Only about half of the independent life agents who use social media sites say they use the sites for business.

Researchers in the Chicago office of Mintel Comperemedia, a unit of Mintel International Group Ltd., found that 70% of 214 independent life producers surveyed said they use at least one social media site for business, pleasure or both.

About 14% of the agents said they believe social networks have generated word-of-mouth type leads, 14% said social networks help them stay in contact with clients, and 11% said they believe social networks give them more client opportunities.

“Insurance agents tend to rely on email and face-to-face interaction because they feel personal contact with clients is a necessity,” says Daniel Hayes, vice president of insurance services at Mintel Comperemedia. “As a result, social media doesn’t rank as high on their list of priorities.”

When more insurance firms cultivate a richer social network presence and more attractive content, “usage percentages should increase,” Hayes predicts.