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How to achieve social media ROI in financial services

Ed. note: Missing social media ROI? Hardly. In the below article, you’ll read about Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 financial services organization (and Hearsay Social customer) that has been “able to show a strong correlation between online engagement and reduced churn, greater assets under management, and greater brand loyalty.” We’re proud to provide compliant and successful social marketing capabilities for Thrivent Financial through the Hearsay Social platform.
This article first appeared in the August 2012 edition of SocialEyes: The Insurers’ View of Social Media, a monthly newsletter published by The Customer Respect Group.

Social Success Needs a Bond, a Common Bond

Thrivent and Its Social Media Gold Fingers

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organization with approximately 2.5 million members serviced by 2,500 financial representatives. The company sits firmly in the Fortune 500 with more than $75 billion of assets under management. As a fraternal benefit society, it plays a far broader role with its customers, or members, than do most financial services companies. As part of Its charter they must service a common bond, in their case Lutheran, insurance, education, volunteering and opportunities for social interaction.
It is natural therefore for the social media strategy to focus on the community, the common bond and beliefs. The social media program has its roots in 2009 but in the past 12 months, the Facebook fan count growth has accelerated 400% to over 110,000. Continuous member recruitment is critical to the strategy, and the company has used a blend of organic growth, Facebook ads, and promotional campaigns. However, Gene Smaciarz, director of social media, stresses that “there is no desire to get as many fans as possible but we do want to engage members who have a close affinity with the organization and its mission.” The most recent promotional campaign, “Raise the Praise,” provided funding to youth ministries in exchange for page likes. This campaign appealed directly to members who want to strengthen their communities, encouraging existing fans to share the campaign with like-minded friends.
The driving reason for recruiting and engaging fans on social media is based on solid research and business objectives. Thrivent has hosted an online community, LutheransOnline.com, since 1998  (well before Facebook was prominent or even dreamed of) and they have been able to show a strong correlation between online engagement and reduced churn, greater assets under management, and greater brand loyalty.
With social media platforms such as Facebook, the available data is insufficient to directly demonstrate the same effects but the company conducts ongoing surveys with members and the findings indicate the same trends. Members that actively engage with the company through social media have generally higher Net Promoter Scores, deeper product relationships, and greater trust in the organization, with many already strong brand advocates. Many of these attributes are normally attributed to members that enjoy a strong relationship with a local financial representative:

Engagement is therefore critical to success, and Thrivent is constantly fine-tuning the content strategy to build involvement. In the past 12 months, the number of interactions per 100 fans exceeded the industry average every month and despite the growth in fans, the interaction rate has almost doubled in the same period. Engagement is now about 14 interactions per 100 fans, putting the company in the 87th percentile for the industry.
While the content strategy is to offer financial education, tips, and advice, this is social media and the overriding objective is to be engaging, and even fun and entertaining. Thrivent wants to be part of the community, not seen as selling products. The company posts about community fundraisers, religious celebrations, tributes, and volunteering and these posts invariably outperform financial education in terms of engagement. Smaciarz and his team are well aware that a blend of topics is required – not only to keep members engaged but also to maintain high EdgeRank scores.
As the value of social media gains recognition internally, especially with senior leadership, there are now growing demands to explore new opportunities. To be able to scale and respond,  a hub-and-spoke structure has been implemented and at its core is a “center of excellence” cross-functional team that includes members from legal, compliance and IT managed by Smaciarz. Aside from managing the corporate presence, they consult, train, and advise groups within the company. They also become integral members of various project teams.
Smaciarz and Thrivent are firm believers that, while community is the key to success, a multiplier effect comes into play once you include a local effect. Pilot projects have been ongoing on two initiatives – one involving financial representatives and the other on local communities based around chapters.
Compliance was always the major obstacle that prohibited rolling out a distributed model earlier. After testing various solutions, Thrivent settled on Hearsay Social. The product was able to meet the need for efficient content distribution and metrics but, more critically, it directly addressed the fears and concerns of the supervisory group.
One key lesson learned from pilot programs was that while social media is a very powerful tool, it is not for everyone. While some representatives really get it, others have struggled to see the value. One key indicator for predicting success is finding financial representatives that already use social media in their personal lives. This will naturally increase over time. The program will soon be available to all 2,500 financial representatives but it is provided on a cost-share basis to restrict access to representatives that see the value and are prepared to invest time.
As to whether the long-term success for social media will be at the corporate or local level, Smaciarz believes in the local option, but success requires a cooperative approach with the center of excellence providing valuable compliant content, training and expertise.

