With the use of social media on the rise among the general population–half the adult population in the U.S. uses it, according to statistics from LIMRA–life insurers are jumping on the bandwagon, lest they be left out as consumers seek to communicate via social media instead of in more traditional ways.
Use of these new means of communication has jumped 30% among life insurers in 2011, says a new LIMRA study, with nearly 8 out of 10 joining the crowd; another 18% intend to do so within the next year. The study, “Getting Social: Using Social Media to Support Business Strategies,” found that companies are using such tools as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn primarily to expand brand awareness, although they also seek to maintain relationships through such contacts and build a community as well.
Todd Silverhart, corporate vice president, LIMRA Markets and Technology research, said in a statement, “Obviously, social media is changing the way we all communicate. Life insurers are no exception. In the past, companies used their social media activity to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Now–with half of all U.S.adults using social media–it is becoming a requirement for doing business. Those companies not on board may be passed over by consumers and find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”
Now you may think that technology is one of the main barriers to companies jumping in with both feet. Not so, according to the study: the chief obstacle to participation is people–or lack thereof. Companies are worrying less about such factors as compliance and PR, and more about where to find the personnel who can form cross-functional teams to manage their social media efforts. Nearly half of companies cited a shortage of human resources to manage and populate their social media platforms as their biggest challenge in 2011.
Flexibility is a challenge, as well, since social media are very fluid and likely to remain so for some time. While Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are currently reigning in the top three spaces, Twitter is gaining, and nearly half of the companies who responded to the study said that they will be looking at Google+ over the year to come.
According to Silverhart, “The only constant in social media is its dynamic nature. What’s important for companies to realize is that the social media landscape is ever evolving. Companies must continually examine new platforms and strategies to determine what will best engage their stakeholders.”