Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Take Time For Twitter

There's been an interesting shift in the social media dynamic lately; one that affects both the insurance industry and insureds alike. It's the explosion of Twitter.

Twitter can be described as sending text messages, short ones at that (the maximum number of characters allowed in a single message is 140), to your friends. And people who follow you. In some cases, lots of people. As in tens or hundreds of thousands. Obviously not every single one personally interacts with each other, but the potential to instantly reach large numbers of people is available to anyone who plunges into the Twitterstream.

The trick for businesses who wish to use Twitter as a communication tool is the need to soft-pedal the normal advertising approach. Few things turn off potential readers faster than coming on hot and heavy with the sales pitch. A far better approach is to humanize your business along with a gentle approach to getting the word out.

Unless you happen to be a super-celebrity, building an audience on Twitter takes both time and commitment to maintaining a consistent, constant presence. There are no overnight success stories. You have to establish a brand, and you have to build trust.

Two methods for generating good will should be standard operational procedure for anyone wishing to use Twitter. First, actively engage people. This doesn't mean jumping into every conversation. However, there is no "ask to be invited before contributing" protocol involved with Twitter. Not only is it acceptable to jump in, it's the only way you'll ever get noticed. Second, be generous with the "retweets," this being repeating someone else's tweet with their user name at the front so they'll get the credit for originating things.

Taking this to the insurance level, establishing and maintaining communication with customers after the sale is vital in this competitive, economically challenging environment. What better way than through instant messaging? We live in an increasingly impatient society, one where people want their information now. Why not assemble a list of your customer's Twitter IDs and set up a group so you can get news to them affecting their policies swiftly? And before the competition?

It used to be that being called a twit was an insult. Now, being a twitterer is almost mandatory. Take advantage of this tool. You won't regret it.

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