The financial world, blogosphere and just about everywhere else has been waiting with bated breath over the last several days with the news that Facebook would be doing an IPO. The deal finally went down yesterday, to the tune of $5 billion, opening the door to more speculation as to whether we might be on the cusp of a new tech IPO boom.
Whether or not the offering will usher in a new dot.com era, however, is a moot point. The real interest in Facebook's success lies in an issue that's dear to the heart of insurance: understanding young customers.
Nothing illustrates more clearly the power of Millennials than the Mark Zuckerberg story. Many news accounts of the Facebook IPO start with the awed comment: "What started in a Harvard dorm room eight years ago is on its way to being the biggest tech IPO ever."
Granted, Zuckerberg is not your average 20-something--he's a multilingual computer programming prodigy who as a kid created video games instead of playing them and was known for quoting from the Iliad at college. But he's also a true product of his generation, weaned on technology and the collaborative, team-focused methodology of the modern education system.
Zuckerberg's true genius lies not in his technical or business skills, but his ability to tap into the basic human need to connect. And although he invented neither the need nor the Internet, Zuckerberg (and others, some might argue) was savvy enough to build a platform around networking and developing personal relationships--something any good insurance salesperson understands.
An interesting study came out from Bazaarvoice this week looking at Millennials and branding. The upshot was that although they still respond to branding when making a purchase, Millennials are more likely to rely on their peers' opinions in the form of user-generated content (UGC). More than half (51 percent) of the survey respondents said they trust UGC more than information on a company website (16 percent) or news articles (14 percent) when researching a brand, product or service.
When shopping for financial services products such as insurance and credit cards, 29 percent of Millennials say they won't complete the purchase without first consulting user-generated content.
Millennials are also three times as likely to turn to social media for opinions on products, not just from their personal connections, but from experts and people with common interest.
For businesses, the message is clear: put customer opinions front and center and take action on suggestions for improvements (a great consumer example of this is how Domino's pizza changed its products based on negative customer feedback, turning the rebrand into a marketing coup).
I don't know about you, but I'm a big user of UGC on platforms like Yelp, and these survey results sound like some pretty smart thinking to me. It simply reinforces what insurance agents have known all along: business is driven by relationships and word of mouth. The advent of social media hasn't changed this, simply made it easier to forge the relationships and access the information.
It's estimated that by 2017, Millennials will have more spending power than any other generation. Visionaries like Zuckerberg have helped make it easier to tap into these buyers, but it's up to us to be as social, transparent and engaging as they need us to be.