By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
GRAPEVINE, TEXAS---Insurance carriers and brokers need to develop a coherent strategy to use social media, Craig S. Lowenthal, incoming president of the Insurance Accounting & Systems Association, said Sunday.
Speaking in an interview in Grapevine, Texas, on the eve of the IASA's annual meeting, Lowenthal said that he was struck by the ad hoc, piecemeal approach the insurance industry has taken with respect to social media.
Lowenthal, citing research published in a recent study, noted that only 19 percent of insurance companies have an authorized Facebook page yet as many as 60 percent of the companies in the survey reported having some kind of presence on a social media site.
"It's all very interesting, and it's all evolving," said Lowenthal, the social media strategist for the York, Pa.-based Glatfelter Insurance Group, a diversified personal and commercial lines insurance underwriter and distributor.
According to the survey, 35 percent of insurance marketing teams indicated there was a return to be made by social media. Lowenthal said that he believes that the industry will eventually find a way to make money through social media.
Yet how to generate revenue through the social media phenomenon is going to be a challenge for the commercial-lines industry.
Citing a recent example involving Progressive, the technology-savvy personal lines carrier, Lowenthal noted that Progressive has 8,000 or so fans for the authorized company page hosted on one of the nation's popular social media sites.
An unauthorized social media page about one of Progressive's well-know ad-campaign characters, however, has hundreds of thousands of fans.
BUILDING OFF WHAT'S ALREADY THERE
Lowenthal, originally trained as an accountant, will serve for a year in the volunteer president position beginning July 1, 2010, and ending June 30, 2011.
He succeeds James T. Keal, who as vice president of finance for Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America and United Heartland, had a greater nuts-and-bolts experience with corporate finance.
Keal laid some of the groundwork for IASA to adopt a more aggressive approach with regard to social media.
In an interview last year, he said that he had wanted to set up peer-to-peer learning networks for IASA members and to stream IASA program content through multiple channels--the Web site and newsletters, for example.
IASA, which is already offering members a "knowledge exchange" to help them find answers to industry issues, also has a following on the social media Web site LinkedIn and has recently set up a Facebook page, Lowenthal said.
Instead of relying on proprietary technologies, Lowenthal also said, he will want to "leverage the association's use of technology."
IASA, for the first time this year, is posting the daily developments of its annual conference on Twitter, for example.
IASA isn't alone among insurance industry trade organizations looking to social media as a tool to reach members.
Earlier this year, leaders of the Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA); and the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) indicated they, too, were looking at ways to take advantage of and integrate social media into their communications platforms.
Insurance carriers have also begun to carve out a presence on social media sites. At the annual meeting of the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. in April in Boston, even some of the industry's more conservative carriers were showing off their social media capabilities.
June 8, 2010
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