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Deepening relationships through social business: Recap of our session with Farmers Insurance at SXSWi

1780680_10202697926883121_876302824_nThank you to everyone who attended our session at SXSW earlier this week! We had a full room of around 70 people participating in our “Core Conversation,” dissecting the ins and outs of successful social business.

The session was led by two experts when it comes to using social media to grow business: Jason Suen (Director of Global Customer Success, Hearsay Social, @JasonSuen) and Patrizio Spagnoletto (Head of Digital, Farmers Insurance, @patospago)

Here were some key takeaways:

1. Social media’s greatest impact is relationship building and retention. By allowing company representatives (like advisors and agents in financial services) to keep in touch with many more current and prospective clients at a time, social media enables more efficient relationship building than ever before.

2. Social media needs to be considered as part of an omnichannel strategy. Customers can and will use whatever channel works best to reach a business to buy a product or to reach customer support, so you need to embrace that.

3. Social media allows you to be top of mind with people that you otherwise wouldn’t get exposure to regularly. By having a regular presence on social networks and sharing great, relevant content, you establish yourself as a trusted source for your product or service. In this way, you stay top of mind with people who normally might not have engaged with you regularly.

Because the session was a Core Conversation, Jason and Pato encouraged questions and comments from the diverse audience, which included salespeople and marketers in financial services and other verticals. A few attended simply to learn more about the power of social business.

Photo courtesy of Search Engine Journal.
Photo courtesy of Search Engine Journal.

Wrapping up the session, Jason walked through the four steps to social business success, which was well-received by the audience:

1. Get found: Clients want to communicate with you via social media. Be there to provide the level of service they’re seeking.

2. Grow your network: Tell your clients you’re on social media. Start sharing content relevant to your business and build up your connections.

3. Research and act on social signals: Listen for important life events, like buying a new home or having a baby, that contacts in your network share on social media. This is information you can use at your next meeting to offer that person the right services or products.

4. Build credibility: Don’t fall silent on social media. Regularly update your networks with the best, most relevant articles and trends that your audience will find helpful, and establish yourself as a leader in your business and on social media.

Thank you for helping to make our 2014 session a success! Read more about social business and SXSW:

#SXSWi 2014 Recap: Sales in Social: You Can Sell, But You Can’t Hide

SXSW in 60 seconds: Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih on the most exciting innovation of 2013
“The Death of Marketing” at SXSW 2013
Brian Solis and Clara Shih discuss social content marketing at LinkedIn’s #SXSW Influencers Reception

You Can Sell, But You Can’t Hide: Join Hearsay Social and Farmers Insurance at SXSW Interactive 2014

SXSW_Blog_image (1)Going to SXSW? We’d love to see you there!

There are over 800 confirmed sessions for SXSW Interactive alone, featuring a host of influential technology and business leaders including Anne Wojcicki (CEO and co-founder of 23andMe), Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter and CEO of Jelly), and Chelsea Clinton, who is currently Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation.

Here’s one session you don’t want to miss: On Monday, March 10 at 11 AM, Hearsay Social and Farmers Insurance will be leading a talk titled You Can Sell, But You Can’t Hide, which will explore the state of social media in today’s business landscape.

We’re especially excited because our session is a “Core Conversation,” meaning that instead of being a traditional single person or panel presentation, all attendees are invited and encouraged to participate in the discussion. That means we want you and your colleagues to attend our session with fresh ideas on how social media can make an impact across businesses. Come ready to talk!

You Can Sell, But You Can’t Hide

WHEN: 11 AM on Monday, March 10

WHERE: Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 616AB, 500 E 4th St

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 2.51.22 PM

WHO: Jason Suen (Director, Global Customer Success at Hearsay Social, @JasonSuen) and Patrizio Spagnoletto (Head of Digital, Farmers Insurance, @patospago)

WHAT: Social media has changed the game for salespeople, who can no longer survive without adopting new technologies. Today’s buyer is more informed and more connected than ever before, and this change has forced salespeople to adapt or become obsolete. In this session, Hearsay Social and Farmers Insurance, two leaders in the world of social business, will walk through the changing landscape of the connected buyer, and discuss why and how salespeople have to step up their game.

