The first part of this blog post discussed some SM statistics and specific Canadian SM usage profiles and trends. This second part will focus on defining SM and helping brokerages determine whether having a SM presence is “right for them”.
SM is defined as the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with an online community. For business, SM is a relatively new tool in the marketing toolkit. It should be used within the context of an overall, integrated (and consistent across all channels) marketing strategy, … not in a silo.
Most marketing tools used to date involved a one-way conversation from the brokerage to customers and prospects. SM is a two-way communication with an audience! How the brokerage performs in front of this audience, will determine its SM success.
As the name indicates, SM is “social” in nature. Consequently, businesses should approach SM as a customer engagement tool, rather than a traditional promotional vehicle.
SM use by Canadian brokerages
While most Canadian brokerages have a limited to no SM presence, a growing number are taking the plunge, either using in-house personnel or hiring external suppliers.
A 2012 study of US and Canadian insurance agencies by B.H. Burke suggests that the interest in using non-traditional (to a large extent, SM) marketing is to develop leads, build brand recognition, strengthen relationships and improve customer service.
Experiences of Canadian brokers with SM
Earlier this year, I undertook a series of interviews with brokers situated in various parts of the country to assess their experiences with SM. The reaction was generally positive.
Canadian brokers are relatively new to this space. They are therefore learning, adjusting and adapting to the new realities. The majority of those who do have a SM presence tend to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page as well as a blog.
While some brokerages, through aggressive online and SM activities are seeing significant results, the rest are experiencing more limited results and complain of a generally one-sided conversation. When asked about ROI, none were able to provide any solid measurement.
The perceived pros and cons are summarized below:
Should your brokerage be using SM?
The answer to this question is IT DEPENDS on the brokerage management’s answers to the following questions:
- Are your customers using SM?
- Do your customers expect to find you on SM?
- Do you feel comfortable with the pros and cons?
If you answered YES, then you need to seriously consider an online presence. Keep in mind that by creating a presence, you are setting an expectation among customers and prospects that “you will be there”. If you cannot invest the time required and take it seriously, then you might be shooting yourselves in the foot by establishing a SM presence.
Last piece of advice: be prepared to take the good with the bad and be proactive when the bad happens.
Have a plan
If you decide to move forward, you should be addressing the following questions:
Then, you should plan for achieving the goals, selecting the measurement tool(s) that fit your goals and having an integrated approach that takes all your marketing activities into consideration (consistency across all channels).
Editor’s Note: Catherine Kargas is Vice President at MARCON, a management consulting firm serving the following industries: financial services, energy (with emphasis on conservation and renewables) and alternative propulsion technology transportation (both on-road and off-road). Catherine has 24 years of consulting experience in market intelligence and business strategy and is a satisfaction evaluation specialist. In the area of insurance, she has worked with P&C, life and group insurance providers. Catherine holds a Bachelors in Marketing and International Business as well as an MBA (Strategy) from McGill University. She is Vice Chair of Electric Mobility Canada and sits on the B2B Board of the Market Research and Intelligence Association. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine is also a member of the Insurance-Canada.ca Insurance 2023 Group.