Travel insurers are slowly coming round to social media, but without an audience eager to interact with them, how and why should insurers be using such platforms to attract customers? Anthony Rawlins scrolls through the newsfeed looking for answersOnce the realm of the young and digitally literate, social media has in 2016 grown to become one of the most demographically diverse cultural phenomena. As you might expect, a massive 91 per cent of adults aged 16 to 24 are active daily on social media. But it might surprise you to know that this is also true for 23 per cent of those aged 65 and over, and 51 per cent of those aged 55 to 64. Indeed, with so many UK adults now active users of social media on a day-to-day basis, its impact on how businesses and individuals interact with one another cannot be overstated. Given these usage statistics, why aren’t more insurers – travel or otherwise – currently engaging with social media and making a concerted effort to interact with potential fans and customers? Without mentioning names, even the biggest global players in insurance post infrequently to Facebook pages plagued by poor customer ratings and even poorer customer service records.
The challenge for insurersCompelling usage statistics and engagement figures aside, there is one obstacle travel insurers, and the assistance industry more generally, will always come up against: perception. It’s fair to say that the insurance industry hasn’t always benefited from positive press and customer sentiment, and it’s difficult to imagine a consumer interacting with a travel insurer in the same way they do their favourite retailer or even the tour operator organising their travel. The holy grail of social media engagement, naturally, is the continuous positive engagement experienced by the very best consumer brands. Unfortunately, universal perception of insurers isn’t something that’s likely to change. Insurance isn’t glamorous and it isn’t a product with physical presence, so important in establishing value for customers. Even renewal contracts are a source of financial frustration rather than excitement, whether the customer is happy with their product or otherwise. The bottom line is that meaningful engagement on social media is very hard for insurance brands, however relevant the content.
there is one obstacle travel insurers … will always come up against: perceptionPerception, frustration and strict regulations mean that traditional engagement – likes, shares, comments and so on – is not a viable social media tactic for insurers, not even in niche sectors like travel insurance, and accepting that is the first step towards understanding what does and doesn't work for insurers on social media. But social media can definitely deliver returns for the insurance industry. So if engagement is off the table, what’s going to replace it?
Lead generation appsBeyond engagement, as described above, there is a different approach insurers can use to interact with potential customers and feed many of them directly into sales funnels. Lead generation is a tactic that has been used on social media to impressive effect across verticals, including insurance and financial services. This approach works by reaching an audience through targeted social media advertising, and immersing them in your brand story via an application installed on your Facebook page. Made effective through incentivisation – prize draws, for example – an application could be anything from a simple and brand-educational quiz, to more complicated games and interactive approaches. Whatever the app’s design, the end-point is new customers opting to enter their contact details and personal preferences in return for competition entries. This data can then be used to nurture leads and convert them into paying customers. There are two very clear tactics that can be employed to achieve such an outcome: email and advertising.
traditional engagement – likes, shares, comments and so on – is not a viable social media tactic for insurersThe first of those is fairly self-explanatory. It’s likely you already engage in a conversation with your customers – paying or lapsed – via email, probably in the form of a monthly newsletter or similar. If that’s the case, simply feed the collected data into your email marketing software, using addition preference information to create segments featuring tailored offers or content.
Targeted advertisingBringing things back to social media, platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer some of the most sophisticated advertising options anywhere, digital or otherwise. Facebook, the clear industry leader, lets brands easily target any audience with key messaging. You can very quickly create a ‘custom audience’ using the Facebook advertising platform to target individuals based on age, gender and any number of interests and preferences.
data can ... be used to nurture leads and convert them into paying customersBut what’s perhaps more interesting is what you can achieve with existing data you may have, and the new data you’ve recently captured. This information can be fed back into Facebook – safely, as it is secured before use – to create a ‘lookalike audience’. This audience matches data with its associated profiles and creates an expanded audience based on that information. This data can then be used to deliver key messages to targeted audiences, generating brand awareness and web visits. Taking advertising sophistication one step further, Facebook now allows you to track website visits and activity via a tracking pixel (installed on your website). With this information, you can further target users based on the content they’re interested in and where they are in the buying cycle, and this level of targeting means that your audiences can very directly be nurtured into paying customers, providing your messaging is right.
Strategic importanceNaturally, any tactic employed on social media will always perform better in the context of a clearly thought out and defined social media strategy, implemented company-wide. Ideally, tactics will be implemented in combination with one another to amplify their impact, and a properly researched strategy is vital in effectively bringing each activity together. Fundamentally, any social media strategy for the insurance industry – travel insurers in particular – will be based on a firm understanding of yearly booking patterns. As mentioned above, engagement with insurance customers will be difficult at the best of times, so you’ll need to frame your strategy in the context of an understanding of booking peaks.
any social media strategy for the insurance industry … will be based on a firm understanding of yearly booking patternsIt’s likely, as an insurer, you’ll already have booking data to hand. The next step is to use this information to develop and flesh out a social media content calendar. Focused around the months immediately before and after your sales peak, your content – supported by advertising and retargeting – should be designed to feed interest and send your peak higher. This content calendar should account for any offers available before and after your sales peak, promoting them to new customers collected via social media. Finally – and this is an area many fall down in – your strategy should take into account performance of advertising and leave room for optimisation during a campaign and ahead of the next. Learning constitutes an incredibly important part of any social media strategy, and ignoring the successes and shortfalls of activity will result in the same costly mistakes being made time and again.
A note on customer serviceAbove, it was noted that meaningful engagement was unlikely to happen for insurers on social media. But just because it’s not viable as a business tactic doesn’t mean that your strategy shouldn’t make provision for handling customer service requests and enquiries. Social media, after all, is becoming the primary channel for customer support. For that reason, any good social media strategy will include an engagement framework defining how customer service requests are handled and escalated through your company. Perhaps only a handful of customers will engage with you directly on social media, but any complaints have to be handled properly, professionally and quickly. Doing so will stymie brand damage and keep a handle on your reputation, such an important factor for the insurance industry.
How should insurers measure ROI in social media?Naturally, social media – like every other marketing channel – has to drive a business benefit. Value absolutely has to be shown. Happily for insurers, it’s relatively easy to track traditional metrics on social media. Utilising the functionality of platforms like Facebook in conjunction with analytics platforms like Google Analytics, you can track and assign value to conversions, and even track progress to conversion through your website.
testing is now being done on social media attribution frameworks that will soon be able to better track true ROI from social mediaWhat’s a little more difficult, however, is assigning value to the awareness generated on social media. For instance, how do you track customer decision making if they choose not to take an action on your Facebook page, but are reminded of your business further down the line? Unfortunately, there’s no immediate answer to this, but technologies are currently advancing apace and testing is now being done on social media attribution frameworks that will soon be able to better track true ROI from social media.