Fan count and normalized interaction rate for Thrivent’s Facebook page over 12 months.

To date, Facebook has been the focus of the strategy for corporate and local initiatives, pragmatically based on surveys of where members are active. But as the social media role expands, so does interest in other platforms. While the corporate Facebook page will continue to be the central repository, Thrivent are careful not to overload members’ newsfeeds, and the consequential limitation for posting frequency can be restrictive. Twitter, utilized today as a feeder to the website and Facebook page, is poised to play a stronger role during the latter half of 2012, allowing communications to new audiences without the same posting constraints.
LinkedIn also has a larger role to play. Currently valued for its recruiting opportunities and by financial representatives for data mining, it has the potential to help connect the important volunteer networks, linking members and volunteer opportunities.
Regarding how social media will change, Smaciarz predicts that as social platforms increasingly connect members with the company and local representatives, it will play a larger role for all communications, including lead generation and customer service. This will be especially true when members who have grown up using social media move into product ownership. Demand for customer service on social media today requires little more than monitoring with occasional intervention. However, the creation of processes to initiate service on social media will inevitably move up the priority list.
At 110,000 fans, Thrivent has plenty of room for growth without compromising community relevance. The hub-and-spoke structure looks able to manage inevitable expansion through marketing, sales, corporate communications, and customer service without the “turf wars” now common in many financial services companies.

Thanks for reading! If you want more, check out this other SocialEyes case study on Farmers Insurance agent and Hearsay Social user Joel McKinnon.

How is the brain like a social network?

Social media has become an essential tool for connecting businesses with potential customers. In previous posts we have demonstrated that having an understanding of the underlying structure of a social graph facilitates better, more authentic communication with your fan base. As a new member of the Hearsay Social Data Team, I’m excited to apply my neuroscience background in brain networks to this endeavor. The goal here is to give you a quick lesson in network science in order to demonstrate the value that Hearsay Social brings to companies who aim to optimize the balance between global and local social media communication.
Networks are everywhere. From social networks to search engines, we are all familiar with technology that takes advantage of very basic properties of complex systems. But Facebook or Google did not invent networks; any complex system can be modeled as a network where nodes are the elements of the system and edges represent the interactions between them.
For example, LinkedIn has a snazzy tool for visualizing your professional network. In my network you can see clusters that separate into people associated with schools I’ve attended, cities where I’ve lived, and the company where I currently work. This type of organization is probably quite intuitive to most of us, but what may be more surprising is that this clustering and pattern of connectivity is prevalent throughout both natural and man-made networks.
It’s a small world after all
Imagine that you are trying to tell a secret to every person at a noisy restaurant (that’s a normal thing to do, right?). You could tell one person, then they tell their neighbor, and so on, which would take a long time but would eventually get the job done. Alternatively, you could randomly select people in the room in hopes that they’ll disseminate the information, but it’s unlikely to reach everyone. A solution that lies between these two extremes is one that takes advantage of the layout of the restaurant: go from table to table telling small groups of people. In this way you can retain the integrity of the message while still reaching a large number of people.
Biological and man-made systems alike evolve to optimize the balance between having a constrained amount of physical space (not everything can be connected to everything) and a need for rapid communication. In network science, this balance is quantified in a much-studied network property called ‘small-worldness’. Small-world networks have many localized connections supporting clusters of related processing coupled with relatively few connections between these clusters. These networks can take many forms, from the metabolic structure of bacteria, to flight patterns across the globe; they all share the same underlying small-world property.

