Monday, February 9, 2009

Using Twitter for Your Insurance Agency

Social Media seems to be the hot, new catch phrase for 2009. But what does it mean to you?

Can your insurance agency use Social Media to provide better service, get new customers, make more money?

I believe strongly the answer is yes and here are some very specific suggestions on how you can do this – starting with Twitter.

Twitter is a new way to communicate with your customers and anyone else who may decide to “follow” you. Twitter uses text messaging technology to interact with folks either online or on their cell phones. Don’t worry about the cost of receiving text – each user controls how they receive messages so they control any cost they might have. It does not have to cost anything.

After almost two years on Twitter I have decided the best use for a business is to distribute useful information to customers. I think this information falls into two categories…

1 – Answers to customer questions or problems.

2 – General information related to your business knowledge or your community.

To get some idea of how other insurance people are currently using Twitter you can sign up for Twitter and then go to my http://twitter.com/ACORD_Forms account and start following me.

Look through the list of people I am following. I have tried to find as many folks in the insurance industry as I can to follow. Start following some of them yourself by clicking on the “Follow” button next to their name. As you watch their posts over a few weeks you will get a good idea of how they are using Twitter. Some effectively, some not.

Customer Service

The first use I suggest is posting answers to customer questions or problems. My thinking is this gives you a pro-active way to answer questions other customers may have but they just have not called you about yet.

Remember, each post you make on Twitter is seen by all the people following you. Never name the customer with the problem.

Because Twitter posts are short – 140 characters – you will often find you need more room for your information. I suggest you set up a blog – I use Blogger - it is free. Then when you need more space, describe the problem in your Twitter post and include a link to a blog posting which goes into more detail.

Links in Twitter fall within the 140 character limit so there are several URL shorteners available – again for free. I use http://idek.net/ . I like their tracking features. I can see how many times the link was clicked on and how many times someone else re-posted the link.

General Relationship Building

My second recommended use of Twitter is to provide general information of interest to your customers. You are an insurance expert so naturally this is an area you can talk about. However, don’t limit yourself to insurance topics. For instance, if most of your customers are from the same area, passing on information about local events, or even recommendations about where you had a great lunch is very useful.

A word of caution - once you begin using Twitter, blogs and other social media you need to make it someone’s job to monitor it regularly throughout the day, everyday.

I personally suggest this person be you until you are familiar enough with the ways you want the system used. Then you can turn it over to others in your business. In fact, then I suggest you have each of them get their own Twitter account just like they each have their own telephone extension and email account. After all – it is really just another way to talk to and communicate with your customers.

Proper Etiquette

Never name the customer with the problem.

Don’t carpet bomb. This is what I call it when a Twitter user posts more than 2 posts at the same time. Each time you post it pushes other posts off the screen. Carpet bombing is seen as you screaming so the other voices can not be heard. Very rude. People will stop following in a hurry if you do this.

Retweet post from others that are interesting. Remember, everyone follows a unique group of people so they do not see all the same posts you see. By retweeting you are passing on good information and the folks you retweet really like the attention. (To retweet you just copy and paste the tweet from a post and lead it with RT @)

Being Social

People have always been social. Your lunch clubs, church groups, school parent associations, kids sports teams are all ways we make and keep social contacts. Twitter and other social media are simply new and very useful tools which allow us to do more of what we as human beings do naturally anyway.

You can also follow me personally at http://twitter.com/williduke .

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was very helpful, thank you for posting! I am a Summer Intern at an insurance agency and now am definitely considering making a twitter for the company.

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