Agents Seize Opportunities with Social Media: The View from Grinnell

Dan McCue, digital marketing strategist at Grinnell Mutual, sat down with InsuranceSocial.Media to talk about the opportunities agents have using social media, spending 23 minutes utilizing it, and overcoming fears about customer complaints.

How important is it to Grinnell Mutual for its agents to be active on social media? How do you think social media marketing impacts the individual agency?

Our agents — all insurance agents, really — are in the relationship business and social media does relationships better than any other media I know. Agents now recognize that social networks offer opportunities to create awareness about their agencies, tell their stories about how they serve their customers, and build relationships with their customers.

Social media does three things for agents:

  1. Brand awareness. Being on Facebook is an opportunity for agents to be where their customers spend their time. Facebook is the largest social network and one of the largest media networks. The average user spends over 30 minutes a day on Facebook. Compare that to traditional media — television, radio, newspaper. The top 11 P&C carriers are spending over $5 billion on advertising. It’s hard for an independent agent to stand out in that space.
  2. Targeting. On Facebook and LinkedIn, agents can target users most likely to use our products and services. Other media common to agents — newspaper, radio, billboards, phone books —cannot reliably deliver a targeted audience on a modest budget.
  3. Networking. Agents are the original social networkers. Now agents can leverage their networks on Facebook and LinkedIn to refer their customers to each other — and have their customers refer business to them.

How does Grinnell Mutual encourage agents to be active on social media? What resources are available to agents?

We offer social media education and training through our Digital Coach program. We focus on strategy — social networking as a means to help agents achieve their business objectives. This includes tactics on how to use social media including account management, creating engaging content, and responding to customer complaints. We deliver education and training through articles, webinars, video, and live presentations.

We create our content to be shared by our agents on their social networks. And we encourage them to follow us on our social media channels so they can share our content when they see it in their feeds.

One thing we’ve learned from working with agents is that many agents want to use social media, but aren’t confident about how. We’ve invested in InsuranceSocial.Media to help our agents focus on their strengths — relationships and networking.

What is your top tip for independent agents using social media?

It’s crucial for agents to develop a habit. The Big I Best Practices Study revealed that even in the smallest independent agencies (less than $1.25 million in revenue), one person spends 23 minutes a day on social media. I wrote more about this on LinkedIn.

For your agents, what seems to be the biggest social media marketing challenge?

Discipline. Too many agents see it as a problem and not a solution. Agents are natural-born social networkers. They live to serve and build relationships.

When agents commit to spending 23 minutes a day on social media — monitoring activity, creating and sharing posts, and making connections with customers, they’ll start to get the positive feedback from their networks. Users will engage with their posts. Customers will mention in meetings that they saw it online. Employees will suggest ideas for what to share next.

What is your greatest insurance social media pet peeve—the number one thing agents should avoid doing?

Agents need to overcome their fears about what might go wrong on social media. For too long, agents have been concerned about the negative things customers might say online. But customers have always been talking about them.

With social media, now agents can hear what their customers are saying — and this is a good thing. Agents should respond to customer complaints. Whether they’re responding in a public setting or by private message, they should be mindful of the five Bs — be honest, be personal, be professional, be nice, be respectful. They may not only resolve a customer complaint, but may demonstrate their commitment to customer service for all to see.

Do you consider social media more of an art, or more of a science?

Social media is both a science and an art. The science is in a rich set of data to understand what engages users on your pages. What did they click on, like, share?

The art comes in when figuring out how to be timely, interesting, and relevant. What can you share that will both tell your story and engage your audience online?

Our most viral posts have been about farmers working at harvest. A 2014 harvest post reached over 450,000 people with nearly 8,000 shares. A 2016 Labor Day post reached nearly 100,000 with over 4,000 likes. We’ve written dozens of harvest posts — what made those two go viral? The science got us as far as audience and topic, but the art is committing to create and experiment with content.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about insurance social media or social media for mutual insurance companies?

Social media is a collaborative process, so leverage the relationships you have with your business partners — carriers, industry associations, and chambers of commerce. Watch what they do on social media and share their good stuff.

Ask if they have content that would work well on your site. Chances are they have a trove of images, video, and articles that will engage your customers.

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