Wait, didn’t we talk about blogging in this issue’s article “Web Design Best Practices”? Yes, but that doesn’t disqualify your blog as a form of social media. Your blog can serve as the heart and soul of your social media campaign with the correct strategy. But to cover the basics, let’s discuss the reasons your agency should absolutely be blogging.
Agencies establish and build relationships on trust. Clients feel the need to trust that their agency is doing all they can, to protect them or their business. Blogging is a great solution for this. It helps build faith in the brand and image of the agency or brokerage. And more importantly, blogging accomplishes the following:
- Brings the website to life – Most websites are like digital brochures. A blog brings life to the agency website with a dynamic appearance. Moreover, regular blog posts give customers and readers a reason to visit the site again. Agencies and wholesale brokers should also share blog content on social media sites and drive the traffic to the website.
- More and more pages to grab attention – Each and every blog is another chance to grab the attention of a reader. Optimizing for search engines increases the likelihood your posts will appear in search results and drive new traffic to the website. Using targeted keywords and phrases improves search rankings.
- Leader in the industry – By blogging, agencies can position themselves as a leader in the industry. A blog puts proficiency and expertise on display. Prospects and clients will instantly start building trust when they see value.
And if those aren’t reasons enough consider these facts according to Hubspot:
- Businesses that blog receive 55% more traffic.
- Businesses that blog receive 70% more leads.
- More than 30% of insurance agencies who practice blogging have acquired customers through their blogs.
And, as mentioned above, a robust blog strategy can become the cornerstone of your entire social media marketing strategy. Think about it:
- Your blog lives on your website.
- You create unique content on your blog.
- You use that content on your other social media platforms.
- Which links back to your website.
- Which in turn, improves your web traffic and positive interaction with your best prospects.
Important Note: Do NOT copy and paste! Search engine analytics discount non-original content. Take the time to rewrite your relevant blog content, editing it to appeal to the user-base of the specific social media platform followers that you’re hoping to attract. You can add a link to the original post, but make it original content for each social media platform that you use. Some of your blogs may not be appropriate for all of your social media outlets, and some social media outlets will be more effective if you create special content based on that site’s best practices. But the blog is a very important and effective first step to your content creation planning.
“What on earth would I write about”? You’re thinking, “Insurance is pretty darn boring if you’re not in the industry. What on earth would make what I write interesting to anyone but me!?”
Industry Expert Use your blog to show people that you're keeping up with the industry, that you're the expert when it comes to insurance matters, and that they can count on you to be a source of important insurance-related news. But it’s important to follow one simple rule: write about them.
New State Bill Might Give You Cash Back this April
Do You Employ Fewer than 50 People? Then This Reporting Requirement Will Impact You.
Changes at (your community’s school district) Means That 450 Children Will Lose Vision Coverage.
Answer Common Insurance Questions Think about the question that people seem to ask over and over lately. Is it ACA? Personal injury liability? Flood Insurance? Whatever comes up most with your particular agency is a ready-made blog post idea.
Five Ways to Reduce Your Homeowner’s Insurance Premium
Do Teen Boys Really Pay More for Auto Insurance?
What You Need To Know About Supplemental Medical Insurance.
Congratulations You need client permission of course, but most people, especially business clients, are fine with praise.
Local Company Pay4Checks Wins National Award
Bill Bloomsdale Recognized as Volunteer of the Year
Fifth National Trust Bank Offers Free Seminar on Understanding Your Credit Score
Five Idea Starters Here’s five more to help ignite the blogger in you:
- Why I love being an insurance agent – Write a blog about why you decided to become an agent and what are the best parts about what you do.
- My agency’s values – Your clients want to know about your agency’s values and see that you stand by them. If you don’t have a values statement, this is your opportunity to create one.
- What I am doing to make a difference in my community? – Create a blog about the steps you are taking to get involved in local charities or organizations to make a difference in your community.
- I am motivated by… – Write a blog that describes how you motivate yourself to create new business and keep your existing clients happy.
- The importance of self-storage renter’s insurance – Some of your clients may rent storage units that you don’t know about. This is a great opportunity to let them know the importance of purchasing coverage to insure their stored items.