Learn more about our session on the SXSW website or check out one of the below resources from SXSW 2013:

SXSW in 60 seconds: Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih on the most exciting innovation of 2013

“The Death of Marketing” at SXSW 2013

Brian Solis and Clara Shih discuss social content marketing at LinkedIn’s #SXSW Influencers Reception

Webinar: Getting from Social Marketing to a Social Sales Force

How do you go beyond traditional brand marketing to actually generating leads, referrals, and upsell on social media?
Join us on Thursday, March 21 for a great webinar we’ve planned, Getting from Social Marketing to a Social Sales Force, with Altimeter Group partner and analyst Jeremiah Owyang, director of social media for Farmers Insurance Ryon Harms, and Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih.

Every day, a billion people share the most important moments of their lives on social media, from new jobs to newborns — and everything in between. Your own social networks are full of these “social signals” and your competitors are acting on this information in real time. So how do you go beyond basic corporate pages and enable your agent force to sell more?
Join our webinar and learn how to:

  • Activate your entire company on social media
  • Train and onboard a geographically dispersed agent force
  • Amplify and measure brand reach across your people
  • Systematically address governance and regulatory issues

Register now and reserve your seat!

Proud to be the insurance industry standard for social sales, marketing, and compliance success

People often ask me why Hearsay Social started with the insurance industry and have so many insurance companies as customers. The reason is very simple: relationship-based sellers such as insurance agents are the most natural “social networkers” in the planet. They have been helping educate clients, investing in long-term relationships, and growing their businesses through word-of-mouth referrals long before social, mobile, and digital technologies existed.
Since our inception, Hearsay Social has been proud to power leading insurance companies’ efforts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. With invaluable input from marquee customers such as Farmers Insurance, Northwestern Mutual, and Thrivent Financial, we’ve equipped tens of thousands of insurance agents, marketers, and compliance professionals with social media software that increases leads, referrals, and revenue, all while helping them achieve full regulatory compliance.
Today, I’m happy to announce several new customers in the financial services and insurance space: Allstate, AXA Equitable, COUNTRY Financial, and Primerica.

We are so excited to see even further validation across tens of thousands of additional agents that Hearsay Social is indeed the solution of choice for the industry when it comes to social sales, marketing, and compliance.
Over the summer, the International Data Corporation (IDC) labeled insurance an early adopter of social media in a report titled “2012 U.S. Social Media Trends by Vertical.” Compared against any other industry or vertical, insurance is a stand-out model for forward-thinking social media usage.
As part of today’s customer announcements, I am also excited and honored to welcome my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Lee M. Gammill, Jr. to the Hearsay Social Advisory Board.

An illustrious figure in the insurance and financial services industry, Mr. Gammill served a 40-year tenure at New York Life Insurance Company, where he held various executive positions and was Vice Chairman of the Board until 1997. Incredibly, he was the first member of the Board who began his career as an agent in all of the Company’s 150-year history.
In addition to helping lead New York Life, Mr. Gammill has also served as Chairman of the Board of LIMRA (Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association), now part of LL Global, Inc., as well as Chairman of the Board of the Life Underwriter’s Training Council. Recognizing his achievements and leadership in the industry, in 2004 Mr. Gammill was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the American College, The Huebner Gold Medal. He served on the College Board of Directors and currently serves as Director Emeritus of the American College Foundation Board of Directors.
On behalf of the entire Hearsay Social family, we extend a warm welcome to Mr. Gammill and our new partners.

Tips for Facebook Brand Timelines: The Five Rules of Cover Photos, and How to Keep It Classy

Note: The following is a chapter from our how-to guide for the Facebook Page Brand Timeline Redesign, a free resource featuring everything you need to know about the new social marketing tools.
It’s been over a month since Facebook first announced the Facebook Pages Brand Timeline, and now all business pages have been converted to the new format. The absolute first thing page administrators must do on their new business timelines is upload a great cover photo that conveys the personality and values of their business.

Here are the five rules of what not to do with cover photo and, further below, some really great examples of cover photo done well.

