One of my favorite TV shows is AMC's MadMen, that paeon to the advertising industry of the early 1960s,when (mostly) men smoked and drank and came up with concepts tobrand businesses and sell products. Last season, several episodesrevolved around Sterling Cooper's launch of atelevision department. At first, they're not sure what to dowith it. The department head is overworked, underpaid anddisrespected. When he can't keep up the pace, agency brass triesto fob off script reviews to the curvaceous officemanager. And top dog Don Draper sometimes has a tough sellpersuading clients of the importance of adding television totheir media mix. Sterling Cooper even makes a point of hiringa couple of young guys to keep up with the new cool medium.

|

This sounds familiar, if you replace "television department"with "social media."

|

Throw away everything you know about customer outreach, timemanagement and building a brand. Over the past year, social media(SM) has changed the landscape of all these areas ofproperty-casualty insurance agency operation, from how you manageyour employees to staying in touch with your customers.

|

And the dust hasn't settled yet. Even the experts areunsure about how social media will shake out in the business world.One thing is certain, however: Ignoring it is not an option.

|

That much was evident at the first Aartrijk BrandCamp, held this week at the snazzy Hotel Sax in downtownChicago. The day-and-a-half meeting, attended by a cross-section ofagents, carriers and media types, is the premier event hosted byinsurance branding guru Peter van Aartrijk (who I knew long beforehis guru days). Speakers and subjects ranged from the macro view(Brad Keown of Facebook) to the practical (Marcia Hansen ofAllstate), and everything in between.

|

Some of the findings were startling.

  • 29% of consumer consumption is digital, and that number isgrowing
  • Facebook has 90 million U.S. users, and plenty of yourcustomers are there
  • When it comes to sheer number of users, "Social media is thenew porn," according to Daniel Honigman, digital communicatio9nssupervisor at Weber Shandwick
  • 91% of B-to-B decisionmakers participate in social media, 69%for business purposes
  • 70 million retiring baby boomers around the globe are beingreplaced with only 15 million Gen Xers, with 55 millionGen Yers waiting in the wings, according to Deloitte.

This adds up to nothing less than a quantum shift in how we dobusiness. Statistically, the future face of business will beincreasingly female, Hispanic, and very comfortable with all formsof Web 2.o technology. This is the demographic we need to attractand understand, both as employees and customers. Much of ourcommunication with them boils down to authenticity,transparency and trust -- words not typically associated withinsurance.

|

Take employees, for example. Because much of social media blurthe lines between the personal and professional, your employees canbe your company's goodwill ambassadors everywhere in the virtualworld. The Brand Camp speakers agreed that instead of buildingfirewalls between your employees and this online world, you shouldbe training them on its use. The thinking is that they're goingto be popping onto Facebook and YouTube on company time,anyway; you might as well make sure they're doing it right when itcomes to representing your business. Bottom line: If youhired them, you should be able to trust them to do right by you --radical thinking from what most of us are used to!

|

Social medial also mean instant and constantaccessibility. Not too long ago, I would have "covered" thisevent by writing up the proceedings for publication in a magazine,which readers would get more than a month later. Reporters coveringthe Brand Camp tweeted their comments for instant deliverythroughout the event, updated their Facebook or LinkedIn pages, orblogged about it, with plenty of room for others to comment(feeedback is a key element of social media).

|

This doesn't mean the "old" communication methods are dead.Press releases are alive and well as a way to stay on apublication's radar, and in spite of the growth of "unofficial"sites, there is still plenty of cachet in being written about in arecognized publication (whew! Good news for us formerly ink-stainedwretches!). But social media needs to be part of your brandingarsenal, and like any other branding effort, must be thoughtfullyintegrated into the mix.

|

What is your agency doing with social media to promote yourbusiness?

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader

  • All PropertyCasualty360.com news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including BenefitsPRO.com and ThinkAdvisor.com.
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.