Businesses today – especially insurance businesses – are often built through referrals and word of mouth. This is nothing new. The people we know and our professional reputations have long helped to establish our success.
But as consumers increasingly turn toward “anytime, anywhere” technologies to support their on-the-go lifestyles, traditional means of connecting with others and building relationships are changing. Consumers still seek advice and references from their friends, but they often make those requests by posting questions on Facebook. Phone calls have not gone away, but today, they are often supplanted by text, tweet or e-mail.
Recent LIMRA research examined how producers are using social media in their practices and what support they need from insurance companies.
Who is Using Social Media?
According to LIMRA research, about half of producers are using some form of social media. More interesting, perhaps, is that about 40 percent are planning to use some new form of social media. This is true among producers who are currently using social media but who are adding new sites and tools. It is also true among non-users who are dipping their toes into the social media waters for the first time.
In general, LIMRA found that producers with less experience in the industry are more likely to be using social media at present than their more experienced counterparts. This may be due, in part, to age differences. Generally, producers with less experience are younger and more likely to be social media users. But this doesn’t mean all producers using social media are right out of college. While less experienced producers may be using social media sites and tools, the most experienced producers (30+ years in the industry) are the producers most likely planning to use these same tools. Roughly seven in 10 producers, regardless of experience, are either using or planning to use some form of social media.
How are Producers Using Social Media?
Among social media users, those with differing amounts of industry experience are using social media in different ways. About half of newer producers are using social media for prospecting, and over one third are using it for brand management. This makes sense – less experienced producers have a greater need to build their business, and therefore use social media to look aggressively for new clients. More experienced producers use social media for these purposes as well, but they also use it to maintain relationships, extend their market reach, and explore social media in general.
What are the Barriers to Social Media Use?
Just because a producer is using some form of social media, it doesn’t mean all the barriers to social media use have been removed. Nearly one quarter of its users cite lack of time as their primary barrier to increased its use. Compliance concerns and the need for training are also top barriers. A producer’s experience also plays a role in the perceived barriers for social media use. New producers are concerned primarily with a lack of time and with compliance concerns, while more experienced producers using social media are citing a need for training as a primary reason for not using social media more.
How Can Insurers Help?
Insurers can support their sales force’s use of social media by providing training, procedures and tools that address the key needs of producers who use it. Here are two ways:
 Demonstrate how social media can help their business at its current stage. While social media is a great communication tool for everyone, for newer businesses, the focus is on networking and prospecting, while more established producers might be interested in the ease of staying in touch with existing clients.
 Training should be objectives-focused, rather than procedural. This doesn’t mean examples aren’t useful, but it’s important to tie all actions to how it is helping to solve a problem and/or improve business.
It is critical that insurers tailor their training and support to the individual needs of their producers. Social media use continues to grow among all demographics. Helping your field force have a strong presence is not only smart, it is essential to remain competitive.