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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I’m hopeful that the 150 or so attendees of the ICMG2012 Annual Meeting who also attended the Breakout on Social Tech will collaborate on a creative twist to a recap of the session. I know many of you are here simply to download the preso, but consider spending an extra cycle right here for the benefit of the group.
Your part: Please post a note in the Comment form below stating your one or two Top Take-Away’s from the Social Tech Breakout Session.
Rather, I’d like readers to hear what the attendees thought and, thereby, possibly develop an interesting mosaic of comments, reflections, and helpful ideas.
Please participate. Like Jim said, “Don’t Lurk!” Even if a previous Comment is on the same theme as yours, add your idea as a reinforcing or expanding sentiment.
Based on the subsequent conversations I had with people on the 18th tee of the golf course as well as the next morning, and with over 150 session attendees, this might be a VERY interesting and fruitful discussion.
Thanks in advance.
PS. The Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives I’m hosting in March is filling up. A 2nd one is now in the works, possibly hosted by Nationwide, in Columbus, in May/June. I’ll likely do a 3rd in the Fall in Chicago or K.C. You’ll be glad you and/or your boss came – Crowdsourcing, Organizational Voice, Rating Systems, Online Reputation Management, Socially Facilitated Selling (see video), Socially Directed Buying, Tools, Measurement Systems, Rivers of Information – A LOT to cover in 9 hours straight. Get your spot – this isn’t an unlimited opportunity. (Private Boot Camps for your team are also available.)
I recently shared a breakfast at the home of a high-powered, very successful friend of mine. My good friend has a long track-record with a top accounting firm solving all kinds of financial-related business issues for a wide variety of Fortune 1000 companies. But my friend is an executive who is intentionally NOT engaging in any kind of Social Technologies.
Following the conversation on family and personal stuff, we turned to work. Knowing my pursuits, my friend shared thoughts about Social networking. After listening to his perspectives on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., I asked him, “I heard you refer to ‘Social’ in the midst of everything you were saying. Let me ask you a question. When you said ‘Social’, describe what you had in mind? What concepts did the word ‘Social’ bring to mind as you were talking about it?”
He said, “The noise, the clutter, non-important things… you know, Social.”
I clarified, “So water-cooler-type talk… weather, sports, family life, community – that kind of thing?”
“Yes, exactly. I just don’t have time for all that. Like I said, when I’m in work mode, I need to stay as focused as possible on work – no distractions. I see my wife and daughter spending a lot of time on Facebook, and frankly that concerns me. Now I know they might say I spend a lot of time watching TV or playing golf. But I can’t see myself spending my precious free time on Social networks. I hear people talking about Linkedin at work, but it doesn’t seem to be productive. I also know I’ll be asked to help people – not that I don’t want to help people, but if they want my help, all they have to do is call me. I see people using Social Networks to relive the past or trying to get the next new job. Since I don’t want to do either of those, I just don’t see a need to do Social networking.”
Does that sound familiar? The conversation went on from there. I explained that unfortunately, while understandable because of the traditional use of the term, thinking of ‘Social’ Technologies as ‘personal’ or ‘non-essential’, non-business related, etc. etc. is perhaps one of the biggest misnomers in the executive ranks.
[Curious: Do you agree? Are many executives under an incorrect assumption about ‘Social’ technologies as being more about personal, non-essential stuff? Especially in the insurance vertical?]
From a business perspective, Social is NOT ‘Social’. Think UGC – User-Generated Content and all the implications therein – “Crowd” solutions (e.g. Crowdsourcing, Crowdvertising, Crowdfunding), Ratings, Online Reputation Management, professional communities, Social CRM, Rivers of Information, Customer Intel, Revenue on Demand, e-Word-of-Mouth to name a few.
I made a case that in his position, at a bare minimum, he wants to consider what’s called Online Reputation Management. What do people find when they search for him?
Going further, he wants to be thinking about what’s next, what’s beyond the brand and title on his business card? No doubt about it – no matter how successful, both brand and title will inevitably change, won’t they? And when they do, perhaps quite suddenly, will he benefit from a steady effort to build a Social network? Will he correctly understand his Social relevancy in business? And will he be in a position for broader long-term business influence, again beyond his immediate circle with the current brand and its client base?
Lastly, like the MBA process he went through a few years back that lifted his IQ substantially in a short time-span, he wants to consider tapping into brilliant content creators, peers of his that are beyond the faceless Wall Street Journal writers, his preferred info-source. Sure, WSJ writers are no doubt great writers creating a steady stream of great stories. But what about peers of his who are sharing insights and creating dialogs via blogs and Social networks? Could these insights and conversations lift his IQ in a very meaningful and practical way – directly relating to his field?
What do you think? Are Social Technologies a ‘waste of time’? Do many executives in your experience feel that Social is purely Social?