How is the brain like a social network?
Since my background is in neuroscience, I’m accustomed to finding structure in seemingly random networks of brain activity. Coming from this perspective, the complicated interactions amongst fans on a Facebook page or professional contacts in a LinkedIn network is strikingly similar to the way different parts of the brain communicate.
Similar to a large social network with clusters of friend groups, the brain is made up of many smaller regions specialized for processing certain types of information. For example, the occipital lobe (green cluster) selectively processes visual input from the outside world. There are many sub-regions of the occipital lobe that are even further specialized to process more complex aspects of visual stimuli (i.e. motion, color, etc). Once the information has been processed locally through highly connected clusters of nodes (or neurons), the output can be sent through relatively long-range connections to other regions of the brain. If there is a decision to be made (throw a baseball), the frontal cortex (yellow cluster) incorporates this with other pre-processed information it has obtained from other local clusters in the brain and sends the appropriate output signals to motor cortex.
How can we use this understanding to take advantage of social media?
Social media has emerged as a natural way to connect to consumers on a more personal level than mass email marketing or other bulk communication techniques. By having a local business page, you are more likely to engage in a meaningful way with fans of your page and provide content that is specific to the users. However, having a single Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. will only allow for communication with a subset of all potential customers. This is the tough problem that Hearsay Social aims to solve: how can a large organization possibly manage the huge number of local pages required to reach the largest number of potential customers?

Above is a network visualization of an organization that has a single corporate page, hundreds of local pages and thousands of recently engaged fans. The small black circles represent individual fans that have engaged with any of the Facebook pages in the organization and the larger colored circles represent each Facebook page, the larger the circle, the larger the fan base. Thus, the large green circle in the middle is the corporate page for this organization, which has the most fans. The edges in this graph represent any engagement between the fan and the Facebook page (i.e. commented or liked a post). Each cluster in the graph has a different color and represents small communities of fans on a particular local Facebook page. As you can see, the highly clustered pattern of connectivity enables the organization as a whole to disseminate information and respond on a personal level with a massive number of individuals.
A critical lesson from the brain and other complex networks that share a small-world architecture is that the most efficient way to transfer information is to structure the organization into smaller groups that have many individual connections but are connected sparsely to each other. Hearsay Social is a platform that epitomizes this organization. Namely, by enabling local branches to connect with potential customers while still remaining compliant with the corporate brand, Hearsay Social, much like the human brain, becomes a complex infrastructure supporting quick and efficient communication.
References:

  1. Guimera R, Amaral LA (2005). Functional cartography of complex metabolic networks. Nature. 433: 895-900.
  2. Wang et al (2010). Graph-based network analysis of resting-state functional MRI. Front Syst Neurosci. 4: 1-14.
  3. Newman & Girvan (2004). Finding and evaluating community structure in networks. Phys Rev. 69 (026113): 1-15.
  4. Vertes et al (2011). Topological isomorphisms of human brain and financial market networks. Front Syst Neurosci. 5 (75): 1-12.

What Google+ Local means for social marketers

In an effort to bring all social data under one roof, Google yesterday launched Google+ Local, a new tab that merges Google Places into the Google+ platform. We are thrilled to see our vision become a reality and feel that this presents a real opportunity for all of our customers promoting locations on Google+ Business Pages and through Google Places.

Consolidating the local experience on Google+ puts the user experience first, as it simplifies the process of finding information that may have previously been strewn across Google+, Google Maps, and Google Places. Integrating Places into Google+ ensures that the user can find trusted first- and third-party information about local businesses, in addition to highly relevant word of mouth recommendations from their circles. The result of this new social lens is not only heightened relevance, but it will also make these pages more engaging and shareable, ultimately driving more sales for local businesses.
In anticipation of Google+ Local, here’s how local businesses owners can get started:

  • claim your place page if you haven’t already
  • ask for recommendations from your customers
  • collect and post photos that tell a story and bring your brick and mortar business to life online

Integrating Places into Google+ Local puts the social experience of your location back into the hands of business owners, and fosters a true two-way relationship with customers and influential supporters.
As Google moves forward with this launch, Hearsay Social will continue offering the most robust platform for monitoring, publishing to, and tracking analytics for all social interactions across Google+, in addition to the other major social networks.
Feel free to ask any questions about Google+ Local in the comments.

