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Can providers ever get social media right?

As part of our ’New Thinking’ support for advisers, I’ve recently been involved in promoting the benefits of using digital and social media to advisers. Clearly if you’re reading this on the Adviser Lounge, then you’re already some way along the social media curve, and many of you are probably ahead of where most providers are, so I’ll refrain from giving you tips! Instead, I’d like to share a provider’s perspective on the rise of social media and how we’ve approached the various opportunities and challenges that come with it.

Top of the list of considerations is that, as a provider with a strong and established brand, if we get things wrong we have a lot to lose. We’ve been very careful to think through our plans with this top of mind. We’re also conscious though that doing nothing means achieving nothing. Social channels are now just a normal way in which people engage with brands and each other, and as our customers increasingly turn to social media, doing nothing is not an option.

Second, as a global business, applying a consistent approach to social media has been very difficult, but it’s vital in maintaining our brand identity online. Our business spans a wide range of products and audiences, many of which are very complex. Talking to customers in their own language, being consistent, and keeping it simple continue to be challenging, and few large providers have really got to grips with this.

So far, we’ve probably experienced our greatest success in using social media in managing service issues (predominantly via Twitter). For example, in May we responded directly to 454 customer posts on social media, with 22% of these resulting in the customer advocating Aviva in their response.

In terms of support for advisers, we’re increasingly using social channels to enhance our adviser relationships, listen and engage in industry debate and to keep in touch with adviser issues. One example of this was in October last year, when we used Linkedin to share insights and encourage debate around pension auto-enrolment. We’ve just launched a specific adviser feed on Twitter – @aviva4advisers – a new communication channel that we will be using increasingly going forwards. We’ve also been using social tools to listen to what advisers want and to feed this into proposition development.

To summarise, here’s some provider learning points:

 Social media is not just a marketing tool. We are using it right across our business; from research to customer service and even for internal communications.  We’ve accepted that not all comments will be favourable and we need to view objective feedback as an opportunity. Complaints are very visible in social channels, but if you respond in a timely manner and in the right way, you can quickly turn a negative into a positive.  Whilst maintaining your corporate identity is important, you still need to be human. We’re in a people business and you need to consider your tone of voice in social media to ensure that your content is engaging, whilst ensuring we don’t become too informal!  Quality is usually better than quantity. Do less, but get it right.

Whilst social media can be challenging for providers to use, I believe it has an increasingly important role to play. I’d love to hear your views on this – where you feel providers are doing good things with social media, or suggestions on things we could all be doing better.

When it comes to using social media, we know that as a business, we still have a long way to go. We’re still learning, but it’s an exciting medium to work with and it offers some great opportunities.

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