 of the terrific podcast with Nibby Preist and Chris Jordan (click here for that), you will be pleased with Part 2. For those that missed it, perhaps download both. In Part 1, we covered Linkedin and Twitter – how insurance agents are using the tools for business. This one picks up where we left off and talks about Facebook and Blogging. Chris & Nibby share great insights about what they are doing to drive ROI with Social Media. (I like that I’ve waited since April to publish Part 2. There have been some interesting new developments since then which add a bit of a retrospective to the conversation.)
A couple notes to reinforce:
From Nibby – Lots of Facebook ROI, but you have to stick with it. Which leads me to give myself a shameless plug – Hire me to do the strategy. I can save you a lot of time and brain damage, and connect you into some powerful information streams along the way. Call me.
Nibby and Chris both talk about redeeming wasted time to make room for Social. I speak to this point often with people who ask, “How do you make time for your Social stuff? I’m swamped as it is….” Listen to what they say and come back with a Comment below. What do YOU think?
The comment about the use of mobile and the blur of work happening outside of traditional 9-5 is spot on. Those of you that are doing this, what do you think about it? Those that aren’t, you might say, “You see??? That’s EXACTLY why I DON’T want to get into social stuff. When I go home, the LAST thing I want to do is get on the computer or check email on my mobile….” After listening, what are your comments about the blur?
Chris – spot on about learning more about prospects and business partners and pull-marketing.
Fantastic that both commented about the ROI of their blogs, especially about the unified voice, about SEO, and about newspaper and media outlets. I’ve been sayin’ it for a while now…
Listen in and please Comment below.
Favorite recent picture…. I shot a nationally televised college soccer game – absolutely thrilling to get that chance. The Photo Gallery has been simply POUNDED. This is one of my favorites. Mattocks from Jamaica scored the third goal and came running right at me – and the “Fear the Roo” image is in view on the building behind him. Love that shot.
Yep…Twitter really does rank highest. So contrary to something I heard 2 weeks ago from an insurance industry CEO who said Twitter was dying, it looks like it’s quite alive and well. (Btw, the a fore-mentioned executive has no experience with Twitter. Ummm…. the things people say…)
See page 20 of the report, 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report – ton of fascinating data-points in here. Take a few minutes to scan. Might change your mind about a few things, or reinforce some of your ideas.
My own experience with Twitter is thriving. In the last 4 weeks or so, I’ve seen a noticeable increase in my followers, both in quantity and quality.
Useful? Big time. I’m meeting new people I never would have met otherwise, people on my topic, people smarter than me, people doing the things I’m writing and talking about with my clients, etc. etc. Some of them are adding significantly to my River of Information, as Scott Klososky coined the phrase. More followers is inherently important and useful. Why? A number of reasons. Here’s one: Social Relevancy.
Social Relevancy is the little known third leg of the Social Tech stool, the first being Social Media, 2nd Social Networks, and 3rd Social Relevancy. Social Relevancy is all about the Influence a person or an entity has in the social scape relative to a subject matter. Take me as a quick example. I’m obviously trying to impact my Social Relevancy with respect to Insurance and Technology, Social Media Marketing, Socially Facilitated Selling, and so forth. So maintaining a Blog, a Twitter feed, a Linkedin presence, and authoring a Book is all part of building Social Relevancy. And the number of people that are paying attention to what I’m doing matters. Numbers matter. Whenever someone introduces an author, they recount how many books they’ve sold. An athlete – how many championships. A veteran – how many combat awards.
It’s no different with Social. How many Subscribers to the Blog? How many Followers on Twitter? How many Linkedin Connections? How many Friends or Fans on Facebook? The numbers indicate how many people someone or an entity can reach with their posts or updates, and of those people that they can reach, how much influence do they have over them. Will their followers Retweet or post back-links to the content? In other words, is there a viral marketing potential there. Relevance = Influence = Importance
For example, I just looked at my Linkedin Network. Under “Network Statistics”, it says I’m connected to 909 people who are connected to about 300,000 people who are connected to about 9.5 million people. So doing the math I guess my average Connection has about 300 Connections. I’d be interested to know what the median is – probably more like 50-100 since I connected to about 50 of the TopLinked people, or LION’s (Linkedin Open Networkers, those with thousands of Connections). But either way, that’s a lot – clearly useful if I want to communicate and share. There’s 75 million total in Linkedin, so I’m connected to over 10% of them. Wow! That’s useful.