ICMG in Phoenix. #ICMG2012 (You heard it here first: I’m facilitating a 1.5 hour session on Linkedin on Wednesday morning before the Meeting starts. Yeah, I’d rather be playing golf as well, but I was asked, so what could I say.)
PIMA in Palm Coast, Florida. #PIMAAssn Rolling out the rebranding work Bill, Al, Shannon, Denise, Mona, Ed, me and a bunch of others have done in the past year…
Hope to see some of you there.
After a mind-blowing October and November, I’m finally getting back to the Series on how to leverage Linkedin from an enterprise perspective. However, technically-speaking, the last post for ICMG was really along the same conversation. A popular post in terms of views, that post amplified the specific activities for a typical professional to influence and impact their professional environment. Yes, Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Organizational Voice (OV) are both REALLY BIG deals.
You can look at this enterprise topic from multiple angles. Two angles for sure are:
I’d like to shine the light on the latter. Restated, what specific activities can we as the enterprise do to earn engagement and interaction from our Clients, Partners, and Fans, specifically within the Linkedin environment. And how will these efforts payoff in measurable ROI.
A note to readers. If I may be quite direct, as I’ve been saying for the last three years, “Lurking is Lame”. I’ll go further than that now – it’s quite unacceptable to consume only, never Comment, never Share, never add value. Here’s the thing: If you’re going to take the time to absorb content, and if you find it helpful, don’t you see how just walking away without contributing is a bit off? It would be like attending in person a session that someone put effort in to develop, and that you paid for in either time or money, finding value in it, and then simply walking out without even taking the time to acknowledge, stop and thank the speaker, perhaps grab a business card for follow-up, or asking a question or making a comment during the session. So please consider some sort of action – do something with the content you consume. At a bare minimum, if you like the post, Share it. It only takes a few minutes to add value. Make a habit of it. (Btw, that adds to YOUR ORM and OV, right???)
First, what does it mean to “earn” engagement FROM our Clients, Partners, and Fans? I’ll use the analogy of the conference again. Suppose you are a new member of an association and you go to the first couple association meetings. At those meetings, you (and probably your boss) are so excited to be in the presence of all these new, targeted prospects, and driving so hard to justify the expense, that you go up to everyone you meet, introduce yourself, and immediately launch into a pitch about your products and services. So for two meetings in a row, you done nothing but “sell”. No listening to what others do, no volunteering to help the association in some way through your talents, no fostering conversations at the breakfast tables, instead “just sell baby”. Obviously an extreme example (though not really, I’ve seen this recently as I’m sure you have as well), but you get the point. If this were the case, would you reasonably expect anyone in the association to give you any positive props or mentions at any point at all? Probably not.
Now contrast that with the flip side. All you do is listen and volunteer and never mention exactly what you do. So everyone ‘Likes’ you but no one has any idea why you’re there or what you do. Also an extreme example on the other end of the spectrum. Also not appropriate.
Relative to the concept of ‘earned media’, the holy grail lies somewhere in between. That’s the goal, that’s the target. How do we do enough selling/marketing so that people know what we do and we stay top-of-mind for that function (and rank high in search along the way), but we also listen, help, and add value along the way? And what is that balance? I’ve heard it said that you can think of it in terms of a 10:1 ratio – 10 acts of added value for every 1 act of selling.
It’s critically important to understand this point. Earned media is/will be an essential element in the near future of sales and marketing.
What does “Earned Media” look like inside of Linkedin? Here are the spots to look for earned media and mentions. Once you understand the locations, and then combine that with the a for-mentioned concept of sales-versus-valueadd, you’ll quickly get the point. Again these are all Linkedin spots:
These are a few of the hot spots. If you know any others, please Comment.
So what to you do with these and where does earned media come into play?
Obvious caveat: The brand must do a great job in adding value and servicing its clients. “Astroturfing”, or getting your brother-in-law to say something nice about you in spite of poor service, inflated prices, etc., will be discovered and exposed, and will further exacerbate the original problems. Trust that.
Once you have the Company profile in place on Linkedin, be sure to add the tabs that allow you to feature your products and/or services. At that point, in these early days of Linkedin, it’s a simple matter of asking some of your Clients, Partners, and Fans to hit the page and make a Comment. Here’s a great example from HubSpot. Notice the inherent Linkedin functionality associated with the Recommendation and how it reinforces the relevance and influence of the Recommendation. Notice also that there is a Share button on the page. Did you know that brand advocates are 83% more likely to Share a page, all the more so when they’ve engaged with the content in some way, put their personal virtual fingerprints on the page? Do you see how these things work together to create earned media and viral marketing? (see more stories on this here)
We all know that personal Status Updates (aka Shares on your Linkedin Homepage newsfeed) have the potential of being seen by your network. Going further, most know that if your network Likes or Comments on something YOU shared, THEIR network has the potential of seeing it and sharing it – and so on. (I saw one guy who posted a bet he made with his boss that his boss would give him $1 for every Like and Comment he got on a post about the utility of Linkedin. At that point, the guy had the usual couple hundred Connections. Well, his update went viral inside Linkedin. I’m not sure I remember exactly what I last saw or where it sits today, but after a few weeks the guy’s boss owed him SEVERAL THOUSAND bucks.)
