For our 4th edition of our ‘5 Questions on Digital Innovation‘ (including gamification, crowdsourcing), I interviewed American Family’s Social Media Manager on their social media strategy for insurance agents and customers.
In the last few years, American Family aka ‘AmFam’ has established itself as one of the most engaging companies in social media insurance, both for customers and insurance agents. Back in 2011, AmFam even entered Forrester’s high profile Groundswell competition with ‘Someone is always talking about American Family Insurance‘.
Last month, I sent a few questions (eight to be exact) to Michele Wingate – Social Media Manager for American Family Insurance on AmFam’s social media insurance strategy and activity in 2012 and 2013.
Please find below Michele’s comprehensive response.
1. Could you please share with us your latest stats on American Family’s social media activity such as your ‘#FightHunger’ project?
In September 2012, we launched our first big social cause – committing to donate $1 to the National FFA Organization (@nationalffa) for every new Facebook like, up to $20,000. This campaign lasted six weeks.
We promoted it heavily through all our social media channels and an email to current customers, sharing hunger statistics and the impact hunger has on families and children. The results exceeded our expectations.
We gained 23,000 new likes and even more importantly, we had 53% engagement (likes, shares, comments) on our Facebook page during the campaign. Our customers and Facebook community members really appreciated our support of this cause, and that made everyone in the organization feel very proud of this effort.
2. Talk us through your latest key initiatives and main achievements. Any exclusive info on a future project would be much appreciated.
Our social media strategy centers on building long-term relationships, focused on messages that celebrate and protect dreams. We had a very strong end of year with our social media program.
Following the FFA social cause, we ran a #30daysofthanks effort, sharing daily images thanking teachers, firefighters, moms, etc. The reaction again exceeded expectations – 59% engagement.
We increased our Facebook community 264% in 2012, with almost all of that growth coming in the last four months from the social cause, email marketing, an increased paid Facebook effort and an unbranded contest.
At the agent level, we introduced an agent Twitter program in the summer. We take an approach of wanting to support agents in the social media channels that interest them – but we also don’t want agents to try to spread themselves too thin. We still recommend Facebook as their strongest opportunity and continue to coach agents to actively use their Facebook page.
3. In a very competitive US insurance market, with so many engaged competitors on social media channels such as Progressive or GEICO, how important is facebook for American Family? And twitter?
Social media is extremely important to American Family. Our agents have built their business on having strong relationships in their communities. Using social media to strengthen those relationships or build new ones is a natural extension of those in-person efforts. For community-building, we’re still very focused on Facebook for the agents.
Twitter is also a strong tool for sharing information, generating awareness and for customer service. We’re very fortunate that our CEO, Jack Salzwedel, is active in social media – he’s one of the most active Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter (@amfamjack). It’s great to be part of an organization that understands the value of social media to our brand.
4. How important are gamification and crowdsourcing in insurance? In your opinion, how important is it for a large financial institution to capture and leverage the ‘Voice of the Customer’? Are large insurers equipped to do so today?
Anything an insurance company can do to connect with its customers and strengthen relationships has value. Often, we look for social media inspiration from what retailers are doing and try to apply it to our efforts. If an insurance company can gamify its efforts in a way that sincerely matches its brand value, it can work. We’ve talked about some ideas, but haven’t landed on one yet.
Social media communities are a rich source of Voice of the Customer information. We take the comments we hear in social media very seriously. I like to say that social media just holds us more accountable than ever before for providing outstanding customer experiences. We listen and respond to the comments people share on Facebook and through Twitter, and we share the input with the related areas of the company, both to follow up on individual issues, and more broadly on trends and reactions from customers.
5. How successful has iAMFAM been for American Family? Could you please share your latest stats and tell us how you measure its success?
American Family was an early entrant into gaming. We created the iamfam game in July 2010, and it continues to have a strong impact.
We ended 2012 with more than 340,000 new game plays, which topped 2011 by about 90,000. We’ve had 3.2 million game plays to date. There’ve been 269,000 click throughs to www.amfam.com, driving deeper engagement with our brand. We also track quotes generated through the game. That’s a secondary metric and the numbers are small, but they show the value of having this game.
6. Social Media & Agents: how much time and effort do you spend educating your agents and help them successfully tap social media to generate more business?
We have two team members fully dedicated to supporting agents in social media, and then many of the corporate efforts are translated to an agent level. We’ve got an internal social media community where we share content, photos and tips. Agents use it to ask us questions and share tips with each other.
Our agents who are highly engaged with social media are gaining new business from it, through referrals. And when they share those stories with each other, it’s inspirational for agents just getting started.
7. In your opinion, how big will the impact of the iphone 5 -with the lack of NFC technology- be on the insurance industry (if any)?
We’re not concerned about this right now. We expect iPhone will support NFC as the technology matures and security concerns are resolved. There are other effective ways to simplify mobile account management and payment transactions for customers.
8. Finally, what’s coming up from American Family in 2013? More gamification? Customer reviews? Open innovation / crowdsourcing?
In 2013, we’re focused on maintaining strong engagement in our social communities. One way will be continuing social causes and sharing information about the impact of the work being done by community organizations we support.
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube continue to be are strongest channels, but we are looking for niche opportunities in Google+ and Pinterest. We held our first Google hangout in December and have more planned. We’re looking at our social customer service model, anticipating this will be a growing area.
Our agents have asked for widgets and apps to help them grow their social media efforts and we expect to roll out new efforts in the first half of the year. We have a Ratings and Review feature for agents to use on their Facebook pages to get customer reviews, and we’ll look to enhance that this year.
About Michele Wingate
Michele has been with American Family Insurance for 6 years in advertising, strategic communications planning and social media. Previously, she worked in health care communications and marketing, before that as a reporter and editor. She has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.A. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
A huge THANK YOU to Michele for taking the time to share his vision on social media and digital innovation in insurance in a such detailed way.
So, what do you think of American Family’s comprehensive social media insurance strategy, focused on both customers and agents? Which activity do you find the most exciting? In your opinion, which one has the best potential to change people’s perception of AmFam, increase its market share and its overall customer satisfaction?