Health care and insurance have a reputation for being industries that are slow to adopt new technology, and for many agents it can seem unnecessary to develop a strong online presence. For most agents, however, this represents a huge missed opportunity to connect with current and potential clients, build a reputation within your community and industry, and be ahead of the curve as an influx of tech savvy Baby Boomers and older Generation X’ers age in to Medicare and younger Americans look for individual coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Some key points to think about as you consider your use of social media:
Don’t think it’s unnecessary just because your business is primarily in the senior market.Â – Older Americans are increasingly tech savvy, with a 2013 Pew Research Center survey showing that 59% of Americans 65 and older go online, and 82% of those who go online said they do so at least 3-5 times per week. In addition, 27% of Americans 65 and older use some kind of social media. Not only that, but the rate of internet use among seniors increased six pointsÂ between 2012 and 2013 alone. As the relatively tech savvy Baby Boomers continue to age in to Medicare, this percentage is only going to increase. It’s also important to remember that many seniors seek help from their children or other younger relatives and caregivers to make decisions about things like their medical insurance, and these younger people are ever more likely to turn to the internet, especially social media, for information.
If you’re on social media, you have to be easily accessible.Â – We know how busy independent agents are, so no one is going to expect you to be monitoring your Facebook or Twitter feed all day, every day, but it does need some monitoring. Social media moves qucikly, and if someone has a question, they expect a rapid response and will potentially move on to another source of information if they don’t get it. If you can’t do the monitoring yourself, you may want to consider hiring someone else to do it for you, which can be done for a reasonable cost in the case of most small businesses. If your social media accounts aren’t being actively monitored by anyone (and in this case, actively means roughly hourly at least during business hours), make sure alternate contact info that will reach you quickly, whether it’s an office or cell phone number or an email address, is prominently displayed on your page.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality.Â – People connect with people, not with brands. Professionalism is wonderful and absolutely necessary, but that doesn’t have to mean generic or robotic. Even something as simple as a comment about community events or sports teams, or a reminder about something seasonal like flu shots or allergy medication, can go a long way to humanize your social media presence.
It’s social media, so be social.Â – Obviously you want to share your own content and thoughts, that’s why it’s your page, but remember that the first word in social media is social, and you have to interact to really get the full value of being there. Get involved in a discussion with other people in the industry or share relevant news items, whatever makes sense to you to avoid sending nothing but a steady stream of your own marketing.
Don’t forget about compliance.Â – General health tips, general Medicare information, being reachable for clients with simple information — all great. But remember that in the Medicare Advantage arena, anything plan or benefit specific is likely subject to review and approval and should probably just be skipped. If you want to share information that is plan specific, your best bet is to link to an approved marketing piece or website, whether it’s yours or the carrier’s. Also remember that client personal information should never be sent via social media. If they have a specific question and reach out to you online, give them a call or set up a time to meet with them face to face and go from there.
Go where your audience is.Â – There are an ever growing number of social media networks out there, and especially for an independent agent or small agency, being on all of them is likely not practical or even necessary. Figure out where your audience is and focus on wherever that is. In general, older Americans tend to be more active Facebook, while younger Americans are more active on Twitter. You also want to figure out what your strengths are. If you really have the gift of gab and love being in front of the camera, maybe a YouTube channel where you discuss health news is a good option. If you do better one-on-one or don’t enjoy public speaking as much, it’s likely something you should just skip.
Even referrals or existing clients are looking for you online.Â – Clients who lost your phone number, referrals who want to check you out before getting in touch, potential clients who saw an advertisement with your name on it — all of these people are looking at your online and social media presence to get in touch with you or decide whether to do business with you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to take up all of your time, but if you don’t have anything, or if all you have is outdated, there’s a potential for your business to come off as shady or unprepared.
Social media is an unavoidable part of marketing now, and this is only going to be more true as it becomes an ever more integral part of our daily lives, so get on it now if you haven’t already! Your business will thank you.