To Be Successful on Social AAedia

Just Be Yourself
By Ted lanusz
Using social media to promote your agency may irst
require a paradigm shift in yourthinking. Social media is
not about
but rather about
munities."Your Facebook page is not the place to shout
me todayto get a free insurance quote!" but rather
to engage your fans in two-way communications.
When I spoke at a recent convention for PIA of Tennes-
see, one agent told me that he successfully engaged his
followers by asking questions like,
of the recent
spate of weather occu rrences, you r tree fel I on you r
neighbor's house. Who doyou think is responsible forthe
resulting damages?"
Not only did this open up a discussion on his Facebook
page, this dialogue allowed him to show that he was
both an insurance expert and a trusted member of the
com m u n ity, wh ich a re the two primary goa ls that you
want to achieve with your social media efforts.
Another independent insurance
agent who is both an expert and a
trusted member of his community is
Jason Verlinde, president of Verlinde
lnsurance in Richmond, Michigan.
Today he talks with us about how he
has successfully used social media to
promote his insurance agency.
O_: What kinds of other
advertising and promotion do
you do or have you done for your
agency? How have these efforts paid off compared
to the efforts you have made in social media?
We ma i n ly do
m u n ity Advertisi n g." We sponsor
sports tea ms, golf outi n gs, loca I theatre, and zero tolera nce
(drug and alcohol) events at local schools. We do very little
traditional advertlsing with the newspaper, radio orTV.
Community advertising was
media" before social
media existed, so it was a natural transition for us to
move into the actual social media arena.
It is tough to gauge the ROI on social media. As social
media expert CaryVaynerchuk asks,
the ROI of
having a cell phone?" But in a typical month abolt 50%
of our new business opportunities are generated by some
form ofthe lnternet. The other 50% of new business
opportunities come mainly from referrals, from providing
great service and from being in the community for such a
long time.
CaryVaynerchuk also reminds us that
media is a
marathon, not a sprint."
How did you get started with a Facebook page?
I actually started with Facebook because of a part-time
photography business I used to run. Having a Facebook
page for a photography business is the BOMBI lt's more
of a challenge with insurance, since it's more of a struggle
to keep posts releva nt a nd i nteresti ng.
What has having a Facebook page done for your
First and foremost lthink it's a MUST have now.Just like
an agency Website used to be a
have." A Facebook
page allows us to keep in front of current and prospective
clients. With over 1.25 billion people now on Facebook
and so many people spending so much time on the site,
you just have to be where your people are! For instance,
why would I advertise in the newspaper when so few of
my clients and prospective clients even read the paper
a nymore ?
Total newspaper advertislnB revenue across the country
amounted to 542 billion in 2007. ln 20L3,it plummeted
to just
517.3 billion.
O-: One of the concerns for an agency starting a
page is "Where can I get content?" Where do you
get the content for your page?
Today lwalked intothefront of the agencytotalkto a cli-
entwho is an excavatorwho came in to pick up a Certifi-
cate of lnsurance. When I asked him
business?" he
proudly explained that his phone is ringing off the hook
right now! Lots of people are planning to build houses
this spring. That's the kind ofthing that I post on Face-
book. lt's not insurance related, but it's what people like
and want to hearl Things are looking upl
Keepyour mind open forthingsthatyou knowyour Face-
bookfans wantto hear about, whetherthey are insur
ance related or community events. The key is to make
your posts be about them and not always about your
agency. Always keepyour eyes open.
Here is the actual post ljust made:
get a real
about how the economy is doing talk to
real people. Don't listen to the news or read the newspa-
per.They may have agendas.Two conversations I had this
week. Two things I heard come out of clients' mouths this
Jason Verlinde of
Verlinde lnsurance in
Richmond, Michigan
Continued on page 49
Continuedfrom page 24
To Be Successful on Socia I AAed ia : J u st Be Yo u rse lf ByTed Janusz
week. #1
could hire 20 mechanics and work them all
overtime if I could
qualtfied people." #2 - My phone has
been ringing non-stop with people looking
quotes. Lots of new home building plansfor the spring."
I believe these people more than the Free Press, Detroit
News, Fox News or CNN anyday."
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I also always
tryto include a photograph or some other image with
each post, to catch the reader's eye.
This post has already received some
People love to
seethatyou are real and thatyou care.
O_: What was the biggest thing you have learned
from trying different things in social media?
Not everything works or gets traction. Something that I
think will be successful ends up going nowhere. Some of
the things that I thought were
ideas a re the ones
that took off. You
never know! lust keep tryingl
U n like trad ition a I ma rketing for wh ich you may com m it
(and lose) hundreds or even thousands of doilars, with
social media, the only real investment isyourtime.
What has been the most successful thing you
have done?
Probably the most successful thing we have done on
Facebook was to promote a fundraiser for a local f reman
who had a massive heart attack. We posted the event
flyer and asked people to share. We advertised we would
donate $1 for each share, with a maximum of $200.
(Always set a maxl)
Although we didn't hit the 200 shares we did get over BO
shares (and we still donated the $200). The Facebook post
reached over 3,600 people, without us paying anything to
promote the agency. Our hope is that we also inspired our
followers to donate to the cause.
Do you think that Facebook pages and other
forms of social media can be successfully run by
an outside consultant or centralized entity, or does
each agency need to maintain their own page?
As of this intervieW we do all of our social media in
house. But I am looking into hiring a consultant to do
some of the managing, posting and writing. lf you find
the right person or organization who actually KNOWS
you and your agency's personality andbrand, I believe it
can be done successfully.
What other advice would you give to other
independent agents looking to start their own
Facebook page or participate in social media?
B E YOU RS E LF. Do not try to be someth ing on line that
you're not. People will see right th rough the fa ke. And
of course, the golden rule of social media: Don't' post
anythingyou wouIdn't wantyour mother, grandmof her
or priest to see I
Ted Janusz has been honored to contribute articles to all
a n n u a I PIA Nationa I Agency Ma rketi n g C u ides. Beca use
92% oJ consumers looking
local businesses now start
their journey with an lnternet search, Ted Janusz speaks
on how insurance agents can create great contentfor the
Web, so that their agencies wtll be
Contact Ted at
I e d ig
I a n u s'o re-seir /'ni;ori s.rom.

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