I was recently asked, “How does social media really impact the insurance and re-insurance industry? While a lot of money has been spent, is it providing any benefits? Do we understand how it could provide benefits?” Here’s the answer I gave.
I see Social Media currently being used in the insurance industry in a wide variety of ways. Certainly, marketing and brand building by posting content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. are major uses. Carriers who focus on personal lines are using it to build their brand directly with consumers. Carriers who focus on commercial lines are focusing on industry sectors, not necessarily through public tools like Facebook, but more often through their own private forums.
Carriers who work with independent agents are often providing training, tools, and content to help the agents improve their own social capabilities. This is often provided as a benefit for their preferred sectors.
Carriers also put a lot of work into using social media to manage their reputations: watching for positive or negative mentions of their name in order to intervene.
Beyond brand building, though, carriers are also using social in Human Resources: posting jobs, targeting candidates, and for background searches.
Carriers are using social for claims; a lot of work in the fraud area is happening here. Generally, they are using it to determine the circumstances of the claim: what really happened. Was it vandalism? Or did the homeowners teenagers have a party? They use social to identify behaviors after the claim that may be contraindicated by the specific injury: you said you hurt your back, but you posted photos of yourself doing the limbo at a party. And they’re using it to find unreported sources of income when it comes to WC. Each line of business has specific areas that social can be used for fraud identification.
Social media is also being used for distribution management, both targeting and communicating with agents, but also on the sales side of targeting and communicating with specific accounts (think LinkedIn).
While there’s a lot of talk about using social media for underwriting, we’re definitely in the early stages of that. Most carriers who are doing this are doing it on a one off basis, and generally finding exposures or behaviors that they were unaware of, such as the commercial account who has added an exposure when no class code was included on the policy, the life customer who is engaging in risky behaviors, or the photos of the homeowner’s dog that show that it’s a particular breed.
Over time, I believe we’ll see a lot more work in using the content for underwriting trending and analysis, such as analyzing twitter feeds to monitor disease progressions or catastrophes.
In addition to looking at social media externally, a lot of carriers are using social media techniques inside the organization to drive improved collaboration, and are seeing significant benefits from that including improved decisions, faster decisions, and improved employee satisfaction.