A few weeks ago in this space I wrote about the importance of protecting your brand through monitoring of social media. I pointed to a case involving Progressive Insurance and their chairman, Peter Lewis.

Within 15 minutes of posting the blog on the PC360.com Website, I received an email from someone in the Progressive public relations department. She agreed with the substance of what I wrote and the challenges carriers face in monitoring a brand.

What struck me, though, was the speed of the reaction. I’m more used to print journalism than electronic. When you write something for print it can be a week or more between when you finish the piece and the point where you start to get some reaction. (And by that time I’ve usually forgotten what I wrote about.)

But that’s not the case anymore, particularly when you write about a major company such as Progressive. Celent’s Mike Fitzgerald, who  recently wrote a report on this subject: “Mining the Chatter: Optimizing Social Media Monitoring” wasn’t surprised by the speed of Progressive’s reaction when I told him my story. In fact, he says he would have been surprised if a response had been delayed.

The task of monitoring the social media space for companies is massive, particularly when you have customers and partners—both friendly and otherwise—making posts on Facebook, starting a discussion page on LinkedIn, uploading a video on YouTube, or letting off some steam via their Twitter account.

Fortunately, companies can employ monitoring tools that inform them when something is said or posted about their business. That’s just the start, though. Knowing what was said or written is one thing, determining how to react to—or ignore—the information is quite another.

Fitzgerald reports the software for monitoring social media works well. But selling the need for monitoring tools, particularly to the mid-tier and lower-tier insurance carriers is not an easy proposition.

Social media has exploded in the business community in the last two years and one of the reasons it has taken off is because it is cheap and easy to do. Sounds simple, right?

But nothing in life is ever as simple as it looks. It may not bother an individual if embarrassing or inappropriate behavior is posted in social media, but obviously it would bother an insurance carrier if someone posted that they were cheated on a claim.

At a time when carriers are fighting to retain their customers and attract new ones to the fold, they need to use all the weapons at hand.

As Fitzgerald writes: “First mover insurance companies can use the information concerning what is possible in social media monitoring to invest in discrete skills and build specific competencies for competitive advantage. Those that are adopting social media at a slower rate can use this information as a benchmark for what their more progressive competitors may be pursuing. All insurers should watch the opportunities with these tools and adjust their approach as the automation and processes mature.”