But here’s the REALLY useful thing with Twitter – RESEARCH. As I’ve mentioned before, I use Tweetdeck and twitter search almost every day. I’ve got active searches running all the time on keywords I’m tracking for special clients or purposes. I’ll pop in and out of searches using columns in Tweetdeck. Very very useful. Twitter Search is kind of the exact opposite of Google Search.
Do you see how that’s just a lot more useful netnet than Google? Plus Google doesn’t include Social content like Tweets.
Do you see why it’s so imperative to be publishing content in a way that is easily shared?
Do you see why Viral Marketing can be EXTREMELY effective, not only from eyeballs but also from cost?
Think e-business circa 1999. Social is 2010. E-business generated BIG revenue in 10 years, really changed the landscape. Social will make e-business look small.
And Oh Yeah, I haven’t even mentioned the SEO impact of Twitter on what I’m doing. Read about Twitter and SEO here.
So 4 useful data-points on Twitter – recent Growth, Social Relevance, Research, and SEO. Still think it’s ‘dying’???
What questions or comments to you have? Others likely have the same or similar. Share how it helps you? Happy to dialog below.
One last thing on Twitter. A few of you have said, “Dude, I don’t understand what you are saying with your Linkedin Status updates..” (i.e. Tweets, since I use Tweetdeck to interact with Linkedin (oops, that’s a secret)). Here are a few. Let me decode them. It’s pretty simply once you understand the syntax or format – or language – of Twitter. Remember, with Twitter, you have to be short, concise, and useful – on several levels.
In this case, it also has the original author up front. RT means Retweet, which means I saw the original tweet, clicked through, found it useful, and decided to share it. The # is called a hashtag. Notice that on Linkedin or Twitter, you can click on the word if it’s preceded by a hashtag. That makes it easy for the reader to click into that thread on Twitter. So in the above Tweet, if you click on #social or #B2B, notice what comes up – a whole conversation on that topic.
That’s it. Let’s try one more of my tweets from this week…
See how it works? Every character in a Tweet is important. So lots of abbreviations, left out participles, etc. Not all words are useful in a Tweets. Tweets are typically scanned. Only the keywords matter, and they need to be searchable. If you want to be Retweeted (Viral), the Tweet needs to be useful and worthy, and have room at the end for the retweeter’s comment, too. So really it’s NOT 140 characters – general rule of thumb is 120.
That’s it for now. I’ve spilled my guts on Twitter. Please – you share as well. Hey, Retweet or Share this blog post if you think your network will learn something! But Comment and drop a back-link to your URL (or your company, or your client site – remember… SEO!) THANK YOU.
KAIA – sharing ‘the good stuff’ in K.C. Can’t wait.
PIMA Webinar end of October – will be running a survey before
But first – NCAA DIVISION 1 MEN’S SOCCER Friday night 8pm #1 Akron v. #2 Tulsa – HUGE!!!. Tune into FOX Soccer Channel and maybe see me hustling the sidelines with my camera (I keep a low profile, though)! It’s gonna be CRAZY!!!!! PICTURES WILL BE POSTED HERE.
Picture I made of the mighty warriors that upset St. Bonaventure 4-0. Huge
Some recent learnings I wanted to share…
Last spring, after church in the college town of Houghton, NY, I found myself in a discussion about blogging and social media with the president of my son’s college, Houghton College. (Couple side notes: 1. The pastor of the small church in the middle of the poorest county in NY has a blog and uses Twitter. 2. Houghton (pronounced ho’ ton, or in the local area dialect … ho’ in !!! like Martin is mar’ in or Walton is wal’ in – so funny!)
