Just Among Friends: Getting Insurance from a Trusted Source — Online

When used with discretion, social media sites offer fruitful ways for consumers and insurance agents to connect.

Clockwise from top left: Denise Gott, Stana Martin, Kim Beckham, Jerry Levy, Gabrielle Gelo, and Gene Cutler

So says Denise Gott, CEO of ACSIA Partners LLC, one of America’s largest agencies specializing in long-term care solutions.

“Without safe places like Facebook,” Gott says, “insurance agents may resist reaching out to friends who could use their help. And those needing insurance may resist reaching out to friends in the business.”

Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter make it easy to connect in low-key ways, according to Gott. “Our people avoid the hard sell,” she says. “That’s important. Mostly they just make clear they’re in the business. And they post useful information that friends appreciate. For example, a reminder of long-term care insurance deductions available at tax time, or facts on who needs protection, or available policy types.”

Agents who get lots of inquiries from friends tend to post regularly, maintaining an ongoing presence and dialog. Five examples:

  • Gabrielle Gelo makes regular visits to Facebook and is amply rewarded. “Facebook allows me to reach out to childhood acquaintances that I might not have maintained contact with otherwise, through the high school Facebook page. They need help with long-term care planning, and the trust is already there,” she says. “For me, social media works: it costs nothing, and takes minimal time.”
  • Kim Beckham also enjoys a solid response from social media. “Last year, about three fourths of my business was Facebook-related,” she reports. “And it was mostly with friends and family and referrals from friends and family.” Beckham stresses the importance of keeping things low-key and friendly. “On Facebook I don’t use a business page. I just use my personal page, because I feel I am my brand, and people are looking to me as a person, not an agent.”
  • Gene Cutler also uses social media to get personal, and stresses the importance of creating trust. In the long-term care field, “We are asking clients to divulge the most personal and sensitive information… Tell me about your health, family and finances.” They won’t do this automatically, he says. “First we have to earn their confidence and create a high level of comfort.”
  • Stana Martin finds social media helpful for customer service as well as business expansion. “Most often, clients ask me questions about their policies,” she says. “But sometimes they ask about getting someone else covered, such as a newly married spouse.” On Facebook, “I post mostly fun or interesting stuff,” she reports. “Once in a while I post something about buying insurance or filing claims.”
  • Jerry Levy says it’s important to set a different tone depending on the social media site. “I use Facebook more to illustrate how life happens and, other than pictures of family, occasionally add information that might help a friend plan for a better outcome.” On LinkedIn, he’s more pragmatic. “I post information that a small business owner or a financial professional may find interesting.”

Whether you’re a consumer or business professional, social media can be an especially good place to shop for items such as insurance, according to Gott. “It beats impersonal search engines or banner ads,” she says. “It’s a comfortable way of connecting with someone you know and trust, or soon get to know and trust.”

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