I recently read an article named “10 Reasons You Should Not Be on Social Media” – the title alone grabbed my attention, and I immediately clicked on the link. Within a few minutes, I realized that the title – and, indeed, the entire article – was facetious. The list included such items as, “The only computer you have in your office is the black and green screen Mac” and, “You are still struggling with reply and forward functions in email.” My favorite of the reasons, however, was, “You find that building ‘trust’ in a marketplace is a waste of time.”

Clearly, anyone involved in small business needs to join social media. This was made even more apparent when I noticed the date on the article’s byline – nearly one year ago. If you should have hopped on the social media bandwagon a year ago, then you’re certainly behind the times if you will haven’t signed up.

You might be thinking that social networking just won’t work for someone working in the health insurance field. But as you can see below, there is already a healthy dialogue taking place online about health insurance and the health care industry at large. If you don’t get on board, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

  • A search on Twellow, the Twitter Yellow Pages, for the word “insurance” yielded 6,372 matches. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for who’s on Twitter and involved in insurance, since you don’t have to join Twellow to be on Twitter.
  • There are now 60 million consumers using new media to share their health experiences online.
  • Hospitals also use social media – 142 hospitals have YouTube channels, 132 hospitals maintain Twitter accounts, and 83 hospitals have Facebook pages.
  • Major insurance carriers such as John Hancock, Allstate, and Prudential are active on multiple social networking Web sites. Even more interesting, social media consumers are using the Web sites to discuss the benefits and drawbacks to the carriers they use. A simple Internet or Twitter search for the carrier’s name will show you what consumers are saying online about the carriers you are appointed with.
  • Approximately 1,200 Facebook communities are in place to advocate for cures for chronic and critical illnesses.
  • Among patients, 72 percent search for medical information right before or after a doctor’s visit, and 93 percent say the Internet has made it possible to get the medical information they need.

Not sure how to get started on social media? Check out our guides to using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a jumping-off point, and look for a primer to FINRA’s recently released social media guidelines in our April print edition. Don’t have a subscription? Get one here. And once you’ve established your Twitter account, don’t forget to follow ASJonline for the latest on health, life, annuities, and more.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at HTrese@AgentMedia.com or 800-933-9449 ext. 225.