  1. No purchase info: As tempting as the draw of F-commerce might be, the cover photo is a place to express the brand’s character and personality, not to jump right into a sales pitch.
  2. No contact info: By the same token, Facebook wants to keep things clean and organized, so the rules explicitly prohibit contact info in the cover photo. This shouldn’t be much of a burden for businesses since the about section below the cover photo may include this information.
  3. No Facebook actions: On the old Facebook pages, a savvy social marketer might have created a landing page with a giant unmissable arrow pointing to the Like button. Before the user could see wall posts, photos, or any other type of content, they’d have to click the Like button and become a fan. Now, with Facebook action requests barred from the cover photo, you can’t coerce fans into liking your page.
  4. No calls to action at all: You get the idea: no purchase info, no contact info, no Facebook actions… no calls to action at all. In a nutshell, Facebook wants you to keep it classy.
  5. No lying: This should be a policy for every social marketer when interacting with customers on social media pages, but Facebook has outlined it as a specific rule for cover photos. Don’t promise anything you shouldn’t be promising. This coincides with advertising laws, so it should come as no surprise.
What NOT to do on your cover photo

Keep It Classy

So there you have it: five specific things that you cannot do with your brand new cover photo. So what can you do?
Express yourself!
Your business probably already has plenty of imagery and photography lying around just waiting to represent your brand on Facebook. The screenshot at top showing off Hearsay Social’s Facebook Page is just one way of customizing your timeline.
Here are some examples of big brands and their local representatives (not to mention Hearsay Social customers) using cover photos to express their company stories and character:

The sky’s the limit! Believe it: the more creative you get, the more users will enjoy visiting your timeline.

Summary of the Social Media Executive Roundtable

A week has now passed since we hosted our Social Media Executive Roundtable in downtown San Francisco. The night was a huge success, as it provided a perfectly intimate environment where marketing executives from some of the best-known insurance, financial, and retail companies could talk candidly about how they plan to approach social media, if they haven’t done so already.
In this post, I’ve summarized many of the key points made by the presenters that night. On the panel sat representatives from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Farmers Insurance.

What’s my social media strategy?
After a few minutes of introductions, CEO Clara Shih kicked off the evening with a brief presentation on the history behind Hearsay Social. Then she dove straight into the evening’s key topic: social media for marketers.
“Last year was very much the year of social media prioritization,” she said. “Everyone started asking, ‘what’s my social media strategy?’ Chief marketing officers started hiring social media managers and directors—roles that didn’t exist previously.

“This year we’ve seen a shift from social media strategy to social media execution. Now, and over the next eighteen months, people will be acting and building out those local pages and starting to reap benefits, whether that means driving revenue or simply building engagement and loyalty that ultimately leads to sales and referrals.”
Clara then noted how incredible it is that three in four CMOs have cited social media as a top priority at their organizations.
“Even if they don’t really understand why,” chimed in Ryon Harms.
Everyone laughed at Ryon’s perfectly-timed interjection, but it’s less funny how true the statement is. Indeed, we just shared data from a recent IBM study says that while 82% of CMOs plan to increase social media usage over the next few years, over half of them admit to being underprepared to carry out that task.
Local, social, and the new discovery revolution
Clara then gave the floor to Emily White, the Sr. Director of Local at Facebook. Emily began by highlighting the Web’s transition from a place where we hide behind anonymity to a place that’s merely a digital version of the real world.

