• Cornerstone Digital

360 Degrees of Digitalization

360 Degrees of Digitalization OPERATIONS | Connections Editor | Sep 26 2019

Over the course of the last decade, social media has transformed the landscape of branding and outreach, both for companies and their respective consumers. Rarely does a time occur while browsing a website that a company ad or sponsored post doesn’t, at some point, hit your screen.

When it comes to the insurance and brokerage industry, David Graham, who manages IT and digital operations for CH Insurance, was able to inform on the immeasurable importance of social media as it relates to brand awareness.

“We were an early adopter of it, but I really don’t think we’ve seen the peak of social media in this industry yet. I think you’re really going to see explosive growth in the next year and a half. For those agencies that have not yet adopted these platforms, they’ll be missing out, and there’s a good chance they’ll start to get left behind,” Graham said.

Today, there are numerous social media platforms a company can leverage when building out its digital presence. However, in the insurance industry, some are more effective than others.

“From what I’ve seen, a lot of people tend to use the Facebook platform as their primary. But, I think they are sorely missing out if they don’t use LinkedIn, because LinkedIn is a business platform that tends to reach the higher-ups and decision makers of commercial insurance. They tend to be on that platform more than Facebook,” said Graham.

When crafting a digital presence, the goal is to develop a variety of platforms to increase the odds of engagement.

“We look at it as a whole digital footprint,” said Graham. “Social media plays a role, but there is definitely a 360 degree approach to branding the whole digital side of it. Your components are your website, your social media use, and other outreach such as Facebook ads. It all has to convey the same brand messaging and likeability.”

Engagement frequency proves to be an invaluable metric as an agency or brokerage crafts its digital presence. In fact, Graham believes engagement reigns supreme in building out a long-term plan for social media expansion and influence.

“We want to see constant growth. We know people are going to naturally fall off, but we always want to keep engaging; we never want to stop engaging,” said Graham. “We hit 1,000 followers and we’re excited, but then we know we have to get to 2,000, 5,000, etc. We value quality over quantity. It’s not just about the total number of people following you. We want to know if we post something how many people like it, or share it. We want people to think of us when they think of insurance.”

Within insurance agencies or brokerages, there is often one person, or a group of people, dedicated to the management of social media platforms, which is helpful when it comes to augmenting brand awareness.

“For us, it’s really nice, because we have an owner who is a marketing guru, and he just gets the industry and modern culture. We’re also lucky enough to be a size company where they can pay me to live this lifestyle and drive social media for them. Not everyone can do that. I understand there are two-people firms and there are firms that are bank owned and have to go through committees and board of directors,” said Graham. “You have to find your own path that works with the organization you are in. But just do it. Even if it’s just having the Facebook page and the website, that’s two different locations that two people can find you versus not having it.”

Social media platform expansion also relies on calculated metric analysis. One of the most helpful predictive elements of engagement involves ruminating on personal social media habits.

“On average, post way more than the average company will. Sometimes we post two to three times a day. Timing wise, you have to think about your personal life and when you look at your phone. You’re probably checking it in the morning, when you get home in the evening and at lunchtime. We tend to not care so much about the time because we know it’ll show up in your feed if you follow us,” Graham said.  

One of the most important considerations for an agency or brokerage when developing a digital presence is the unique nature of the content being published on social media and how well it differentiates one agency or brokerage from the next.

“We make sure we produce our own content. We create our own infographics that are branded with our name. Why would we share someone else’s when we can say it ourselves?” said Graham. “If you don’t have the staff and you can’t put a lot of time behind it, there are companies that have great content already created that you can schedule out and they’ll post it for you. I would also say sprinkle some fun in there. You don’t have to make it serious all the time, but you want to be an expert and you want to be likeable. And, if you’re going to Applied Net, you can come to my class and I’ll give you an insider scoop.”

While frequent posting and engagement are crucial, social media posting brings with it the necessity to protect proprietary information, which is especially important in the insurance industry.

“I’m always very protective and very cautious with this firm. If in doubt, we won’t get involved or post something. Anything we post, there will be multiple versions of that same wording, there will be other companies that have posted it and carriers that have already spoken on the topic. We will talk about things like that where it’s a more commonly accepted thing, it’s more public knowledge. We won’t get into specific clients, and we’ll speak in generals and remove any of that critical stuff,” Graham said.

Graham imparted a few final words of wisdom with regard to insurance agencies and brokerages establishing themselves as a commanding presence in the digital space.  

I would say just be present. You don’t have to be on every platform, and every platform won’t work for every [agency]. Just have a presence. Even if you dip your foot in the pool, take that dip. I guarantee that there’s someone in your family or in your business who is comfortable with social media, whether it’s an intern or college kid. Ask them for advice, or have them set up the page. You’ll see what works for you.”

David Graham is a digital operations and IT manager with CH Insurance and Co-Founder of Cornerstone Digital Group located in Syracuse, NY. David started his insurance career in personal lines and has evolved with the growth of social media and digital operations with Applied Epic and Applied TAM systems to his current role in the agency. David also oversees all Applied operations as well as in-house IT, and social media content creation and delivery across multiple platforms.

AS Featured in Applied Client Networks Connections Magazine September 2019 edition

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