Still stumped? Here’s a couple of links to great independent insurance agency specific articles on ideas for blog content:
Our Favorite Insurance Agent Marketing and Sales Blogs
50 Insurance Agency Blog Ideas
Embrace Third-Party Content Don’t be afraid to look to outside sources for help. Consider sharing relevant news articles and graphics from national publications and local outlets. But be sure to do it properly so that you minimize risk of any legal liability, improve your own content and promote the content of others. This post from BlueZenith offers several helpful tips.
Steps for Blogging Success
Your blog is your first step to creating your social media marketing campaign. Here’s a breakdown of the steps required to create your successful campaign:
- design blog
- do keyword research
- create content consistently
- create calls-to-actions
- create top of the funnel offers
- set up a system to deliver offers and get them delivered
- optimize for social media
- measure traffic
- measure conversions
You can certainly consider hiring an expert to work with you on your blog, and entire social media strategy, but your direct input will be required. An outsider simply doesn’t and can’t know enough about your unique business to create content that accurately reflects your personality and values.
You need to have a content calendar in place, with specific times set aside to devote to this important aspect or your business. If you get inspired and want to write several posts all at a sitting, that’s great. Content can be generated as far ahead of time as you’d like, and then scheduled to post according to your calendar.
Facebook is where people are. There are more people there than any other social network, and they’re active there. Facebook is pretty much a “can’t not use” for any industry. Don’t believe the articles where they report that this generation or that is cycling out. Everybody is there. Everybody is using it in different ways.
A lot of work has gone into their business pages and presence, largely viewing Google as competition. People can now better search for, like, follow, and / or favorite your business, leave reviews, ask questions, interact, and have conversations with you in public or private messages, and recommend your business to friends. Facebook also provides some impressive—albeit somewhat advanced—analytics that give you a lot of insight into your targeted customers.
You need to have a structured image, meaning you create the same image on Facebook that you want to convey in person. Meaning you need to have a Facebook page and not a classic user profile, so you can create the aesthetic and the name to capture the internal organic traffic. Here’s an example: “David Red – insurance agent Dallas – specializes in home insurance”.
Page, not Profile
Many people use the personal profile and not a business page just because it’s easier. However there are two key features that a personal profile doesn’t allow: social advertising (more below) and insights to your followers and the people that interact with your posts, letting you better know your audience. As an insurance agency, it might be sufficient to create a page for your agency – without the need to create a single page for each individual agent. This way you can also share the page administration among all the agents in order to allow everyone to post something and to have advanced statistics about who begins to follow the page and to interact with the posts.
Picture and/or Video Posts
As we’ve shared, visual content greatly enhances your social media presence. Post a visual at least once a week. Selfies are OK.
Think of Yourself
Yes, your agency needs to have a page, not a profile, but don’t forget your personal profile. This gives you access to important information and events, so you can remember customer’s birthdays and special events. It’s also an additional avenue to start a conversation with a client or prospect.
Pay for It
If you’re going to use Facebook and be successful there and reach a broader audience and, more importantly, reach the right audience with the right message, using Facebook advertising is an absolute must. You can really dial in with your amount of spend and your messaging and your imagery and whether you link out whether you’re just building brand value or whether you’re looking for engagement.
There are all kinds of things you can do with Facebook advertising and spend peanuts – $5, $10, $50 – and really find out what message resonates and what doesn’t with your content and target very specific people on a local level by job title, by income, by purchase history, by purchase intent.
Facebook is unique in that it does not target users based on relevant website content or keywords, but on user-generated profile information and “likes.” Facebook knows a user's location, marital status, education, birth date and demographic details. You can use all this information to target your message (ads) to a specific target audience, particularly for personal lines and small commercial marketing. Chances are you know the profile of your best customer.
The PropertyCasualty360.com article, “How to Create a Killer Facebook Ad Campaign For Your Insurance Agency”, by Jeremiah Desmarais can help you take the right steps.
LinkedIn is another almost must-use for independent insurance agencies, especially if you’re B2B. But it also has great value for B2C because again everyone has a job, everyone is using it for different reasons.
