Financial services social media marketing inspiration

Debra Jasper
Debra Jasper // September 9, 2014

A little inspiration from the 2014 Social Media for Financial Services conference.

There is clearly a gap between how people view insurance companies and how insurance companies want to be viewed.

This year’s 2014 Social Media Conference for Financial Services offered a lot of ideas for how financial services firms are using social media to bridge that gap.

The annual event, put on by research firm LIMRA, draws the industry’s biggest brands (think Mass Mutual, Guardian, Prudential), the major social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and some dynamic speakers like Zuckerberg Media founder Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg) (Yes, she’s Mark’s sister – a funny, down-to-earth and insightful speaker).

This year’s event provided a lot of insights for marketers—and not just insurance marketers—but those from any traditional, regulated industry (including banking and healthcare).

So here are seven big themes from the 2014 LIMRA Social Media Conference:

#1: Get a lot more personable (and targeted) in social

We spend a lot of time helping our clients understand that personable is the new expectation (people just don’t tune into jargon-y, news release-y messages). You could find this theme throughout this year’s conference.

I’d say speaker Maria Ferrante-Schepis (@MaddockDouglas) put it best: “Insurance payouts are not money from the sky.”  They don’t come from big insurance companies, they come from other people. She argued that an insurance product is as personal it gets. Yet companies too often forget that. The key for marketers is to find and remember the personal in products. Her final call: It’s time to “reimagine” the insurance business.

More than ever, social media allows you to be more personable and hyper targeted with your customer and prospect outreach. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all offer various degrees of targeting to ensure you’re reaching the right people at the right time. Facebook goes a step further, as Facebook’s Brad Auerbach (@bradleyauerbach) described during his session.  Custom Audiences, launched earlier this year, allows advertisers to target their existing audiences where they are on Facebook.

#2: Innovate or Die

Of course, this is a theme you find in just about every industry conference these days. Because without it none of us can keep up with our customers OR our nimble competition. So why is it so difficult in the world of insurance?

Speaker Maria Ferrante-Ferris put it pretty simply. “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar.”  The “Innovators Dilemmaby Clayton Christensen (@claychristensen) has become a classic example of this well-documented phenomenon.

To find the best innovations and ideas, Zuckerberg suggested you look no further than your own customers. She talked up the benefits of hackathons and thinkathons, saying that during her early days working with her brother at Facebook, customer input fueled the majority of their test-and-grow iterations.

How to get started? Dedicate a percentage of your time each week to innovation. Google made this famous with their “20% time”, which was the genesis of Gmail and other popular products.  (I know, finding 20 percent of our time to do anything more than we’re doing now is a challenge. I’m awfully happy if I get to 10 percent).

Without innovation? You’ll face a “Napster moment”: when someone who has no business being in your business reinvents your business (and puts you out of business).

 #3: Don’t get so focused on new business you overlook the business you already have

This seems, well, obvious. We focus on our customers. They’re why we’re in business, right? But they’re often overlooked in an effort to find and close new business. According to Salesforce’s Jeffrey Rohrs (@jkrohrs), developing your existing customer and prospect list is critical to your social media and content marketing efforts. Without this list, he argued, it’s tough to effectively target your content marketing. He even provided a handy acronym as a reminder (with a fun, throwback twist): ABBA – Always Be Building Audiences.

Here are a few of his best tips for building, growing and engaging your audience:

  • “Audience development is marriage not dating”—so treat it like that. Don’t provide more or less than your audiences needs at the time they need it.
  • “Understand the lifetime value of your customers (LVS)”. This will help you best determine where to put your money and resources. If you can’t get to LVC, look at the CIV: comparative incentive value— at what your competitors are doing to acquire a customer you want.
  • “Your customers are a renewable asset.” If you make them unhappy, it’s not great. But it’s not over either. You can work hard to get them back. Netflix’s 2011 pricing snafu (which caused them to lose a huge number of their customers) is a great example of how making things right can turn a bad situation to good.

For more insights from Jeffrey Rohrs on this topic, see his interview “What Makes Your Audience Tick?”

#4: Use social media to fuel your referral fire (and your ROI)

Social media ROI still continues to be another hot conference topic, with many major brands showing they’ve moved beyond the “why” and deeply into the “how” of social media adoption across their agent bases. Guardian, for example, detailed the results of their pilot of LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which they said netted them:

  • 56 percent growth in connections
  • 89,000 searches performed by 250 pilot participants
  • $21M+ total face value in life insurance sold

At Mindset Digital, we really tuned into these numbers because we work with companies like Guardian every day, helping train financial advisors, agents and relationship managers in the latest approaches for selling in social world.  (You can bet I’ll be testing out Sales Navigator next).

Beyond the talk about how products like Sales Navigator can fuel the referral fire I heard a lot of discussion about how social media truly fuels an existing consumer process. It doesn’t change it, but makes it better. As LinkedIn’s Dan Swift (@danjswift) said, consumers follow a tried and true approach that doesn’t change just because they are considering a financial product.

They do what we all do. They ask their friends. And they get referrals. A recent Gallup report shows that 29 percent of people get financial advice from their friends. But now they do it online. So it’s critical to be where they are – interacting with them in social platforms.

#5: Hire more journalists (you’re now a media company, whether you like it or not)

As a former long-time journalist, I love this theme. Journalists understand how to create content that people want. As Zuckerberg pointed out: “All brands are media companies.” People look to marketers to consistently create content online that they want to tune into and share. And they expect this cool, compelling (versus canned) content to be delivered via social, in videos, and through apps like SnapChat and Vine. We all know this. It’s just tough to wrap our minds around just how much time, energy and people it takes to make compelling content actually happen (The good news: Newsrooms are letting go a lot of top talent who know how to tell great stories—on deadline. A lot of folks on the Mindset Digital team once worked in a newsroom).

We’ve already seen many of the largest brands hiring “content journalists.” Oreo’s Superbowl tweet is a now-famous example of how staffing for new mediums is crucial. The tweet was crafted, approved and tweeted in five minutes (compliance people, take note).

#6: Mobile is not a trend. It’s the new norm.

We’re hearing this more and more, for good reason. Think about the mobile experience as the primary experience. According to Hearsay CEO Michael Lock (@michaelhlock), three times as many phones were sold as desktops last year. And 70 percent of Americans now have a smartphone. By the end of 2015, 90 percent will.

Talk about a game changer. Facebook’s Brad Auerbach echoed this, saying they have adopted a“mobile first” attitude for all of their product designs. He said mobile is now the lense through which you should view every customer interaction.

#7: Your employees are a valuable, but often untapped resource

Your employees are your greatest asset. They’re the most trusted resource for information about your company. They can either amplify your brand, or be a dangerous distraction. And as Guardian showed, they can use social media to help you sell more—a lot more. So it’s time to embrace them and their ability to help you stand out from the competition.

According to IBM’s Kathy Hutson (@ktwiter99), 92 percent of their 450,000 employees are on LinkedIn. Ninety-two percent. The majority of your employees are likely there, too. So it’s time to make sure they have the tools and training they need to fully leverage social media and become savvy brand ambassadors.

One thing is certain. Whether you work for a financial services firm – or in another regulated industry – all of us are grappling with trying to reach a hyper distracted audience. It’s going to take all of our employees, and a lot of new ideas, creative content and platforms, to get our customers to keep tuning in to what we have to say.