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Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Social Media

Why the insurance industry needs digital marketing

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Social media is no longer a “nice to have” for any agency that wants to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced marketplace. Having an online presence is critical, whether you are targeting millennials or seniors. The right social strategy will make your lead gen efforts more effective. It will multiply your number of qualified prospects. And it will tackle one of the biggest challenges advisors face: building consumer trust.

At NAILBA 34 later this week, Amy McIlwain, author, speaker and vice president of social and digital strategy at Moore Communications Group, will dig deep into the benefits of digital marketing. In advance of her innovation workshop and panel discussion, McIlwain gave us a sneak peek of what really matters for advisors when it comes to SEO, email marketing and social media, in particular.

LHP: The panel you are speaking on at NAILBA 34 is called “Digital Marketing Demystified.” What is the No. 1 mystery around digital marketing in the financial services space?

AM: The biggest mystery is that digital marketing is a silo. The truth is that it’s not. A number of digital techniques have to work together in harmony in order for you to see success. You think of social media, SEO, email promotion, etc. as individual techniques, but you really need to have all of these working together to be successful.

LHP: How has social media evolved as a marketing tool in the past year?

AM: The biggest change in social is advertising. Advertising is really coming center stage as a social strategy. We’re seeing pressure on the major social companies — Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — to monetize for their investors. So, if you have a Facebook fan page, if you don’t spend money to promote that post, very few of your fans will see it. Five dollars will go a long way to ensure that your posts are being seen, but it’s probably best not to invest time on Facebook if you’re not willing to spend that money.

LHP: What is your advice to advisors who are looking to launch a presence on social media? Should they start with just one platform and really commit to becoming visible there?

AM: Yes. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Start where your clients are. Are you trying to reach business owners? LinkedIn is a good bet. If you’re looking to reach baby boomers, you might want to try Facebook. Remember, too, that today’s social networks are sophisticated enough to allow for behavioral targeting: You can target, say, affluent baby boomers on Facebook and get your posts in front of the exact audience you are looking to reach.

LHP: How is social media success best measured?

AM: Determine what your goals are. Is your goal to create awareness? Are you using it for PR purposes? Social PR is a big thing you can look at, which allows you to measure social media success; for example, how many media pickups come from your outreach via Twitter? Are your blogs getting published in different newspapers or publications?

Alternatively, you can look at how many appointments or phone calls you’re setting as a result of your social activity. Make it a goal to have five phone calls every month with someone you’ve met on LinkedIn. The business transaction will not happen online, of course. But the initial connection will. You’re earning the right to have that meeting with that potential client.

Social media efforts are very measurable. Suppose you create a landing page and a whitepaper on the ten biggest mistakes to avoid when filing for Social Security. You get 1,000 people going to the landing page, which has a 20 percent conversion rate — so, that’s 200 leads. From there, these leads begin receiving your emails; they go through that funnel. Say 10 percent of them then decide to schedule an appointment. If you’re able to close half of those appointments, that’s 10 new clients. Then you can really determine the ROI for your social media efforts: It cost ‘X’ to drive 1,000 people to our landing page, which ultimately led to ‘Y’ clients.

LHP: What would you say to an advisor who is reluctant to invest in social media because of compliance concerns?

AM: The interpretation of FINRA and SEC rules have really moved a lot, even over the past year. More and more companies are moving to a post-review instead of a pre-review model, and it’s going to continue to move that way. I like to compare social media to a cocktail party. You can’t go to a cocktail party, and if someone asks you what you do for a living, say “Hold on, let me go ask my compliance officer.” That doesn’t make sense on social media either. The best thing you can do is to educate yourself on the type of things you should be posting. If you wouldn’t say something on record, don’t post it on social media. And you have options. If something is not suitable for your entire audience, direct that point to a private conversation.

Also, remember: You’re not pitching products, you’re not talking rates or guarantees. Another big mistake people make is that they take the traditional communication, which is one-way communication, and they vomit it all up online. With social it’s a conversation; you need to listen first and talk second. Let’s go back to our cocktail party analogy. Who are the people you remember at the end of the night? You remember the people with interesting stories and the ones that listened to you. You don’t remember the person that spent the whole night talking about how great he is, or how great his kids are. We’ve all met that person. Don’t be that person online.

The other thing about compliance is that you do need to maintain records and archives of your social media posts, so you can have someone spot check them and have them available for review if needed.


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