How Independent Agents Can Use Social Media to Attract New Customers

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    As an independent agent, you have probably been told countless times that you should be on social media. Perhaps you haven’t found the time among all of your other priorities, or maybe you don’t know where to start. Engaging your prospective customers on social media isn’t easy, especially if you’re just starting out.

    Just as there are countless people telling you to be on social media, there are countless guides telling you how. This article will cut through the clutter to get you started, give you ideas specific to the industry and point you toward resources that can help you along the way.

    But first, in case you are not yet convinced:

    Why Should You be on Social Media?

    According to an article by Caitlin Bronson at Insurance Business Magazine, 50 percent of those in the industry regularly use social media for business purposes. Why is that?

    • Gartner research predicts that insurers who are digital leaders will financially outperform those who aren’t by 100 percent, according to Property Casualty 360.
    • Digital channels are expected to generate up to one-third of insurance business, according to Digimind.com.
    • Accenture found that 48 percent of consumers surveyed would consider comments on social media when making insurance-buying decisions.

    In the Accenture survey, 80 percent of respondents said more personalized service was one of the top reasons they would switch to a new insurer — and 41 percent were willing to pay more for it.

    “The thing is, we can’t think of ourselves as insurance agents,” says experienced insurance marketer Ryan Hanley. “We are relationship builders … And that is what social media is all about, building relationships.”

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    Getting Started in 5 Steps

    If you are ready to jump right in, here are 5 steps to get started:

    1. Define your audience and your message. Hootsuite’s Andrew Pressault has an excellent resource on how to create audience personas.
    2. Start small and give each channel its own unique purpose. Choose just one or two platforms at first. Research in Insurance Business magazine found that LinkedIn and Facebook were the most helpful for getting new insurance customers.
    3. Give each channel its own unique purpose. You can connect your networks so they work together rather than alone. We included some resources that can help you do this at the end of this article.
    4. Engage, but spend far more time listening than responding. Again, there are tools to help you respond to comments, mentions and feedback.
    5. Solidify steps into a solid process. That may translate as a daily to-do list, a weekly metric report or a regular big-picture audit of what’s working and what to adjust.

    Finding Time for Social Media Management

    You could easily spend hours each day getting up to speed on social media sites. While that may be a good way to get started, you probably don’t have the time or energy. Instead, Small Business Bonfire founder Alyssa Gregory recommends creating a “time budget” for social media. This should limit your time to a daily or weekly total that you can fit into your schedule fairly easily.

    Here is how you can implement a time budget:

    • Carve time into your schedule for it. In a post for Social Media Examiner, Social Tribe founder and CEO Megan Conley recommends blocking one or two time slots on your calendar per day to turn off all distractions. She says you should expect to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes each day on social activities in the first month or two.
    • Build a list of shareable content at the beginning of the week, and let that drip out slowly. Matt Bowman at Thrive Internet Marketing recommends curating content a week (or even a month) at a time by breaking it down into smaller tasks and completing work for multiple posts at once. This can cut down on time wasted switching between tasks.
    • Get multiple team member involved. Establish a lightweight strategy if you have a small team, rotating the responsibility between team members by week, Gina Michnowicz at Union+Webster tells Forbes. As long as you establish some guidelines for consistency, this can give everyone a fun challenge.

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    Creating Good Content

    Hootsuite has a great guide with 10 social media tips for small businesses. It includes perhaps the most important insight in this article: The majority of your social content shouldn’t be promoting yourself, but adding value for the audience.

    According to serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, “the biggest thing people don’t understand is that quality content is so important to marketing,” and that content trumps everything else.

    OutboundEngine reminds insurance agents to be strategic. Share home maintenance tips, the latest in car safety and other ideas that impact potential customers but don’t necessarily relate to insurance. “You’d be amazed how much industry-adjacent content influences audiences and keeps you top of mind,” they write. “Plus it shows you’re not all about sales.”

    This kind of content is truly helpful for current and prospective customers, and it engenders goodwill toward your business. What’s more, when the content is shared across social media it gets your name in front of new, relevant audiences you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

    Another Hootsuite post offers other examples of valuable content insurers should offer: educating people about teen driving, identity theft, fire safety, healthy living or any of a multitude of topics related to insurance.

    Generating Leads

    Online marketing guru John Rampton offers several great tips for generating new customers via social media:

    • Encourage satisfied customers to offer personal recommendations, reviews and referrals. Set up review widgets on your site so they can rate your products, use testimonials in your social content, and offer incentives for customers who promote your business or products on their social media.
    • Run contests to increase your following and attract new leads. According to data collected by Kontest, Rampton says, one in three contest entrants opts in to continue receiving information from brands.
    • Respond quickly to inquiries. 71 percent of those who feel taken care of on social media are likely to recommend a brand to others.

    Technology provider LoginRadius recommends showcasing customers who stand out in the way they use or engage with your product. This is a great word-of-mouth tactic, as that customer will likely share your post on their own social media profiles as well. This means you’ve also created a brand advocate and will strengthen that customer’s loyalty.

    Insurance Splash suggests promoting your official referral program or extending it to social media. Many agencies give away prizes or gift cards for referring a friend. Why not offer the same to someone who posts on their wall that they just saved $300 on insurance? “You’ll spend hundreds for an ad in the local paper; don’t you think a personal recommendation to 500 people is worth $5?”

    You can also explore paid ad options to accelerate your performance on social media. But don’t worry—Vaynerchuk says you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get results, despite what he calls “the paranoia of everyone thinking social media only works when you spend money.”

    One final guide worth mentioning on the topic of social lead generation is Post Planner’s excellent 15 ways to get leads on social media. Bookmark that post, and return to it once your social media processes are stabilized.

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    Sparking Ideas

    Social media also provide an excellent way to follow other leaders in the industry to observe what they’re doing.

    While many successful campaigns come from large insurers with large budgets, you never know what may spark an achievable idea. It’s also a good idea to keep up with what companies in other industries are doing.

    Tools and Resources

    You can find countless online resources on social media tools, tips and ideas, and many are dedicated specifically to small businesses or the insurance industry. Here are a few to get you started:

    While it may seem overwhelming to get started, the potential leads and business growth that come with social media will make it worthwhile.

    Images by: quka/©123RF Stock Photo, rmarmion/©123RF Stock Photo, rawpixel/©123RF Stock Photo, phive2015/©123RF Stock Photo

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