With LinkedIn you can connect and network with business professionals, whether as B2B or B2C prospects as your target markets. For business prospecting you can better determine the decision makers for these companies. LinkedIn differs from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, because it’s a business centric social media platform requiring a different approach to be successful.
LinkedIn is where many people go. LinkedIn seems to really have looked at what Google+ was doing from a newsfeed standpoint and taken a page out of their book. A lot of the features that made Google+ so much fun and such a great place to connect, even though it was only for a short period of time, LinkedIn has started to implement that in their own platform.
On LinkedIn you need a professional picture for your profile. Smile and be friendly, but don’t use a selfie, low resolution or overly casual photo. Take the time to completely fill out the “Summary” and “Experience” sections to show what you can do for your customers and prospects, don’t just copy and paste your resume. Make sure you’re easy to communicate with, and include your complete contact information in your profile as well.
Include all relevant skills in your profile, and ask current customers to endorse you (or better yet, actually take the time to write a recommendation) so connections will see that you’re a trusted expert. Be sure to return the favor, and endorse (or recommend) connections who you can personally vouch for.
Groups are great. You want to network with other agents, brokers and wholesalers, but it’s a great way to communicate with prospects. Find groups which are applicable to your target markets, and participate.
Don’t post sales messages. Many groups forbid it, and group members will ignore you if they believe you’re only there to get them as a customer. Post helpful content, provide free white papers and links to articles that you think will interest the members.
Posting articles, which is called long form publishing, is a great way to share your knowledge and reach out to potential prospects. Remember, you can easily repurpose your blog posts, and include a link to the original post on your website. Post other people’s articles (with permission) to your blog site as well, and share the link via LinkedIn. Yet another way to build traffic and relationships.
Consider an Investment
On LinkedIn, hungry producers might consider opting for the premium features, that allow you to gain introductions to new people and get in contact with companies that you might not already have a connection to.
LinkedIn also offers paid advertising. It’s more expensive than Facebook, but when looking at the price of online ads (or any advertising for that matter) the overall return on investment is more important than the cost of the ad. If you can gain a new commercial account that generates $5,000 in commission, are you willing to spend $100 on an ad campaign?
Video gets you seen. It’s a social network and a great place to share video. The videos are searchable, and can be found on both Youtube and Google searches. It’s by far the most used video platform, so the only one an insurance agent really need to consider.
We’ve already admitted that people aren’t always interested in learning about insurance, so Youtube offers a fun way to educate them. Video creates a stronger bond than words alone, so it’s worth putting some thought into how you might incorporate Youtube into your social media marketing.
Watch and Learn
Creating a Youtube channel is easy. Figuring out what to post is hard. The best way to become an expert is to watch a lot of videos on Youtube, and get a sense of what’s successful and what’s not.
Appearing natural and unscripted takes practice. Before you post anything you may want to do several trial runs, until you feel like you’ve mastered the material. Pretend someone just asked you a question and you’re responding rather than trying to memorize a script. Better yet HAVE someone ask you the question and then record your answer. Keep videos short and simple; under 5 minutes is best. If you’re using a smart phone make sure it’s being held horizontally for the best picture. Dress the part, smile and have fun.
OPV (Other People’s Videos)
Again, think about your carriers, and their potential video libraries. Also there are existing Youtube channels that agents can curate from, listed here in InvestmentPal’s post “Insurance Youtube video marketing – 15 channels to curate from”.
Share your video everywhere. Your website, your other social networks, your employees’ social networks and anywhere else you can think of. Write a brief blog post and embed the video into your post and share with clients and prospects.
Consider purchasing ads on Youtube. It tends to be less expensive than Facebook or LinkedIn and could potentially boost the views considerably.
If you have the time and energy to extend your reach to other social media sites, then what about Twitter? Twitter is a succinct text-based medium. One advantage of Twitter over Facebook is the fact that Twitter is a constant stream of information that's relatively unedited. While Facebook prioritizes what users see, Twitter does not. This allows newer and smaller businesses to pop up in a user's feed just as easily as large, established businesses. If you love to share content and interact with others and you have a niche that people will seek out, Twitter is an excellent way for your agency to establish itself. For instance, if you'd like to spend a day promoting a series of information pieces focused on getting your home ready for the winter storm season, this could be overwhelming on Facebook but will fit right in on Twitter.
