Accenture’s report: High performance in insurance with social media.

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Image courtesy of shutterstock

Image courtesy of shutterstock

As I have a keen interest in social media for financial services I’ve been looking at the Accenture’s paper on “Achieving high performance in insurance through social media”.

It’s a great statement of intent by one of the major international consultancies, and another example that social media is now being embraced by more traditional corporate and business markets.

Accenture’s paper examines the trends in social media and highlights that insurers seeking high performance  should consider using social media within their customer, channel and workforce strategies. The paper also describes an approach for insurers to utilise social media to input into strategies for marketing, sales, services and recruitment.

With regards to inbound marketing, the useful statistic cited is that marketers who incorporate social media into their inbound marketing mix tend to spend 60% less per lead on average compared to traditional marketing methods.

But why should insurers bother to take note of social media? Three main reasons are cited in the paper:

  1. Social media helps customers pick through the high volume of information available online because they trust “people like me”, ie, other customers, to give honest, accurate information.
  2. Social consumers use social networks as their core navigation and search tool rather than search engines or portals.
  3. Social media is being used more and more by businesses as part of their overall strategy.

As the paper points out, “social media increasingly determines who customers trust” and Accenture highlight the  importance of establishing “Listening Posts”, or what we term social media monitoring,  so that insurers are aware of the online conversations that are happening around them. The paper also discusses the best “social media management framework”, or  social media strategy, for success, which consists of process, people, policies, and metrics.

It’s a considered and articulate paper that is probably targeted at large insurance businesses that need external help to establish their social media enterprise framework. It is notably absent of case studies, and while there are some interesting statistics in this well-researched paper, I suspect that key decision-makers in this industry will continue to look for more detailed ROI data to justify their budget spend.

I also feel the paper doesn’t really address the “hub-and-spoke” social media model as a means of being proactive in social media (i.e. a central social ‘hub’ that is part of the insurers website while also engaging with the social ‘spokes’,  like Twitter forums and blogs, where the other relevant influential conversations are taking place) .

What is interesting is that Accenture’s paper is less bullish in addressing the many positive benefits of a proactive social media programme, and that is probably as it should be given that it reflects the risk-averse culture of a cautious industry that is coming to terms with open customer dialog.

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3 Comments

  1. John Bottom:

    Interesting Tim - thanks for summarising. I downloaded the paper to have a closer look. As a B2B marketer who has watched the gradual acceptance of social media with interest, I can understand they are keen to position themselves as a player here. But you know what? It really doesn’t come across right, does it?
    The first thing they do is treat social media as a plural noun. Not being picky but NO ONE does that. It makes them sound out of touch. A bit like a garage owner who can’t spell Ferrari. And then, as you read through I just got the impression that they didn’t really get it. Middle-aged men in suits drafting a brochure about that new social media thing. Not very convincing for me.

    Just an opinion I thought I would share - thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    John

  2. Tim Fowler:

    Thanks John - I agree about the use of the plural noun. It grated - everytime that I read it, too! Maybe it’s the accepted vernacular in US, where this paper is authored.

  3. David G Wilson:

    Very interesting item and typical of the consistently useful output from you guys.

    As a “veteran” of the insurance industry and great believer in what social media can deliver it is a source of frustration that take up has not been greater. I’m sure you will have pondered this point too?

    The sad truth is that, even insurers who could be regarded as “innovative” and are, therefore, more inclined to listen, still fall at the first fence on the “Social Media Steeplechase 2.010″.

    The vital ingredient for any FS company is TRUST and SM offers them an undoubtedly cost effective means to achieve that…and so much more.

    The problem lies in the fact that SM as a key component of a long term strategy requires a change of culture…from opacity to TRANSPARENCY. Otherwise why would they invest in making it is easier for customers to air and publicise (often legitimate) complaints?

    In the prevailing insurer (FS) culture it is preferable to spend money on marketing that TELLS customers how much they care then buy their loyalty with pricing (funded by savings from claims settlements and lack of quality service.

    The alternative demands adoption of alien concepts like TRANSPARENCY, listening, delivering (consistent pricing and service) sufficient to EARN customer loyalty. Even worse than all this is the fact that such a dramatic turnaround would expose the extent of the current sham. It ain’t gonna happen before the sh*t hits!

    That would be like Gordon Brown saying, pre-election, that the Government were wrong (about anything), apologizing and then stepping down enmasse.

    We can only hope that the competitive advantage gained by corporations from effective use of credible agencies such as yours and the transparency that SM requires accelerate much needed cultural change…oh, improved value for customers and a flood of business for SM specialists!

    David