As with personal, the same functionality applies to Company Status Updates. The Status Updates are obviously not earned media, but Likes, Comments, and Shares of those updates are. When the Status Updates appear in Followers Newsfeeds, if people are fans of the brand and appreciate the content of the item, there’s a good chance they will Likes, Comments, and/or Shares, especially if they’ve advanced in their Social maturity beyond the previously mentioned lurking stage. Those actions then become the earned media, the holy grail of Social Media Marketing. Nuf said.
Well, that’s all I have time for at this point. I’ll continue the dialog on the finer points of the other seven items next time.
Meantime, I’m greatly looking forward to ICMG first week of February, PIMA the next week, perhaps the ACT Conference, perhaps SWSX in March, and a VERY exclusive Enterprise Social Tech day-long Boot Camp for C-level insurance executives, also in March in Charlotte – a busy Q1.
Again, please Like, Comment, and Share. Let’s see if I can earn some media myself! Thanks in advance. Merry Christmas!!! Emmanuel.
ICMG, an insurance industry association I’ve been involved in since 2004 (thanks to John Kertis), asked me to write up a little something about Linkedin that might be helpful to the membership, and by extension, the organization. (These Comments also seem to be relevant to any industry association, Linkedin Group, and/or professional.)
Frequently I’ve heard and seen the following Comments about Linkedin and Social Technologies….
“I don’t really know that much about it. I’m accepting connection requests, but that’s about it. Who has the time for all that anyway…”
“I’ve joined a couple industry groups, but to be candid, I’m not really participating. I’m barely keeping up with regular email, let alone social networking…”
“I’ve got a profile in there, but I can’t remember my password…”
“I really don’t get the whole Social Networking thing. When I need to speak with someone, I just pick up the phone and call them. If they’re interested, they’ll call me back…”
“I doubt people ever search for me online. Why would they do that, anyway?”
“Social networking is for people that sell to individuals, not businesses. Insurance AGENTS should be using that stuff, but not me. I sell to company executives and they don’t use Linkedin and all that…”
“It’s impossible to keep up with all that Social stuff. As soon as I’ve got something at least somewhat figured out, they go and change it on me…”
“My company blocks access to Social sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Linkedin is open, but people frown on it when you update your profile or status. People think you’re looking for a new job…”
“Look Mike, I can see why YOU want everyone to use all these Social things because you’re in that business. But… I’m a deal-maker… OR I run an insurance agency… OR I’m selling services to insurance marketing executives… OR I work in the Senior market… OR I recruit, train, and support 1000s of agents…. I don’t have time for Social Networking. Plus the people I work with aren’t using it or even asking about it. So it’s a waste of time for me. I’ve got a job to do and numbers to hit…”
On the surface, these are all legit Comments, no doubt about it. However, we all know the common euphemisms that apply to Comments such as these. I won’t take the time to restate the common and standard responses, such as “Well, if ‘everyone else’ is jumping off a cliff, does that make it right?” Instead, let me point out some statistics and other data-points that might lead the reader to decide to take a different path, more forward-looking and though-leader’ish.
A few data-points about Social Networks in general:
65% of Adult Americans that use the Internet use Social Networks
93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence on social media sites and 85 percent believe that these companies should use these services to interact with consumers.
The top age group, by volume, that uses Social, is 35-44; second is 45-54.
Retirees age 65 and older are the fastest-growing group of social networking site users.
Social network use among Internet users 50 years old and older has nearly doubled to 42% over the past year.
A few data-points about Linkedin in general:
In June 2011, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors, up 63 percent from a year earlier. (1)
As of March 2011 the service had 44 million users in the US and 56 million outside. (1)
LinkedIn members are on pace to do more than four billion searches on LinkedIn in 2011. (2)
The average American has 634 ties in their overall network and technology users have bigger overall networks. (3)
Lastly, a few data-points about the ICMG Group on Linkedin specifically:
Just like the Annual Meeting itself, it’s a big network and growing, but also includes non-members who are participants in the industry.
ICMG Linkedin Group has 450+ Members and growing daily.
Going further, many of the Group Members have over 500 Connections on Linkedin themselves. Most have at least 150+ Connections. If a study were done, it would not be surprising to find that the average ICMG’er on Linkedin is connected to over 100 insurance industry professionals and colleagues – and all these numbers are in growth mode right now.
