Opportunities, Doubts Abound in Social Media for Insurance, Aartrijk Brand Camp Survey Finds

Six Key Issues Uncovered in Research of Brand Decision-Makers

SPRINGFIELD, VA (October 23, 2009) – Insurance brand decision-makers are intrigued by increasing opportunities to use social networking, but they face internal pressure about these new rules of customer and prospect engagement, according to a recent survey conducted by leading industry branding firm Aartrijk.

The survey of attendees at Aartrijk Brand Camp 2009, an interactive conference for insurance and financial services brand managers in the age of the social Web, found that caution and doubts about managing social media are holding back many insurance brands from experimenting and implementing social media initiatives. Brand Camp attendees work at agencies, brokers, trade associations, carriers, technology firms, and other industry partners.

“Insurance brands that already have begun to work in social media have a lot of passion for it,”says Maureen Wall Bentley, vice president of brand strategy for Aartrijk. “But those who are in the exploration stage have real uncertainty about the potential impact and application of social media. They are curious but cautious, and many are not sure where to start.”

The survey was completed by most of the conference attendees prior to Aartrijk Brand Camp, held last month in Chicago. It found that the top six issues are:

  1. Social networking is viewed more as a risk than an opportunity by many insurance executives outside the areas of marketing and branding. Brand managers face internal struggles in convincing management to implement social media. Concerns about security, productivity, reputation, privacy, disclosure, workflow, technology and legal issues have held up even experimental efforts. “The conversational, interactive nature of social networking conflicts with the traditional one-to-many marketing efforts, which lack an online feedback loop,”Bentley points out.
  2. How do professionals and businesses manage the time and people involved in social media efforts?
  3. Brand decision-makers are unsure where or how to start with social media�they are looking for a plan, budget and agreement on corporate leadership on the issue. They’re not certain if and when those resources will come.
  4. Insurance brands see social networking opportunities in agent or member communications as well as the business-to-consumer realm. The dual opportunities, however, split resources and focus.
  5. Brand decision-makers are seeking ways to measure activity and success in social media.
  6. Insurance brands are looking for best practices and success stories for building brand awareness and customer service through social media.

Despite these issues, Bentley notes attendees at Aartrijk Brand Camp heard from a cross-section of insurance professionals who are writing new business, servicing existing business, listening to customers, engaging prospects and building their brands�all with a variety of social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Web sites, too, are evolving rapidly as corporate online “brochure-ware”becomes less interesting to customers and prospects.

The Aartrijk Brand Camp community, which includes “campers”attending the first event and “counselors”from Aartrijk, are continuing a dialogue online, and a Webinar is planned for this winter to address some of the issues raised in the survey as well as present case studies.

“Some people in our industry still question whether social media should play any role at all in insurance and financial services,”says Bentley. “They’re not convinced that consumers want to engage with their agent or carrier in the same way that they follow their personal interests online.

“And, frankly, insurance probably doesn’t have the same pull as entertainment, politics or sports,”continues Bentley. “But smart insurance professionals are touching customers and prospects through online social networks much in the same way they’ve always done offline�by demonstrating their expertise, their relationship to the community, and their understanding of the challenges families and businesses face each day. The social Web is simply a new vehicle for expressing those qualities.”

About Aartrijk

Aartrijk is a boutique branding firm serving clients from insurance and financial services firms and member organizations. Aartrijk’s experienced team offers business-to-business and business-to-consumer brand auditing; brand identity development; Web and social media; advertising, marketing-communications and public relations; publishing and editorial; and customer and marketing channel research. Visit www.Aartrijk.com; find Aartrijk on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter (@Aartrijk), and follow Brand Camp and social media topics on Twitter: #ABC09. For camp information, visit www.aartrijk.com/brandcamp/agenda-2009.