Your social media strategy
Know what social media sites to use and when to get results for your agency
By Adam DeGraide
If you have posted a profile on each of the fierce foursome of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+), you have a marketable audience of more than 1.5 billion—that's about three times the combined population of the United States and Japan. That's a ton of potential clients—if you can get them to look your way. Unfortunately, through social media you can't scream, jump up and down, or wave your arms to garner attention from those prospects.
You need a social media strategy to get these users interested in your agency and what you have to offer. You can spend time building a profile on each site and developing awesome contests, educational articles, and links to valuable resources, but if you're sticking the right content on the wrong site, you'll never see the benefits.
Know your audience and find out what they want.
If you learn about each social media site's audience and its purpose in utilizing the site, and then post relevant content, you have a much better chance to amass an interactive following. Let's explore the rough demographics and perspectives on these sites and what your agency can do to stand out from the millions of other businesses that are leveraging the power of social media.
Facebook According to Facebook, there are about 1 billion users on Facebook. It's the most trafficked site in the United States, even beating out big-shot search engines Google and Bing. Who is the average Facebook user? Anyone—from a high school student to a retired grandmother—the range and variety is vast enough to add some challenge to drilling down a target demographic.
Use Facebook as an interaction tool to connect with current and potential clients on a more personal level. Users sign on to find the latest current events, interact with friends, and learn more about people, places, and businesses. Don't feed them a sales pitch; start a conversation.
If every update you post focuses on insurance, your audience will get bored quickly. Facebook users want to know you're human. Show them your agency's fun side by posting photos of new employees, offering a question-and-answer session with a sales rep, and updating your fans on events at your agency. Draw them in by focusing on issues they can relate to including local charities, community involvement, and current events.
Allowing your audience to get to know your agency and its involvement in the community builds a strong bridge of trust. Your current clients, potential clients, and business page "lurkers" will feel closer to your agency and more inclined to hand over referrals and repeat business.
Twitter The latest 2012 Twitter statistics reveal that there are more than 250 million active users on the site. Twitter users are also interested in having interactive conversations, but they want their information fast—in short, current, straight-to-the-point messages. To ensure that you're not having a one-sided conversation, re-tweet followers' questions and your answers. Think of it as a public conversation, where everyone is invited to get involved. Use hashtags (#) with these conversations so others can easily find them and contribute.
Set up a Twitter search to see who's talking about insurance right now. Follow your business partners and re-tweet their updates and specials. In return, they should re-tweet your agency's important updates, gaining your agency exposure to their own following. When you use Twitter properly and pay attention to your audience, you will be regarded as an industry influence among your followers.
LinkedIn Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is focused less on conversation and more on business networking. LinkedIn is a professional community of more than 187 million users who are interested in employment opportunities and building business relationships.
Users list professional achievements and skills on their profile. You should do the same for your agency. Think of your profile as an online résumé where you can address everything your agency does and its many achievements in the community. List your niche markets and get recommendations from clients and local business partners. Don't forget to return the favor and write recommendations for your business partners as well.
Since LinkedIn is dedicated to personal branding and exposure, encourage every sales agent in your agency to create his or her own LinkedIn profile. Your commercial agents can use the site to research potential business clients and obtain a soft introduction.
To start interacting with your audience, think local. Create a "group" about your community and start a conversation about current events or local happenings. Segue into insurance, answer questions, and become the neighborhood expert in the industry.
Google+ Google+ may be one of the most recent social media sites to crest the news, but the 100 million-plus (no pun intended) users make it a viable option for your agency's social media strategy. The Google+ audience is signing on to the site in an effort to interact with friends and search for information. You might get their attention by reposting your blogs, offering links to your Web site, and posting Q and A's related to your industry.
A unique feature offered by Google+ is the ability to put your contacts into literal groups called Circles. You can target each Circle with a different message or status update. As an agency, you might consider grouping your contacts into current clients, potential clients, and commercial clients. If your agency serves certain niche markets, put your contacts into Circles based on these markets and hit each group with content that's relevant to their interests.
Creating social media profiles just to let them sit and collect dust is a direct shot in the foot for your agency. To gain exposure and build your brand, you have to start conversations on these sites and post relevant, consistent, and authentic content.
Before choosing what sites to include in your strategy, find out if your target audience is currently using the site. If not, don't waste your time. Not every niche is big on Twitter, for instance, so keep an eye on how each channel is contributing to your lead generation.
You can't expect to jump into every social media site and instantly create thousands of fans. Building a solid following takes time, patience, creative ideas, and trial and error. If you're posting automated and unrelated content to every site, you're much less likely to see a long-term growth curve of increased following, a growing brand, or lead conversion. It's easy to attain a swift start-up growth in metrics like Followers and Friends, but consistent and lasting interaction, influence, and sharing of content takes just as much work as any real-life relationship. No one is interested in canned content that's irrelevant and dull.
The power and profitability of social media is most evident if you first develop a solid strategy to target your market. Know your audience, learn what they want and how they want it, and deliver to get results.
Adam DeGraide is a veteran Internet marketer, sales guru, entrepreneur, record producer, and motivational speaker. In 2006, he founded Astonish Results, a digital marketing and training organization serving insurance agencies and brokerages. Since then he has been encouraging agents and brokers across the country to "Join the Internet marketing revolution, or get left behind!"