Twitter can also help drive attendees to webinars, improve website traffic, and extend branding for B2B oriented agencies.
Begin with the "advanced search" function, which allows agents to enter detailed information to help refine a search of recent tweets. Agents can enter specific keyword information, such as words, people, places or dates.
For example, your search might select tweets using the word insurance from users who live in Texas, who used the word “moved”, in the last 30 days. Once you have this list you can use it in many different ways to generate insurance leads. Once you have created an advanced search on Twitter, you can save the URL and return to it to view new tweets.
Social validation is an essential aspect of gaining new prospects. People want to know that other people have worked with your agency and you were able to help them. Local influencers with active twitter accounts can help you with social validation and extend your reach in the community.
The posts (or "tweets") are limited to 140 characters, but that can be used to your advantage: share a quick tip that might raise a question in peoples' minds—"Is your home ready for winter? Check out our blog post to find out"—so that they are aware of your business and your expertise, in case they do need to adjust their current insurance or address their lack of it. A lot of companies also use Twitter for quick, simple customer support.
Instagram can provide a visual home for savvy business people. If you think your target prospects might enjoy participating in creating and sharing videos, then it may be a good choice, and is probably the best picture-sharing site.
Show and Share
You’ll need to think in a visual medium to promote your agency here, and pictures of insurance certificates won’t cut it. Use Instagram to show employees getting awards, or to educate your customers and build a safer, healthier community. For example you might develop a “500 ways to bike to work safely” campaign and challenge your audience to add pictures of themselves on their bikes.
Pinterest is also image-based, but it sets a different tone. Pinterest is focused on curated image boards that focus on a specific theme. Its audience is a little older and skews more female than Instagram, which is most popular with men and women in their late teens to early thirties.
There to Stay
If you have an infographic of someone biking safely that you'd like to link to blog content, Pinterest is a great venue for this information. While Instagram is more focused on ephemeral images, you can place visual content on Pinterest and people will refer back to it again and again.
Snapchat is yet another image-based platform, but again with differences. You’ve got to see through your customer’s eyes. If you’re looking through the eyes of a Millennial you’re probably looking into the eyes of a mobile device staring at Snapchat.
Snapchat uses things called Geo filters that can be used at weddings and parties and special events to group, to signify, and to unify the pictures into a collective album. It’s somewhat similar to how hashtags work. If you’re a business, you can take advantage of filter feature. Let’s say you’re at a special event, or someone comes into your office, you can take a picture and use a customized filter that you’ve created that’s branded for your agency. This could be used in many ways to help advertise and create a cool branding image to use through snapchat for your agency.
Wait, There’s More!
Of course there’s more. We’ve all heard of many social platforms that we haven’t mentioned here. And there is no doubt, sooner rather than later, there will be new ones that are worth a look. But until you are doing a great job with one to four of the ones we’ve listed above there is probably no need to look further.
If you offer very specialized, niche lines then it’s possible that there are very segmented social media sites that would work to target your best prospects, and if that’s the case, I encourage you to seek them out. However, for the majority of agencies, the sites we’ve discussed allow for enough targeting for you to single out and communicate with the groups you have identified as your best “tribes” of prospects.
One of the many valuable aspects of social media marketing is that it’s measurable IF you take the time to do so. If you don’t incorporate a plan for measuring your success, then it’s probably a waste of your time to even embark on a social campaign. How would you ever know if your energies are being spent in the right place? Or your money in the case of paid advertising?
Determine your specific goals upfront, and have a consistent means of monitoring and adjusting. If for instance your goal is to write an additional 25% in commercial restaurant coverage, determine the average value of a commercial restaurant account, and calculate what that looks like in numbers of new clients. Then develop a strategy, and preferably, a budget for your campaign, based on how many “actions”, equaling posts, ads, etc. that you believe it should realistically take to reach the needed number of prospects, based on your average closing ratio.
Measure, adjust, repeat, succeed.