Recently at a NetVu conference, I “hosted” a session on this subject and was very pleased with the number of attendees and the great participation. It certainly appears that this is an issue on many agents’ minds.
Most agents agree that Social Media is a very powerful tool and has tremendous power. The power can serve your agency in numerous ways including marketing and education. Whether this “power” serves your agency in a positive or negative manner is up to your agency.
With any type of media that your agency may use, there are definitely some issues to be on the lookout for.
One of the first things is to have a written plan. This should include what you want your site to look like and what you want it to do.
Develop a guide that spells out the various issues that the agency and all of its employees need to be aware of. The guide should include the do’s and don’ts addressing issues such as who has the permission to use that specific media on behalf of the agency and what is considered acceptable and conversely unacceptable behavior. This guide will let the staff know what you are trying to accomplish and the role that they play in helping you reach your goals. Absent a guide, you run the risk of employees doing what they want or think you want.
Be sure that the guide includes a very strong statement that employees are not to reveal secrets about the agency or to speak ill of the competition. Not following these rules could pose some very significant legal issues for your agency as well as result in some other business implications like loss of reputation or loss of business.
It is important that employees understand that correspondence via social media exists forever. If a problem were to develop down the road, any social media transmissions would be discoverable and could be used against your agency. Professionalism must be adhered to at all times.
In the development of a social media presence, education is a common objective. Social Media can be a great vehicle to educate customers on various issues or how their coverage would respond. It is vital that the information is carefully constructed and proofed for content, accuracy, professionalism and legality. It is a good idea to have a point person in the agency that has this as part of their responsibility. Inappropriate / defamatory comments involving specific people / organizations must be avoided at all costs.
Also take the time to educate your prospects and customers on their use of social media when interacting with the agency. It would be appropriate to prepare something for your customers to educate them upfront on the do’s and don’ts when communicating with the agency.
Marketing your agency using social media (such as blogging) is considered by many a form of advertising. Managed professionally, this can give your agency a very positive brand and can be very effective. As you would with any advertising material, paper or electronic, it is critical that the content be accurate, truthful, professional and positive. In the field of advertising, there are various statutory and regulatory guidelines that need to be complied with. Be sure to comply with these guidelines. Oftentimes, you may find an article that you would like to post on your website or in your blog. If so, make sure that those articles are from reliable sources and a sign off is secured.
Bottom line: with the proper planning and execution, social media can have a positive impact on your agency and hopefully keep you out of any E&O problems.