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Q&A: The Face of New York Life's Social Strategy

Dipayan Gupta tells I&T how New York Life converses with more than half a million followers across multiple networks.

Many life insurance companies see social media in tight alignment with their brand positioning, and New York Life is no different: The company has made a big push into social media with its Keep Good Going campaign that has yielded it 100,000 Twitter followers -- tops in the life insurance industry, it claims. Head of social media Dipayan Gupta chatted with Insurance & Technology about the insurer's social strategy and just what it plans to do with all those followers.

Insurance & Technology: What makes social a fit with New York Life's overall customer interaction strategy?

Dipayan Gupta, New York Life: No. 1, when it comes to the media we put out there, we are really using Twitter and Facebook to build a lasting emotional contact with people that isn't part of the sales cycle. So while some products are introduced and talked about from time to time, we like to curate good information outside the sales cycle so they are empowered to make good decisions. And No. 2, we are always listening. Part of that is reputation management insofar as being in the room when people are talking about you, but we are also using it as research to see how are people talking about their life insurance in general or their lives to get insights and anticipate their needs.

I&T: How has social media changed the typical life insurance dynamic?

Dipayan Gupta: Social media is the first time we've had a one-to-one touchpoint with our consumers -- most of the relationships people have had with New York Life has been through an agent. Now we can hear everything else they're saying. And when you think for instance about communicating in a crisis, by sheer virtue of how people use their phones they use Facebook and Twitter first or most. . It was a great way to communicate with our policyholders during Hurricane Sandy, for example; sharing the best info we found about shelters and places to go.

[Corporate Insight: Insurance Social Media Interactions Surge]

I&T: But agents have a place in the social landscape as well, right?

Dipayan Gupta, New York Life
Dipayan Gupta, New York Life

Dipayan Gupta: Of course. We definitely believe in the power of social for agents. We work with Hearsay Social on content -- social is good to create a personal brand and we encourage them to supplement the stuff we give them. Also, creating a social media profile for an agent means you'll pop up in a Google or Yahoo search. Our products are sold when people have a life event, and those are all things that an agent can stay on top of if they're in that social ecosystem.

I&T: Back to the carrier side, where does social media oversight and ownership reside within NYL?

Dipayan Gupta: When I joined it was separate from corporate communications, now we have joined that department. We work closely with PR not only to make sure that not only the best things that NYL is doing are communicated, but also that we are listening. It's the same with our service centers and our marketing departments. When we first started out, we got tripped up by compliance -- what can we and can't we say about our products? That's a very important session to have with your compliance department -- often there are real rules and real reasons why these things occur. Either way, you can't talk about just your product or yourself all the time. In fact, I think it's more relevant and interesting to talk about the needs that people have.

I&T: Is that sort of the genesis of the Keep Good Going campaign?

Dipayan Gupta: Yes. We're not just communicating the brand, we're not just making "Hallmark statements," we're filling in the blanks with third-party content or our own content. "What are your retirement dreams?" You can't really tap someone on the shoulder on the subway and say, "What do you think about a life IRA?" An effective social strategy for us mentions our product and the work we're doing, but also has a lot of content about the dream and creates an open conversation.

I&T: How do you craft content for each of the relevant social networks?

Dipayan Gupta: Well, it's how you assess the audience that you currently have and deliver content to them. Twitter in general has been good at timely marketing. We do a lot of sponsoring at sports events -- that's really a family gathering, with communication opportunities -- we can talk about a play that just happened. Facebook has been our largest audience to date, it's a great place to introduce new ad creative. It's almost like a focus group in a way. On YouTube, we've received over 5 million vies in the last year, a lot of the stuff that our foundation does is there. One thing to keep in mind is that our products are not spur of the moment decisions, they're long term. We are not a T-shirt or sneaker company and it's "click here to get a coupon." People need to sit and think about it.

I&T: So how do you measure the effectiveness of social campaigns? Can you talk about some metrics?

Dipayan Gupta: We look at the volume of conversation and the sentiment. Yeah, you might have a lot of followers, but are they actually engaging about you? We dig into the nitty-gritty of the various metrics each network provides. And we're trying to package them in terms that [other business units] will understand, but also in a way that is the most meaningful. Are customers talking about a particular concern? Are there other insights about the way our stuff is sold? There are a bunch of metrics that we can apply.

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

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