When Foremost Insurance Company saw social media gaining traction among insurance agents, the specialty P&C carrier wanted to make sure its distributors had the tools they needed to succeed in the burgeoning channel. "Agents wanted to use technology more in their general business activities," recalls Jeff Bair, executive director of strategic marketing and independent agent operations for the Caledonia, Mich.-based carrier. "There were all sorts of agents who had interest in social media but didn't know how to take that first step."
To help them get started, Foremost created the "Foremost Social Media Suitcase." Available through IAProducers.com and ForemostSTAR.com, the suitcase is divided into sections based on the particular questions and concerns that agents have expressed about social media: "Why Social Media," "How to Use Social Media" and "Social Media Content." According to Bair, who also fills the role of the "Foremost Insurance Guy," a persona featured in the carrier's marketing, the Why Social Media site section features frequently asked questions on popular social networking sites, as well as success stories from agents who use it.
"A lot of agents are saying, 'I don't know how to start,' or, 'Show me how to use this content,'" Bair relates. "Most recently, we've asked agents, 'Are you in this space already? Can we use you as a success story?'"
How to Use Social Media walks users through setting up accounts and posting to popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. "When we looked at the content that was out on the commercial sites, while it was clear, we think it could've been more step-by-step," Bair explains.
Ready for a Closeup
Finally, Social Media Content provides agents with text that can be cut and pasted for use on Twitter and Facebook and videos -- some starring Bair as the Foremost Insurance Guy -- that they can upload to YouTube. Agents are notified by e-mail when new content is available. "We kept hearing that flat [business growth] is the new up, but we don't subscribe to that," Bair says. "We're providing this so that agents can grow their business."
That outlook will continue, as Foremost, which has 2.7 million policies in force, looks to help agents take their social media strategies to the next level. According to Bair, the carrier wants to provide agents with guides to analytics to help them gain insight into the success of their social media strategies. Foremost also sees an opportunity to use social media for commercial lines sales, he adds.
"Folks have talked quite a bit about using Twitter and Facebook, but we don't see a lot of agencies with content that is LinkedIn-faced that can drive their personal lines business as well as their commercial lines," Bair notes. "We need to look at the B-to-B opportunities around that space."
Beyond building business for agents, by encouraging social media development, Foremost also is promoting dialogue between agents and the company, Bair believes. "Because we're a specialty lines insurer, an agency doesn't have an opportunity to interact with us every single day," he acknowledges. "But by getting more content out there, we think we can get their policyholders aware of all the things that we insure and all the things the agency can insure."
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio