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Management Strategies

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New York Life Boosts Social Savvy

The adoption of new technologies addresses challenges in customer engagement and business growth.

As more customers demand faster and more personalized transactions, more insurers are looking to improve their social media capabilities and engage consumers in conversation online. Strengthening the policyholder relationship is an ongoing priority for New York Life (NYL), which is broadening its use of social channels.

"Our challenge is always, through every channel we can leverage, to engage consumers in conversation," Liz McCarthy, senior vice president of agency communications at NYL, tells us. "We have found social media as a new and effective way to engage customers in a conversation about what matters in their lives."

Life insurance is not usually top of mind for policyholders, McCarthy says, so NYL began to engage with them through social media about three or four years ago. It began with a corporate presence on Facebook, which it found to be the natural place for consumer engagement. NYL has since created accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn, which the insurer uses to recruit potential agents and employees.

After developing its corporate social presence, the insurer began to roll out social capabilities to its agents -- a more difficult process. As NYL began to understand the power of social media, it realized that it didn't want to change what its agents had been doing for years: engaging with customers, creating relationships, and building communities. It simply wanted to move those activities to the digital world.

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However, compliance issues proved to be a major hurdle. "Regulatory has always been a big challenge," McCarthy says. The social media world "was the one place where regulators were struggling to understand what their responsibilities were."

When NYL first set out to enable its agents in social media, it found that very few vendors offered solutions. It was accustomed to partnering with large companies, but it settled for working with a small vendor that offered compliance and monitoring capabilities. A year and a half ago, it switched to Hearsay Social, which it had initially overlooked because the vendor lacked compliance capabilities.

"Without a compliance solution, it was kind of a nonstarter for us," McCarthy says. When Hearsay first came to market, it primarily focused on conversations and social listening. However, in recent years, it has built a compliance monitoring tool that suits NYL's needs, and it is continuing to broaden its offerings.

The adoption of Hearsay was unnatural for those agents who are not typically active on social platforms, she says, but the majority understood its power and potential. "Helping them incorporate it into processes has been the biggest challenge."

NYL's agent base is currently in various stages of adopting Hearsay. Some agents have embraced a passive strategy and post infrequently; for others, it is a core necessity for client communication and determining where life insurance may be needed. Facebook is a popular outlet for monitoring customers' life events, while LinkedIn helps agents learn about job changes and retirement. Twitter is comparatively less important but still used among the agents.

The insurer has rolled out the platform to more than 4,200 users, including agents, field managers, and recruiters. It aims to have 5,000 active on Hearsay by the end of 2014. It plans to continue increasing its focus on engagement through 2015.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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