Management Strategies

11:24 AM
Leah Pope
Leah Pope
Commentary
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Social Media in Finance: Process Is Key

Traditionally impulsive social media campaigns can seem riddled with risk. Insurers should adopt a process-driven approach.

In social media, conventional wisdom dictates that campaigns should be reactive, impulsive, and fun. However, for financial institutions and insurance companies, this type of approach can seem riddled with risk -- the antithesis of normal business practice. Then how should financial institutions and insurers do social media? The answer is process and strategy.

A process-driven social media campaign is not to be confused with something that is pointless or disengaged. By process-driven, I mean the social media campaign is shaped more by an overarching detailed strategy and less by impulse. All actions should be aligned with what is effective for the business rather than arbitrary goals such as Facebook likes. Top of mind should be the reduction of risk and the prioritization of customer satisfaction.

Many financial institutions currently have an ambivalent relationship with social media. From a business development perspective, it isn’t generally seen as a strong avenue of customer acquisition. Many firms have recognized social media’s importance for direct customer relations. However, the risk of making an embarrassing mistake often puts companies off from further investing in social media.

One of the most straightforward steps that financial institutions often neglect is analyzing what their customers are saying on social media. This goes beyond having a social media manager monitoring Twitter and Facebook, and actually necessitates using software to measure the sentiment of customers, key words, and pinch points. Many insurers, for example, would be shocked by the divergence between what traditional customer service surveys tell them and the very negative reception many insurers receive online. 

[Humana Lets Customers "Check Out" Premiums at CVS.]

Social media represents the world’s largest focus group. There is nothing that insurers do that should preclude them from tapping this information to better understand their customers. What is needed within these organizations is a change in mentality. Taking social media seriously and getting C-level buy-in is essential.

Social media management should not be the sole preserve of the customer service team or a social media manager. By making social media a company-wide responsibility that is overseen at the highest level, a comprehensive strategy aligned with the organization’s business goals can be implemented. This strategy will allow the development of set procedures that mitigate risk and ensure actions are aligned with the company’s core aims.

Of course, setting up a strategy should be more than a tick-box exercise. Real investment needs to be made. Software that manages, listens to, and analyzes all of a company’s social media channels can help to establish order to the process and allow tangible goals to be set. For example, an insurance company’s social media program can be divided into three segments:

  • Sales. Insurance agents can use social media to learn more about the prospects that they are reaching out to in order to help secure new sales.
  • Customer service. The companies should use social media as a way to interact with, listen to, and help their current customers.
  • Trends. Every insurance professional should be using social media to pay attention to what is being said about the industry to understand what trends are happening now or will be in the near future.

How these three segments are utilized during a social media campaign can be an indication of the relative success or failure of an insurance company’s overarching social media plans.

While a social intelligence tool is valuable for any insurance company, there is one thing that you must remember before you take a deep dive into the social media world: Compliance is key. In an industry that is so heavily regulated, you need to make sure that everything you are doing is executed exactly to plan. This means making sure that you have the right tools to:

  • Provide a social media archive for at least the past three years
  • Allow you to control permissions throughout your organization to adhere to your company’s social media policy
  • Provide an audit trail for your entire workflow, including internal notes that will allow you to track all communications

Developing these processes using social media technology and establishing clear goals make social media an intrinsic part of an organization’s business -- not a haphazard chase for likes or followers. 

All signs indicate that in the coming decades social media will become the only way consumers interact with brands. Insurers will not be excluded from this trend. To ensure that your company is not playing catch up, it is important to start taking social media seriously now.

Leah is responsible for leading strategic marketing activities at Synthesio including branding, positioning, product marketing, communications, go-to-market strategy, and all aspects of demand generation. Prior to joining Synthesio, she served as director of Global Marketing ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
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11/26/2014 | 11:34:16 PM
Re: People?
Exactly, some parts of social media can be automated, like tweets to share articles that customers might find useful or interesting. During times of stress or disaster, though, it's important to have a live person interacting with customers.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 6:52:21 PM
Re: People?
Right. Progressive got in some hot water using automated responses to tweets at a sensitive time a couple years ago. Social is a technology, and automation is part of it, but it requires a human touch at the most crucial moments.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 6:50:50 PM
Re: Achieving social success
Especially in insurance, where social media is an increasingly crucial channel at claims time, the right process goes a long way in disseminating information to the correct staff members.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2014 | 9:45:19 AM
Re: People?
Good point, Greg. Customers who voice concerns/questions via social media still deserve a response from a live employee. Plenty of companies now appoint social media managers to handle customer interactions across all social outlets; maybe we'll start to see more of that in financial services as the importance of social grows.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2014 | 6:53:25 AM
People?
Software and process will only get a company so far. With social media constantly evolving, smart social media experts will be needed to implement a strategy. And, as the strategy grows, automated systems and software can only do so much. Behind every real tweet, there is an actual customer. Those customers expect to be exchanging information with a real person at the insurance company, especially as their expectations of what a company can do via social grows (which it will, as other companies outside of insurance are already moving forward).
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 10:04:17 AM
Re: Achieving social success
Absolutely, and I think a big part of their strategy will be learning to maintain a positive online image. As Leah mentions, customers are more likely to voice their negative opinions on social media, so financial services businesses will need to be proactive about making sure those concerns are addressed.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
11/23/2014 | 9:03:45 PM
Re: Achieving social success
Social media is definitely an area where financial servcies organizations are going to be doing a lot of learning in the near future. As more and more millenials get more and more financial products and services, it's going to be a key way of engaging customers.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2014 | 12:58:28 PM
Achieving social success
Thanks, Leah. It's true that social media is tricky terrain for financial services firms, but now it's essential that they have social presence. It really is an invaluable tool for connecting with, and learning from, their customers, as well as identifying trends in the industry. There are also tools available today to help with compliance concerns. All things considered, it's really worth the time and effort for insurers to build their social strategies.
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