The insurance industry has made huge strides in the last decade. Our underwriting decisions are now informed by complex computer models and mapping tools, and yet our networking has stayed more or less the same.

Although lunches, sporting events, happy hours and phone calls have driven marketing in the insurance industry since the beginning, with social media we now have the opportunity to reach our clients even when we can’t be physically together. Nothing will ever replace face-to-face meetings with our clients, but we can supplement those meetings using social media. 

We commonly think of Twitter as a great place to read up on the latest celebrity gossip, follow a favorite company or keep up with the news. But did you know that financial services is one of the most active industries on Twitter? And the insurance industry is a growing part of that segment. B2C (business-to-consumer) companies are leading the way; many B2C brands have done a great job at reaching customers via Twitter, earning them points for customer service and helping them gain new business. Meanwhile B2B (business-to-business) brands have been a bit slower to embrace social media, perhaps due to a lack of statistics linking social media to monetary gains. But it’s time to give it a try.  

If you’re new to the insurance industry or just new to Twitter, here are five tips to help you use Twitter more effectively.

[Related: 6 social media strategies for insurance agents]

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(Photo: Shutterstock/dolphfyn)

1. Sign up

You need to have an account to use Twitter, but getting one is easy. It’s easiest to sign up from a desktop or laptop computer, then download the app for your smartphone or tablet.

Go to twitter.com and sign up, filling out the information requested. Then add a profile picture, header image and bio.

Remember that this is your professional Twitter account, so be sure the information you provide reflects that. You can still have a personal Twitter account to share with friends; just be sure to keep the two separate.

Follow-people-on-Twitter-shutterstock_78049624-Annette Shaff

(Photo: Shutterstock/Annette Shaff)

2. Start following

Search for your colleagues, clients and competitors on Twitter and start “following” them. If they’re active on Twitter, you’ll see regular tweets.

You also can search for industry terms like “insurance,” “insurance agent” or “property and casualty,” and see who appears in the search results. You may find industry leaders or organizations that you’d also like to follow as a result of your search.

 

Man-writing-Tweet-crop-shutterstock_232484764-Denys Prykhodov

(Photo: Shutterstock/Denys Prykhodov)

3. Join the conversation

Spend a few days just reading tweets from other insurance industry professionals to get an idea of what people are thinking and saying. Then, share your own news and observations in 140 characters or less.

It may take some practice, but you’ll get used to being concise and using abbreviations. If you want to link to a website, use a service like Bitly or goo.gl, for example. That will help your character count stay below 140.

Young-business-woman-reading-news-on-tablet-crop-shutterstock_141377746-Bloomua

(Photo: Shutterstock/Bloomua)

4. Engage, don’t sell!

Successful tweeting is more about sharing others’ posts than promoting your own content. Try to start a conversation or ask a question about something you’ve read that may be of interest to other insurance professionals.

The ideal ratio is 3:1—that is, three posts from others to every one of your own.

#Hashtags-on-blue-road-sign-crop-shutterstock_207692071-Gustavo Frazao

5. Learn the Lingo

Before you start using Twitter extensively, learn the language and understand the symbols. The following list is a brief overview of the most common terms and symbols; you can read more here or by searching online for the many articles and explanations available.

 @Handle/Username: the @ symbol points to a Twitter user’s handle. This is your username on Twitter.

Home/Feed/Stream: This is where all of the tweets appear for everyone you follow.

Hashtag (#): A way to categorize your tweets. You can search by hashtag to find tweets on a specific topic/event.

Mention: A tweet containing another user’s Twitter username, preceded by the “@” symbol.

Tweet: Your update or 140-character message.

Retweet (RT): A tweet by someone that is reposted or shared.