Lately, one of the more frequent questions we hear seems to be: “Are we Canadians lagging in the use of social media for business?” A couple of recent items suggest that we probably are, in business generally, and insurance specifically.
The Weekend Globe and Mail (16 Apr) carried an article: ‘Canadian Job Seekers Lag in Social Media,’ reporting on an on-line survey by Randstad Canada which found that 61% of Canadian job seekers reported that they knew social media tools can help with job searches. This compares with 83% of job seekers in China, and 82% in India. Also, 51% of Canadian job seekers use social media to to prepare for interviews and review companies’ on-line profiles. This compares to 78% of job seekers in India doing the same and 63% in China.
Finally, and possibly more tellingly, while 71% Canadian respondents have social media accounts, only 27% are using them to maintain a profile for business related purposes.
The second item doesn’t address Canada specifically, but provides examples of US insurers’ use of social media. The April 2011 on-line edition of Insurance&Technology is entitled ‘New Rules of Engagement’. Katherine Burger, Editorial Director, compares the situation today with the early introduction of technology to agents: “We have moved on to a new generation of agents and distributors – individuals who not only don’t have to be persuaded to use technology, but who can’t imagine working (or living) without it.”
Several articles show how the carriers are responding to this enthusiasm. For example, Foremost Insurance, a Michigan based specialty carrier, saw the rise of social media as an opportunity for its agents and developed the ‘Foremost Social Media Suitcase,’ an on-line tool kit to help agents understand and use tools to prospect and sell through the new media. According to Jeff Bair, Foremost’s executive director of strategic marketing and agent operations, the suitcase responds to agents who have an interest, but don’t know how to get started.
Progressive Insurance has developed an Agent Technology Advisory Board to promote a partnership with its agents on the implementation of technology. Although not restricted to Social Media, this has become a dominant topic at the board meetings, according to Jim DeVito, Progressive’s agent experience manager. DeVito summarizes the carrier’s role as “advisers and counselors” to help agents understand and execute technology strategies, including social media.
While none of these items say definitively that Canada is tracking behind, we know of few similar examples here. Is this an intentional strategy to let others work out the details and allow us to move in as ‘fast followers’, or are we taking a chance that we’ll be left behind? We’d be interested in your comments.