Back in 2000, “it seemed totally unreasonable that I would ever show my true identity online,” she said, sharing with the room her original, convoluted AOL alias.
But that was over a decade ago. “Today, if you’re online and not you, you’re creepy. You’re the weird one.”
Easily the largest social network in the world, Facebook now boasts 800 million active users and 200 million mobile users, which is why major brands from Levi’s to Starbucks are becoming hyper-social and hyper-local in all their marketing campaigns. Emily herself is thrilled about the convergence of social, mobile, and local forces because it encourages spontaneous social discovery.
With new geo-tagging features, “we’re getting a ton of information about where users are, which is actually really good [for businesses]. If they’re outside a clothing store or a bank, all of a sudden you can start getting that user information [and drive engagement].”
She offered up the example of Sprinkles Cupcakes, a boutique bakery that publishes “whisper codes,” short phrases that you can repeat in-store to receive a free cupcake. In a similar vein, Emily continued, a local Jamba Juice could encourage its patrons through Facebook that they should come early to avoid traffic sure to be brought on by the football game later that day.
Social media, professionally speaking
Next up was Scott Roberts, Head of Monetization Business Development at LinkedIn. While it may not be operating on the same scale as Facebook, the professional social network now has over 120 million members, with droves more added each month.
Scott began with a question: “How many people think of LinkedIn as a jobs site?”
Most hands went up.
“We get that a lot, and that’s understandable,” he continued. “We do have a major investment in talent and enabling companies to hire the best talent. What’s interesting is that only 10% of the activity on our site is actually people engaging in jobs content.”
Though he wouldn’t explicitly break down the other 90%, Scott said a lot of users are also participating in groups and reading company news. (LinkedIn has a partnership in place with Twitter to bring in tweets to LinkedIn’s streams.)
The latest, most important update to the LinkedIn platform gives companies the ability to post status updates to their company pages on the site. This new feature makes LinkedIn a much more potent social media marketing tool, in line with what businesses and brands have already been doing on Facebook and Twitter.
Farmers Insurance: A social media marketing success story
Following Scott was Ryon Harms, Director of Social Media at Farmers Insurance, who shared with attendees his positive experiences in socializing his company, from corporate to local, with the help of Hearsay Social.
Early on, Farmers Insurance managed to capture 100,000 fans thanks in large part to a successful FarmVille promotion. As any social media marketer knows, however, numbers like that mean nothing unless you’re engaging them.
“We started thinking about what to do with our agents,” Ryon said, “because, at our company, everything has to do with our agents. We live and die by our agents.”

So far, Farmers Insurance has 3,400 agents taking advantage of the social media program, which comes out to 30% of Farmers’ really active agents. (Ryon notes that Farmers has 15,000 agents, but only about 10,000 are “really active.”)
Everyone is always wondering how you measure social media ROI. Well, for Ryon, it’s simple. It comes down to revenue and number of policies sold. Since going social, things have been positive, with a 50% increase in policies coming in.
“We teach [agents] that it’s a soft sale, that it’s about the personal side of your business–all the things they already do in the real world that help them sell policies. When someone walks into their office, they don’t just start bombarding [the prospective customer] with insurance talk and try to sell them something. They ask how the wife’s doing, how the local football team did–all those conversations, we tell them to bring to Facebook. And it works really well.”
Ryon strongly believes that people on Facebook want to connect with faces, not logos and brands. With that in mind, his focus over the next year is to leverage all the fans and friends of fans his company’s agents by offering them that public face over social media.

Notes from the Q&A
Q: How do you use social media when your target audience isn’t technically allowed on social networks? (Example: a clothing retailer targeting children under 13 years old.)
Emily: “Every fan you get is a social influencer.” Target parents because they’re the ones really doing the buying.
Q: How many people does a business need to manage its corporate-to-local social media strategy?
Ryon: At Farmers Insurance, it’s “just me.” They also have three or four individuals on a support hotline. The biggest problem on the corporate Page is monitoring spam, but that’s not really a big deal. Ryon admits the ball would be rolling faster with two or three extra people helping him.
Q: Should brands worry about the fragmentation of their audience when considering Facebook Pages for many local franchises or agents?
Ryon: On the contrary, local is actually the big advantage as it allows for personalization of messages. There’s no need to worry about a misrepresented message because Hearsay Social lets corporate Farmers Insurance monitor local agents.
Q: So how do you increase your rank on Facebook so as to increase engagement?
Ryon: Pictures and videos get top priority, then links, then text. Get a little geeky. It actually makes a difference. Additionally, content needs to be about you on a daily basis. Take a picture and put it on your Facebook Page. Don’t overthink it; just be authentic, be yourself.
Q: Is feeding content to local representatives the biggest help or does education make more sense?
Ryon: “That’s a constant debate we’re having… between me and myself.” [That got a ton of laughs.] Does he fish for agents or teach them how to fish? The answer is both. By fishing for them, they learn how to think. The kind of content fed is the big corporate news, which is uploaded to Hearsay Social. Agents then log in and can personalize the message for themselves, schedule for later, etc.

As we mentioned before, last week’s Roundtable was just the first of many we’ll be hosting around the country, with upcoming events already slated in Chicago and New York. Stay tuned to hear more from this fantastic series!