Social media: state of play

Three years ago OAMPS Insurance Brokers had less than 100 followers of its LinkedIn page, but today it has over 3000.

Two-thirds of those followers are senior managers in the insurance field, a fact that offers many significant benefits. OAMPS is now able to establish itself as a thought leader in the industry, for instance, by publishing stories, links and other relevant pieces of content. It can inform the industry of why it is a business that people would want to work with. The LinkedIn page has contributed to reduced recruitment costs – in three years the company’s recruitment advertising costs have fallen by more than 66%.

“We do use LinkedIn proactively for recruitment,” says Melissa Montang, National Communications Manager at OAMPS Insurance Brokers, “but you can’t just fill your page with job ads. You have to share information that is beneficial to your audience. You have to think carefully about the information you’re sharing and how often you share it. You have to know your audience and know what it is they want to read.”

In three years the company’s recruitment advertising costs have fallen by more than 66%.

LinkedIn isn’t the only social media platform OAMPS uses in its day-to-day operations. Employees utilise Yammer, a private, company-level social network being used in over 200,000 organisations worldwide to keep their team members connected. “It’s a great collaborative tool,” Montang says. “We have 26 locations across Australia so Yammer offers a way for people to get to know each other, to see the work being done elsewhere, to have conversations with those in leadership roles and to share success stories.”

“We also use Facebook not only to promote the work we do with Make-A-Wish Australia, but in local offices our people use it to connect with other businesses. In Dubbo, for instance, our people ‘liked’ other local businesses via Facebook and that immediately led to enquiries from several of those businesses.”

The Queensland floods were a powerful lesson for OAMPS in the use of social media. At the time the business had not dedicated many resources to Facebook, but the social network allowed the business to stay in touch with their clients in affected areas. Montang says this experience taught the business about how people are expecting to be communicated with, and about the places they go to seek information. It made OAMPS realise they could do a better job with social media.

Find your place

Evan Jackson, Managing Director of Guardian Insurance Brokers in Adelaide, has also taken the time to think about and experiment with various forms of social media. LinkedIn, he says, is the one and only social network into which his business puts its time and energy.

“LinkedIn targets our audience because it is all about business people and professionals,” he explains. “Facebook is more about social interaction, not commercial interaction, and that is not where we need to be.”

No matter which platform you choose, you need a reason to be there and a strategy to back up that reason.

No matter which platform you choose, you need a reason to be there and a strategy to back up that specific reason, Jackson says. Whether the purpose is to assist with the attraction of new business, to help in the recruitment process, to promote the idea of thought leadership or to keep clients informed, each reason requires a plan.

“People think LinkedIn is a great source of business, that you just sign up and new business will come your way,” Jackson says. “But really that means it’s no different to the Yellow Pages. If you use it well, however, it allows you to build personal brand, to create and promote blogs, to make statements and to achieve true, two-way communication.”

“You need to differentiate yourself from the market and social media is a good way to do it. If hundreds or thousands of people link to me on LinkedIn then as long as I’m providing them with content that they find useful, it means I stand out.”

Prove your worth

Of course, the networked aspect of social media also means any mistakes you make in the arena are communicated to a broader audience, hence the importance of strategy and structure.

“You need to say what you believe but you can do this without being controversial or divisive,” Jackson says. “Keep your mind on offering quality information that will add value to the everyday lives of professionals and their businesses. Think about keeping your audience informed and educated. Social media is an opportunity to differentiate yourself and your business in a meaningful way but most of all, it’s a way to show intelligence.”

Social media hits and misses

HIT: In mid-2013 charity brand Thankyou, which was set up to donate funds from sales of its water, body care and food products to developing nations, launched a social media campaign to convince supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths to stock its products. Coles agreed within hours of the campaign’s kick-off. It involved the brand’s own Facebook and YouTube pages as well as fans being encouraged to leave messages on the Facebook walls of the supermarkets. Thankyou proved that social media can be used as a powerful B2B tool.

MISS: After Beyonce’s half-time performance at this year’s Super Bowl, Buzzfeed (which detects and publishes viral web content) published a series of images of the pop star on stage. Beyonce’s publicity team didn’t like the images, so sent an email asking for them to be taken down. Buzzfeed refused, published the email and suddenly the photos became global news. It’s a powerful lesson for brands that social media is a two-way street – it’s not something under your complete control.

HIT: In the 24-hour period after flash-flooding hit Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley in Queensland, the Queensland Police Service [QPS] Facebook page ‘likes’ jumped from 17,000 to 100,000. A week later that figure surpassed 160,000. The QPS turned social media – mainly Facebook and Twitter – into a vital source of information for residents and rescue teams. Most importantly, the social media team was trusted to use their judgement and release helpful information immediately, without awaiting clearance.

MISS: Just a few hours after the mass shooting outside a theatre in Aurora, Colorado that killed 12 people and injured 70 more, American Rifleman (an official publication of the National Rifle Association) released a message on Twitter saying “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” Scheduled social media messages can be dangerous as they do not take into account what is happening at the time, so avoid them.

HIT: TV series Breaking Bad broke viewing records on screen but was just as big a hit online. Its producers proved their understanding of viral media by hosting live web feeds for fans, live tweeting by cast members, quizzes and a ‘second-screen experience’, or an online way to enrich each episode. The producers’ understanding of the inside knowledge their fans sought was a secret to their success.

MISS: As if its massive loss of customers in recent years wasn’t bad enough for Vodafone Australia, in mid 2012 a staffer who described himself as the company’s ‘social media expert’ went on Twitter to ridicule the company’s mobile phone suppliers, brands, his fellow staff and customers. On Facebook he went on to threaten customers with a ‘pimp slap backhand’. Clear and properly policed social media usage policies and permissions are vital to prevent public damage caused by wayward staff members.