What are you waiting for? Smart retailers already foster real relationships and make real money by going social-local

The Financial Times recently posted a story with the headline Retailers wait for Facebook to deliver. In the article, the authors (Barney Jopson, David Gelles, and April Dembosky) discuss the discouraging results seen by retail efforts on Facebook:

Even as US Christmas shoppers have spent record sums online this year, one of the biggest disappointments for some internet entrepreneurs has been a company that is otherwise hot property: Facebook.
Retail executives and consultants say Facebook has yet to take off as a retail platform, defying excited predictions that “social commerce” – jargon for shopping via social media sites – would be the next big thing.

While the article makes many good points about how social commerce, or “F-commerce” (“F” for “Facebook”), hasn’t yet lived up to the hype, there’s a concept missing: the value of social-local retailers.

Co-founders Clara Shih and Steve Garrity created Hearsay Social two years ago on the foundation that social media will best work for businesses at the local level. Retail marketers should use their global Facebook or Twitter page to build brand awareness and make themselves more personable to fans, but they won’t have a truly social business until their businesses engage social at the local store level.
It was Clara and Steve’s original vision when Hearsay Social launched and, today, more and more marketers are opening their eyes to the possibility of local. Just look at this selection from marketing experts ClickZ’s six predictions for social marketing in 2012:

4. There will be less content with a national focus and more localization. Studying data from clients that are corporate franchises with hundreds or thousands of local stores, we found that their social media efforts gained the most user interaction when they had a local focus.
Localized content – be it a geo-targeted Facebook ad, a region-specific contest, or even just a tweet highlighting a local news story – creates seven to 10 times higher levels of engagement than non-locally relevant content. We expect to see more brands target and personalize their social marketing content at the country, region, city, and designated market area (DMA) level to optimize user participation.

Many large companies have already realized the importance of maintaining a global corporate page on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular networks.
Once those companies start going local on social media, however, it will be like shaking hands with actual customers, not just splashing catchy billboards along the freeway. From a retailer’s perspective, going local means creating individual social profiles and pages on all the most prominent networks (from Facebook to Google+) for individual franchises in small towns and cities across the nation.
As corporate pages focus on bolstering brand, these local franchise pages can work toward doing real business, like driving in-store traffic with coupons and other rewards programs. The local pages will see higher engagement, as they can provide content hyper-targeted to customers in their region. And, as this is the basis of all good business, local page owners can actually foster real relationships with real people.
Real people spend real money, and that’s where you’ll see the biggest impact of ROI on social business.

Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih at ad:tech New York: "7 Habits of Highly Successful Social Marketers"

Welcome to the Facebook Era.

Today, over 800 million people actively log into Facebook to connect with their family, friends, and favorite brands. The statistics are similarly mind-blowing on the other big networks: there are over 200 million users on Twitter, 130 million on LinkedIn, 40 million on Google+, and 10 million on foursquare.
Quite simply, businesses can no longer ignore the social media explosion. And they know it: 73.5% of U.S. companies consider social media a top priority, according to Forrester Research. Companies are no longer simply theorizing about social media potential, however, as evidenced by Burston-Marsteller data that shows 65% and 54% of Fortune Global 100 companies to already have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, respectively.
For today’s Chief Marketing Officer, getting a grasp on social media can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. For my keynote today at ad:tech New York, I’m presenting on the “7 Habits of Highly Successful Social Marketers.” Because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get through all seven, I’ve published them here in full, complete with tips, tricks, and the Hearsay Social superhero:

  1. Establish home base
  2. Your job as CMO is to build your brand and engage your audience. Well, when Internet users spend over 22 billion minutes each day on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, it’s hard to engage anyone unless you’re actively participating in the social media space. You may not necessarily have to dedicate full-time resources to every single social networking site, but you do need to have branded corporate pages on the ones that matter most. A national coffee brand like Starbucks, for example, benefits immensely from having a place where customers can come find them and give feedback on their experiences. Not only that, but Facebook pages, Twitter pages, and the like are excellent places to link to and send ad traffic to. Establish your home base and users will find you on social.

