Life insurance might be said to be the original networking industry. Ironically, however, life insurers have lagged in adopting social media, despite the transformational potential inherent in this wide-ranging phenomenon.
In less than five years, social networking has become the most popular activity on the Web, helping to satisfy an inherent human need to be “our own person” while belonging to larger groups and communities. Social media also help consumers make sense of the growing amount of information available on the Web. According to Nielsen, consumers trust opinions they read online more than they do other forms of communication; 90 percent of consumers surveyed by Nielsen said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent said they trust other opinions posted online.
Through social media, consumers also distribute as well as consume information. Every second, consumers effectively broadcast key events as they occur in their lives. Social media allow everyone to create a public persona for themselves through sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – an ability historically reserved only for the elites. Today, social media users leave narrative bits or “narbs” about our opinions, changes in life status, or interests.
By using social media, life insurance agents and brokers have a tremendous opportunity to innovate and re-create their personal brands within the community. Most agents and brokers are in the “crawl” stage of using social media, where they are in the process of creating their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. As they transition to the “walk” stage, they begin to ask their customers for recommendations, and build their own digital brands, positioning themselves as experts for many of their services. In the “run” stage, they begin converting those recommendations into a major source of referrals, maximizing the power of their social brand.
How might the use of social media help an agent build referrals and business among upscale consumers? Let’s consider the case of John Rex, a fictional agent who has become adept at using social media and other powerful new technologies.
John is an independent producer and a highly successful seller of long term care, annuity and life insurance products. He is technically savvy and uses social media to generate new sales leads – in fact, 45 people on LinkedIn have recommended John as an LTC expert. He often works with Salus, an equally fictional multi-line, multi-channel carrier with an online presence.