We cannot ignore that our customers, prospects, business partners, employees — well, pretty much everyone — are now using social media to some degree. However, creating a simple catchall term, i.e. “social media,” might be deceiving.

The general goal for businesses embracing social media is to be part of the new sharing culture where information is passed from person to person with an implicit blessing and a “hey, look at this” command.

But people rarely share information that is dull or attempts to sell, say, the product brochures that insurers have used to communicate with prospects for many years. Therefore, insurers need to rethink their approach, as the key challenge is now to be interesting. That’s what gets shared. But this is a huge can of worms; what a 21-year-old finds interesting will be totally different from what a 54-year-old finds interesting, and that can be further splintered by geography, common bonds, employment, family dynamics, etc. Needless to say, being interesting is really hard, and not something that insurers have had to do in the past. The message has always been simple: You need insurance, visit our agent and buy what he or she tells you to.

Look at a few Facebook examples of how insurers are coping. Acuity Insurance has a page dedicated to long-distance truckers, Allstate has a page just for bikers, State Farm has one for people looking to work there and GEICO has pages for each of its marketing mascots. These are just four of the hundreds, if not thousands, of examples we could choose. No question these pages can be effective — relevance is a key part of being interesting — but just how many online presences and personas can an insurer manage?

The splintering expands even more because not every trucker or biker wants to consume information in the same way; we must take into account the type of content. American Family is running a promotion on the very graphics-oriented and female-centric Pinterest platform. Hiscox insurance, American Collectors and Prudential all have embarked on ambitious branded entertainment video series. Swiss Re provides instant news on natural disasters in bullet form through a Twitter feed. Again, this content will get shared because it meets the criteria of interesting. But do we need to provide content to each microsegment of our market through every channel such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Tumblr, not to mention LinkedIn and blogs?

The days of social media strategy meaning you open a Facebook page and staff it with someone young and bright are over. Social media is now a combination of highly complex micromarketing, multiplatform objectives. We now need to step back from social media, to think about it strategically and to think about how many micromarkets you want and can handle. As I said before, being interesting is really hard.

It is easy to see social media getting totally out of control with hundreds, possibly thousands, of brand outlets communicating without a consistent voice or brand message. By default, each outlet invites a dialogue, thereby gathering huge quantities of unconsolidated information and possibly creating a wave of future customer frustration. This is why social media is too simple a term — we are embarking on a phase of communication with the world at a pace and with a volume and breadth that we have never experienced before, and most insurers are simply not prepared.

This column originally appeared at Insurance Networking News.

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