  3. Claim your pages
  4. You’ve created your corporate brand page and you’re sending out messages, so you’re work is done, right? Wrong! Many brands will quickly discover that there already exist hundreds, sometimes thousands of rogue pages on social sites created long ago by either customers or employees. On Twitter, for example, an insurance company might find that their agents are already actively engaging with clients, with or without approval from management. On Facebook, a retail company has to deal with positive pages (“I love Coca-Cola!”) and negative pages (“Coca-Cola sucks!”) alike. Taking control of your brand on social media means claiming your name wherever it already exists.

  5. Get local to drive sales

  6. Once you’ve established your corporate presence on social media, it’s time to get local. Customer loyalty and acquisition is best accomplished at the local level, because that’s where the strongest relationships are built. And social networking is all about relationship building. For retail stores, this might mean exploring the power of check-ins by offering deals and promotions. For gyms and health clubs like 24 Hour Fitness, one of our key customers, generating leads and fueling traffic to local centers is essential to driving conversions.

  7. Integrate social media across marketing mix
  8. “Social by design.” That’s the latest mantra we’ve been hearing from COO Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook executives on how CMOs should approach the new world of marketing. Sandberg described a perfect example of “social by design” at the Association of National Advertisers convention last month: Huggies ran a campaign in Hong Kong where people could upload their baby photos to the brand’s Facebook page, and then the brand used the photos in ads on buses and subways. The campaign led to a 4.2% increase in market share and “by far the best quarter in Huggies’ Hong Kong history,” according to Sandberg.
    Personally, I like to think of social media as a spice. Like salt and pepper, social media must play an integral part in every dish you cook up, be it an email or print campaign or something else entirely. It’s not just another layer, it’s not a separate division, it is a pervasive spice that should flavor everything you do.

  9. Learn and live by the new metrics

    Just like we had to “invent” clickthrough rate and CPC a decade ago in the Google era, we have to come up with new metrics for the Facebook era. It’s meaningless to just measure engagement—number of likes, comments, posts, tweets—unless you can tie it all to the bottom line. We’re not just stumbling in the dark, though. Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, recently outlined four distinct, measurable social media metrics for CMOs to use: 

    • Conversion Rate = # of Audience Comments (or Replies) Per Post
    • Amplification = # of Shares Per Post
    • Applause Rate = # of Likes Per Post
    • Economic Value = Sum of Short and Long Term Revenue and Cost Savings
  10. Corral the chaos
  11. With all of the moving parts, people, and regulations, it’s critical that your organization can scale automation and do a lot with a little. Farmers Insurance, one of our most successful clients, managed accomplishments as outstanding as breaking the Guinness record for Most Likes on a Facebook Page in 24 Hours, and all with a social media team of one.
    Instead of assuming that you need a massive social media team, partner cross-functionally and engage multiple departments at your organization, from IT to legal to compliance to customer support and beyond.

  12. Prepare for the future
  13. The last (but certainly not least) important part of marketing in the Facebook era is realizing that the space is in a constant state of flux.
    For example, at Facebook’s f8 developer conference in September, the company announced Timeline, a major revamp to the look and feel of user profiles, and Open Graph actions, which gives users the ability to “read” books and “climb” mountains in addition to just “liking” pages. Then there’s the question of rising social networks like Google+, which just this week launched brand pages.
    CMOs must reserve some time to stay abreast of industry changes like the ones outlined above, and their campaigns and systems need to be fluid enough to adapt in real-time.

Marketing is changing, but that’s not a bad thing. It just means that you can no longer simply read a “how-to-market” manual and call it a day. Social media has shaken up the way things work, and the aftershocks are still rippling out. It’s an exciting time to be a CMO.

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!