As Grandpa O’Brien loved to say, “Strange things are happening.” Leaving questions about what’s going on in all those groups aside, one really does have to wonder: If so few folks are using Facebook to engage with household-name consumer brands, what has so many people trying so hard to find so many crannies for social media in insurance? I smell a rat.
Eek! A Mouse!
According to research conducted by The Front Line Center for Textbook Cases, this is a textbook case of BMS: better mousetrap syndrome. In fact, social media constitutes BMS on steroids because it’s free. We’re going to reach more people, more quickly, all of whom are going to fall in love with us. Our phones are going to be ringing off the hooks. Our marketing people are going to be hailed as geniuses. Our salespeople are going to be transformed into feverishly overworked order-takers, their frantically flying fingers worn to nubs on keyboards smoking from the fervor. And the medium through which we’re going to accomplish all this is free – FREE, I TELL YOU! IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!
If just one percent of Facebook users are engaging with Coca-Cola, it ain’t gonna happen here folks. Sorry. Numbers do lie.
The Facebook pages for GEICO and Progressive have 209,555 and 1,766 likes respectively. But those likers aren’t there to engage with the brand, to provide the sacred content. They’re there because they’re fans of geckos, cavemen, and Flo. Those aren’t brands, they’re personae. Aflac’s Facebook page has 15,459 likes. But those likers aren’t there because they’re buying supplemental insurance. They’re there because the duck is cool and Gilbert Gottfried wasn’t.
Beyond that, customers of companies like GEICO and Progressive are shopping on price. That’s why GEICO and Progressive advertise their pricing. And beyond relatively commoditized products like personal auto (“Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance”), buying insurance requires big decisions. Buying commercial insurance requires bigger decisions. And buying insurance systems and software requires even bigger decisions and bigger budgets. The guy who woke up this morning, slapped his head, and said, “Dang! I gotta go online and buy car insurance today” is not going to wake up tomorrow morning and say, “Dang! I gotta go online and buy insurance for my national fleet of trucks today,” or “Dang! I gotta go online and buy a policy administration system today.” People who need to buy the latter two will be engaging with agents, brokers, consultants, and/or lawyers long before they’ll be engaging with any brand. If they don’t, they’ll likely be engaging with the unemployment line.
Watch Your Fingers
Yes. There will be opportunities for small insurance companies and agents with local and regional practices to use social media to cost-effectively engage folks. If the relationships they build are personal enough (this is, after all social media we’re talking about), if their reputations are sound enough to elicit customer references, and if their intent to treat their customer bases as affinity groups — rather than as fish in barrels — is genuine enough, they may succeed in building social media communities. Within those communities they will be able to converse about products, services, and programs. But social media will not be effective if the personal relationships and customer references don’t come first. Products, services, and programs do not a community make.
The World Wide Web’s manifestation of BMS wore out its welcome so effectively it precipitated the evolution of banner blindness. If you don’t think social media has the same potential to push saturation and overload to dismissiveness, just watch.
Folks don’t fancy Internet spam nearly as much as they do the canned variety. And the purpose of the better mousetrap isn’t to trap the trapper. Caveat emptor.