Taking the Plunge Into Social Media
We are barraged with information telling us we need to dive into social networking, but when it comes to defining what your agency will get out of it, things get a bit abstract. The tendency can be to "wait until things shake out" but the problem is, that will be way too late. It can help if you boil things down to the basics. Our business has always been about relationships and getting our message out. In the past, we ran ads in Yellow Pages and sent out postcards or other mailers. We did it that way because that was how and where our customers got their information. Priority #1 back then -- and still today -- is finding out where our customers go to get information and being there, where our customers are. Today, that place is social media. It has outstripped and outpaced all the old traditional channels.
Social media offers a venue where you can interact with your customers, provide information at a moment's notice, and promote your brand. Best of all, much of it is free! Well, free in terms of deep dollar expenditures - but you do need to invest some time. It doesn't happen without effort. Facebook is likely where most of your customers, known as "friends," are located. Think back several years - can you imagine not having been in the Yellow Pages? And you maintained that presence even though your ad didn't make the phone ring every day. Similarly, you shouldn't expect to generate prospect activity from Facebook every day, but it's vital to building your brand and growing your network. Your presence will allow potential customers to get to know you and will allow interaction with existing customers between renewal dates.
While yesterday's mailer was a big production, today's communication - a "post"- can be much more frequent and interactive. If someone responds to your post you should respond back to them. Interactivity sets social media apart from traditional marketing. The ability to communicate back and forth is what builds your relationship with your "friends."
This interaction extends to cross-promoting your customers. Recommend your customers by posting about them to your network: "Dropped by Dante's Pizza for lunch today and had the most awesome Italian sub -- if you haven't tried them you must! 221 Main Street in Oxford." Some RAIS agents have even created a "Partners" page on Facebook where they feature client coupons. Some agents use flip cameras to record video interviews with clients as a way of promoting their business on their agency's website. That's a nice value-add for a customer or prospect for doing business with you.
We encourage you to start involving your agency in online marketing. If you think of the parallels to "old school" advertising and promotion, it's really not foreign or exotic. The principles are the same even if the tools are different. Take on one platform and one step at a time, just as you would any marketing campaign. Give it a chance to build - it won't happen overnight!