The Group activity is meaningful.
Up significantly in 2011, Group Discussions have been used for announcements like new insurance products and distribution partners/channels, links to relevant articles on topics like health insurance and PPACA, and Q&A on different challenges and solutions native to our business and industry.
So as an industry participant, “What’s in it for me?” you may ask.
Think about it. If you post something in the ICMG Linkedin Group, 450 people in your industry have the chance of seeing it. If you post something INTERESTING in the ICMG Linkedin Group and 10 people make a Comment, add 10×100 or 1000 MORE potential industry views of your Announcement, Comment or Question. And what is the cost? Time.
What about research? Need a warm introduction to a potential strategic partner? Need to do some research on someone before starting a relationship? Looking for a service provider in your network? By connecting with industry colleagues and participating within industry discussions, can you see how both sides of this coin can be satisfied?
Are these helpful pieces of information that might change your mind about the environment? If so, you might then ask, “OK, Mike. I see what you’re saying here. What should I do to take advantage of all this opportunity?”
First, get in there and update your profile – completely. Manage your property. If you want to see a good example of all the parts and pieces, arrangement, keywords, applications, and so forth, feel free to browse my profile. I’ve done a LOT of research – every single element is done for a specific reason. Use me. Pay attention to the details – they each have a purpose. Above all, make sure your profile is connected to your professional email address. The general concept in play is “Online Reputation Management.” Nuf said.
5 Minutes: Update your status with something useful. Reply to any Comments as quickly as possible.
10 Minutes: Scan your network’s status updates. (Here’s the thing: Build the Shares newsfeed section into a powerful part of your river of information.)
As you scan, by all means, Like and Comment on other Shares, as appropriate, remembering that your network will then see the updates that you Comment on and Like. Try not to read-only, instead add value with insights and promotion of content.
5-10 Minutes: Open and scan the Group email blasts as they come in. At least look at the subject and author.
No time to add 20-30 minutes a day to your schedule? Look for something to cut.
5 minutes: Look at the network Recommendations on the Home page Network updates. Float your mouse over unfamiliar names that have recommended influential people in your network or vice-versa. Are these potential business partners?
10-30 minutes: Try to make a few Comments in a few Groups to add value and build influence.
If you haven’t already, look at the member list and send Connection requests to people you know. Send warm introduction requests to people you want to know.
No time to add 15-30 minutes, perhaps an hour a week to your schedule? Use down time in between things – JUST NOT WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING, PLEASE.
10 Minutes: Update your profile with any material changes to your job, interests, awards, etc.
30-60 minutes: Make/Ask for 3-4 Recommendations for/from current clients wrt projects, etc.
No time to add a half-hour to an hour a month to your schedule? Make time – get up earlier or do it while eating breakfast. (Do you really need to watch one more game/show/movie with undivided attention?)
Two final comments:
All boat rise with the tide.
Don’t get left behind.
Good luck. Happy to help. Please Comment and Share. I wanna know. Thanks.
And that from a guy that’s been in “the business” of life insurance sales since the late 70′s. Wow! Strong language? Yep, it is. Oh, and this is during a “down economy”.
WebWisedom Podcast #35 – Life Insurance Sales and Social Tech (also on iTunes)
Got 30 minutes to see why you might need to change your course wrt sales and marketing? In prep for an ICMG panel discussion I’m leading in February, I received a question in the ICMG Linkedin Group. “Mike, I’d love to hear about case studies about how social media has been used to increase sales of individual life insurance…i.e. practical examples from life insurance agents in the field where social media [is] contributing to increasing sales, commissions, etc.”
So I thought, “Let me get it straight from an agent.”
Here it is, recorded on my Android at Starbucks in Hudson, OH in about 60 minutes.
So my question for you, the reader:
Are you an independent insurance producer? (any industry really) Are you having your best year ever?
Are you an MGA, IMO, Agency, etc? Is your team having its best year ever, totally crushing it?
Are you an insurance company sales and marketing leader? Are your 2011 sales off the charts? Oh, and you did you do the “lease amount of work” to get there?
If the answer is “No.” to any of the above, listen and learn from a career life insurance agent from Chicago now in Cleveland. Mike Sheehan totally lays out the real deal on what it takes.
(Oh, and if you want a short cut so that it doesn’t take you two and a half years to get there, let me know. I can definitely save you a tremendous amount of $$, time, and brain damage, not to mention possible loss of reputation caused by Social Tech missteps.)
So grab a blank doc for notes and click on the top link in the podcast widget below. Listen in as we talk with Mike.
What do you think, insurance peeps? Still think Social is nuts and a waste of time? The Comment section below is beckoning.
Thanks to Shoutlet for the podcast and RSS tech. Shoutlet rocks!