10 Burning Questions from 2012: What Happened?
3. Will Social Media Expand into Underwriting?
What we saw in 2011: "The industry enters 2012 with several software vendors offering products to help analyze unstructured social media data -- perhaps signaling an uptake in this kind of use."
What happened in 2012? A big whiff on our part. There was little momentum behind mining social media data for claims or underwriting in a more significant way than there had been last year.
Social media initiatives taken on by insurers this year included a big Olympics campaign from Nationwide, outreach on wildfires by PEMCO, and even social collaboration in the enterprise by Primerica and IBM. Perhaps the reason insurers were reticent to explore social media-based underwriting is that they don't want to be viewed as "snooping." PwC research found earlier this year that consumers don't trust health insurers on social media — and this summer, Progressive's seemingly tone-deaf Twitter response to a customer complaint lead to consumers pouncing on the insurers.
Social media is still "a huge social experiment," in the view of Robert E. Nolan practice director Steven Callahan. "There might be a flashback because people aren't aware of the overall implications. Think about the do-not-call list: Phones became an ingrained part of our lived, then they started being abused. So we passed legislation that controlled how it got used. It’s the same concept, at a much broader scale."