Many people see the current rage of social networking as a fun and easy way to waste time. From checking in and earning badges on Foursquare to updating your status on Facebook to sending out links to great news articles on Twitter, every spare moment of your day could be filled with social networking tasks that may not be targeted enough to really help your agency's bottom line.
But there is one social network that was developed for professionals that can actually be used and result in some quick and easy new clients. That network is called LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a networking tool that was developed for, and by, business professionals. It was meant to be a place where like-minded professionals could talk shop, exchange ideas and maybe even head hunt. LinkedIn does not have any games or quiz applications (Oh c'mon, do you really need to know what movie vampire you are most like?) but has a place for you to post about your professional experience and former company relationships. While it was meant to focus on networking for professionals within a particular industry, LinkedIn has evolved to become a fantastic place for insurance agents to raise visibility, gain trust and find clients.
Raising Visibility with LinkedIn
When you create your publicly viewable profile on LinkedIn, you can create a resume that shows off your experience in the insurance industry. You can highlight any additional training and credentials you have, and you can show how long you have been involved in the industry.
Once you have completed your profile, you can join a wide range of LinkedIn groups. Groups range in focus from professional networks and associations to individuals who like certain companies and computer applications. Each of these groups contains other LinkedIn users and, if you target your groups well enough, potential clients. For instance, let's say your target prospect is pilots. On LinkedIn, you can join a group dedicated to pilots, which will be filled with your target clients. Once you are a member of the group, you can become active in the many conversations that take place within and become much more visible to your target prospect.
Gaining Trust on LinkedIn
Once you are a member of a group on LinkedIn you have the ability to post new discussions initiating engaging conversation, take part in existing discussions that were started by other members, and to post articles. During any of these activities, when appropriate, you can talk about insurance while making the topic meaningful and directed to the people in the group (your target prospects). This shows everyone involved in the conversation and those watching it from afar, how knowledgeable you are in the subject matter. This will demonstrate you understand their specialized needs and not only can you meet them-but you have a history of doing so with other clients.
Another great aspect to the LinkedIn system when it comes to creating trust is the recommendation system. Once your LinkedIn profile is created you can add connections; this works almost like the followers on Facebook, but your LinkedIn connections must be people that you have done business with, share a group with, or are somehow connected to professionally. As you connect with current and former clients on LinkedIn, you can ask them to recommend you through LinkedIn's recommendation system. Because their system requires that all recommendations come from another user's account, it lends credibility to the recommendation and can encourage new clients to use you rather than another agent with no such verifiably legitimate recommendations.
Finding Clients on LinkedIn
As we discussed above, you can find clients while going through groups on LinkedIn. You can also find clients by making connections with random individuals that are within the demographic you target. Since those individuals will be connected to others in the same target demographic, connecting with them and fulfilling their insurance needs will prompt both recommendations and new connections within the same demographic, giving your sales a snowball effect that you might not experience without this type of networking system.
And it isn't just individuals that you can find as clients on LinkedIn. You can also connect with companies through the site. You can determine who the benefits administrators are for companies you would like to target and you can even approach them on the system. Doing so also makes them more receptive to reviewing your bio and recommendations than a cold call might.
If you only focus on one social networking platform in 2011, LinkedIn would be one of the top networks to consider. Its ability to give you access to an easily targeted group along with its professional respectability could help make a substantial difference in the success of your 2011 marketing plans.
About the Author
AnMarie Bozick, CIC, manages ITC’s rating products, including TurboRater and TurboRater for Websites. She has more than 20 years of property and casualty insurance experience, including owning her own agency and serving as president of the Alliance of Insurance Agents of Texas. She joined ITC in 2008.More Content by AnMarie Bozick, CIC