Dr. Mullen asked me to come for a more formal discussion with her the next time I was up for a soccer game….
While I don’t want to shift my focus away from insurance to HigherEd, I learned a couple of the things about Social Technologies as I prepared and spoke with Dr. Mullen and the leader of Marketing Communications for the college.
In a quick search of competitive schools to Houghton, I found that almost all of the schools have at least some Social Tech on their Web properties. But two of the schools are definitely out in front and seem to have invested some energy towards a more well-defined Social Tech strategy.
Mount Vernon Nazarene University has an interesting strategy. While it’s below the fold, if you scroll down a tad, you will find the Social Tech call-outs in a unified bar. The interesting thing is that the bar is really one image that is all hyper-linked to the same subpage. But the Social Tech subpage is really well-organized and clearly directs the visitor to the appropriate Social areas of interest. Again, it seems clear that the school is pursuing a Social strategy. It’s also clear that it’s in its infancy. As an example, SocialTech buttons are not in view on all pages of the site. ShareThis is not ubiquitous. And the links to the Social sites, such as the Facebook and Twitter links, do not open in a new page. As I mentioned last time in the NYLife post, it’s critical that these links open in a new page or tab – You don’t want to lose the traffic, you want to spread the traffic, grab more mind-share as it were.
Also interesting that they are doing special things for prospective students. See the link under admissions. It goes to a separate domain. Notice the heavy use of Social Tech there. The links go to the same Social sites as with the main site, just with a little different treatment.
Another Social Tech leader we looked at in the president’s office is St. Bonaventure University – nice site. Their Social Tech links are above the fold. Clicking on the www.sbu.edu/social signage brings you to a similar page as Mt. Vernon, but a little different organization. The Facebook strategy isn’t segmented yet, but they have a live Facebook integration in the box below the fold. They also have a video (that doesn’t work on a Mac – doh!). Perhaps the coup-de-gras is the Blog Directory, although that call-out is really easy to skip over. But clicking through to the blogs and you can quickly see that Blogs have been in-play at SBU since 2004. Some of the staff and prof’s have very mature blogs today. Very interesting. Most have their own domains, some have e-commerce, even Google advertising (wonder who gets the revenue?). But again, all the links open in the same page. Do you see why that’s such a disruptive linking situation? Here’s the thing… I don’t want to have to hit the back button. I want to check out those blogs, perhaps even bookmark or subscribe to the feeds while I’m there. But that’s NOT the main reason why I came to the sbu site to begin with. I don’t want to lose my original purpose, my original train of thought. The site needs to help me, not hurt me, not distract – serve up more useful content and links – yes. But help me accomplish my original purpose along the way. Does that make sense? Comments?
Anyway, some intersting learning. Cool how a casual conversation can lead to important insights. Btw, that’s why I never close off discussions just because they are out of my central focus. You never know when or where that golden nugget of information will come from.
Some favorite pictures from the trip (out of at least 5000 pictures!) Understand that shooting a soccer game is 1000 pics in itself. You have to keep shooting to get the good stuff…
Favorite from Lake Waukewan, sister to Lake Winnipesaukee where my cousin has a lake house. Incredible sunrise on the right, a storm rolling in on the left, and a still lake at dawn in the middle.
Favorite soccer pic of my son at the Houghton College Men’s Soccer 2010 home opener. #19
Soccer pic from Gordon College where four of my son’s teammates from High School play.
Would LOVE your comments, especially with links to other sites that are doing a good job with social, regardless of the industry.
10am (with a couple distractions along the way)
Btw, it’s been 3 weeks since my last post. Longer than normal by 2 weeks. Here’s why: The NYLife post saw a lot of action and dialog so I wanted to leave it up for an extra week. Then last week I decided to tackle a huge trip from CLE up through Postdam, NY, across Vermont to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, down to Boston, MA, back to Houghton, NY, and back to CLE. It took a week to cover all that ground, but I accomplished my mission… and stayed productive work-wise thanks to my Droid Incredible (a $99 device from Verizon with a new contract – really useful). Lot to bite off, but I made it.