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New York Life Boosts Social Savvy

The adoption of new technologies addresses challenges in customer engagement and business growth.

As more customers demand faster and more personalized transactions, more insurers are looking to improve their social media capabilities and engage consumers in conversation online. Strengthening the policyholder relationship is an ongoing priority for New York Life (NYL), which is broadening its use of social channels.

"Our challenge is always, through every channel we can leverage, to engage consumers in conversation," Liz McCarthy, senior vice president of agency communications at NYL, tells us. "We have found social media as a new and effective way to engage customers in a conversation about what matters in their lives."

Life insurance is not usually top of mind for policyholders, McCarthy says, so NYL began to engage with them through social media about three or four years ago. It began with a corporate presence on Facebook, which it found to be the natural place for consumer engagement. NYL has since created accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn, which the insurer uses to recruit potential agents and employees.

After developing its corporate social presence, the insurer began to roll out social capabilities to its agents -- a more difficult process. As NYL began to understand the power of social media, it realized that it didn't want to change what its agents had been doing for years: engaging with customers, creating relationships, and building communities. It simply wanted to move those activities to the digital world.

[Optimizing a Digital Media Strategy in Insurance]

However, compliance issues proved to be a major hurdle. "Regulatory has always been a big challenge," McCarthy says. The social media world "was the one place where regulators were struggling to understand what their responsibilities were."

When NYL first set out to enable its agents in social media, it found that very few vendors offered solutions. It was accustomed to partnering with large companies, but it settled for working with a small vendor that offered compliance and monitoring capabilities. A year and a half ago, it switched to Hearsay Social, which it had initially overlooked because the vendor lacked compliance capabilities.

"Without a compliance solution, it was kind of a nonstarter for us," McCarthy says. When Hearsay first came to market, it primarily focused on conversations and social listening. However, in recent years, it has built a compliance monitoring tool that suits NYL's needs, and it is continuing to broaden its offerings.

The adoption of Hearsay was unnatural for those agents who are not typically active on social platforms, she says, but the majority understood its power and potential. "Helping them incorporate it into processes has been the biggest challenge."

NYL's agent base is currently in various stages of adopting Hearsay. Some agents have embraced a passive strategy and post infrequently; for others, it is a core necessity for client communication and determining where life insurance may be needed. Facebook is a popular outlet for monitoring customers' life events, while LinkedIn helps agents learn about job changes and retirement. Twitter is comparatively less important but still used among the agents.

The insurer has rolled out the platform to more than 4,200 users, including agents, field managers, and recruiters. It aims to have 5,000 active on Hearsay by the end of 2014. It plans to continue increasing its focus on engagement through 2015.

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
9/17/2015 | 10:02:59 AM
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User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2014 | 10:47:58 AM
Re: New York Life Boosts Social Savvy
I never thought of it that way. NY Life could use Facebook as a marketing technique, but also for targeting business through life events. They have an inside look at births, marriages, deaths, etc. Sophisticated and sleazy all at the same time!
User Rank: Author
10/20/2014 | 12:46:23 PM
Re: Leading in social
Exactly; not only do people check social channels daily, but they post plenty of information on life events that insurers want to know. Updates and comments on births, new jobs, retirement, etc. are commonly shared on social media. 
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
10/19/2014 | 10:56:29 PM
Leading in social
Speaking with NYL's social leader earlier this year, I get the feeling that competing on social channels is a key component of their market strategy going forward. They see life insurance as aligned to the daily life of their customers, and what better place to keep top of mind than on the social meda networks customers check daily?
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