By adaptive - February 29th, 2012

[T]he American Family Insurance history is a remarkable story that started with a single idea. A struggling insurance salesman named Herman Wittwer believed a company could make money selling auto ...

The American Family Insurance history is a remarkable story that started with a single idea. A struggling insurance salesman named Herman Wittwer believed a company could make money selling auto insurance to Wisconsin farmers. Armed with this customer knowledge, Herman confidently opened the doors of Farmers Mutual Automobile Insurance Company on Oct. 3, 1927. American Family Insurance offers auto, home, life and annuities, health, business and farm and ranch insurance. They have expanded geographically, too. Currently operating in 19 states spanning from Washington to Ohio.

Bill Simon, Digital Marketing DirectorBill has been with American Family for over 30 years. He started out of college as a property/casualty underwriter, worked 15 years in the IT division and joined Marketing in 1997 as their field automation director. In 2009 Bill became the digital marketing director. Bill has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in business administration with degrees in marketing and management.




Michele Wingate, Social Media Manager, American Family Insurance Michele has been with American Family Insurance for 5 years in advertising, strategic communications planning and social media. Previously, she worked in health care communications and marketing. She has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.A. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.





Can you outline how American Family Insurance currently uses social media?

We have nine platforms for social media that we are currently managing across our business. I would like to outline just three that includes: Agent Empowerment, Customer Outreach and Digital Prospecting. We are trying to establish a national network for our agents using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Our focus at the moment is Facebook. The goal for our company is to allow each of our agents to interact with their current and prospective customers via these social networks.

With Customer Outreach our goal is to engage with our customers on whatever social platform they happen to use. The idea here is to build advocacy within the communities we are active in. Digital Prospecting as its name suggests is used to drive sales of insurance products. We understand that the platforms we are using must have a careful balance. Our company understands that trust must be earned. Engagement is something that needs to be built over time. And advocacy will only be given if our company handles our customers well.

You use Facebook messaging to reach out to your customers. How is this managed and has it been effective for your brand awareness?

Our business is insurance, but we are also all about the proactive protection of families. What we do with the social media we use is to expand on the work and communications we had done in the past face-to-face. We don’t just focus on the products that we sell, but we also engage with our customers in their daily lives. So we’ll remind them to change the batteries in their smoke alarm, is their insurance cover up-to-date? Or do they have identity theft protection.

All these reminders allow us to interact with our customers outside of just sales messages. We are also very focused on the voice that is used when we contact a potential customer. We know that a warm and understanding communication speaks volumes about our company, and we have empowered our customer services representatives to a degree to respond in this way.

Does the social media you use allow the conversations you have with clients to continue past their purchase of an insurance product?

Yes, and this is a core component of the social media that we are engaged with. What we have found is that we can make an initial product sale, but then cross-sell other products so they do become true multi-line customers for our company. The social media that they use allows us to stay in front of them and make additional sales when the time is right.

Do you have any insight into how your use of social media has had a commercial impact on your business? Did your company do more cross selling after your business began to use the social media platforms?

We do know from some of our agents that their use of social media has produced sales in their agencies. It seems particularly impactfull for agents who have more than 1,000 “likes” for their page. This has been self-reporting, and one of our 2012 objectives is to determine how to measure the impact of social media on quoting and new business. We know we have about 200,000 Facebook fans across our corporate and agent pages, and we want to understand and monetize the value they have for our company.

Another goal this year is to identify the best practices of our successful agents and share these with all agents using social media.

Does your company have any formal tracking systems or metrics linked to the social media you use?

We do pay attention to the people that follow us, and also how our company compares to the rest of the industry. For instance, in January of this year we grew our Twitter followers more than any other insurance company. One of the reasons for that was the integration of Twitter into an advertising campaigns including our Go Get Your Dream Challenge and Jingle Dreams competition.

We also track sentiment to see how this changes over time and whether this is impacted by the campaigns we run. We use the HootSuite platform for our tracking and publish reports quarterly from the data we have coming in on a daily basis. We also know where our followers come from whether this is Facebook or elsewhere. What we would say is that our company is regional and therefore, our voice overall isn’t as loud as our competitors. However, we have a much higher positive sentiment ratio when compared to other companies including those that have a national reach.

And of course our objective is to grow that share of voice via more social media followers. What we also make sure we do is amplify any positive comments we receive. These are sent out to our agents that place them on their Facebook pages, Tweet about them, but all after a thank you to the client that took the time to send us that positive comment.

What I think is also very important to stress is that we also look closely at our negative posts. As of this past January we have an area in our company that tracks real time any negative comments we receive across all the digital properties we have a presence on. We then reach out to these people using the same network they used and make contact with them to help resolve their problem.

Of the negative comments we get and respond to, about 10-15% of those people come back to us after we have made an initial contact about their issue. We have a customer experience resolution team that then deal with the issue at hand. And of those people we enter into a conversation with, around 33% will go back to their social network and make a positive comment.

With so much exposure across the social space, how does your company ensure that your message is consistent?

We are actually in a transitional period at the moment. We have partnered with Shoutlet, which helps us manage all of our agent pages. This method allows us to ensure that the material that our agents are placing on their Facebook pages is pre-approved. At the moment we have around 2,500 Facebook agent pages.

However, many of these agents with Facebook pages are not active – or at least not as active as we would like them to be. So we are looking again at how we manage Facebook pages and giving agents administrator rights. This gives the agents more flexibility to post more personalized content and more flexibility to respond to comments.. This we hope will foster more personal communications with their clients. This kind of empowerment we are hoping will allow our agents to better engage with their existing and potential customers. We are also testing a new ratings tab on our agent’s Facebook pages where customers can rate not our products, but the agents performance.

Your company has also recently been using gamification as a promotional platform. Can you outline the drivers for using this type of customer engagement?

Last December we launched a mobile version of our game iAMFAM. We are gathering our first round of metrics on this, but initially we are very excited as we could see 48 quote starts that we tracked from the game directly back to our corporate website. So we can see a clear connection between people playing the game and starting a quote with us, which we think is a huge step forward. So we are looking into the experience that these 48 people had and are looking to amplify these numbers ten fold.

iAMFAM Game Homepage

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