I read an interesting article in the newspaper this week about Flo.  You know… Flo the annoyingly charming spokesperson for Progressive Insurance.  You love her and hate her all at the same time, but you can’t see, to escape from her.  It seems like she is all over television and I honestly do not watch very much, yet I have seen her enough to have recently switched to Progressive.  I went online and looked at what they offered, checked out some reviews from their customers and everything seemed to say that they were a great company.  Now in my role as The Social Media Badass at the social media agency The Big Fat Mouth, I know better than most that much of the online sentiment can be manipulated, but I still went out there to check it out.  When I read the positive reviews, I thought that at least some of them must be real so I jumped on board.  On an unrelated note, I am actually really happy with everything about Progressive.  They are a great company to deal with, an no they are not a client.   But I digress…

Over the past few years, the insurance companies have spent billions of dollars advertising on television, and in fact, last year the number was more than $5 billion.  That is incredible when you think about it since we all associate these insurance companies with characters and not brand values.  Of course, the characters are supposed to embody the brand values, but the truth is that the insurance companies just want you to remember the characters because they know you will go online and learn more.  Huh…interesting…they know you will go online to learn more.  Where do people go to find these characters?  Well to social media sites of course.  The insurance companies have become masters of social media marketing.  Flo from progressive has close to 3.5 million fans on her Facebook page and hundreds of millions of views on her You Tube Channel.  The Geico Gecko is in a distant second place with about 215,000 fans on Facebook, but he does have his very own Facebook app that 30,000 people are using every month.  eSurance, who has recently started a heavy television campaign actually directs people to their Facebook page and tells people to forget about the characters and read what real customers are saying.  They actually show a Facebook post in the commercial where somebody says “eSurance, you guys Roooooooock”…or something to that effect.

The bottom line is that these insurance companies who are spending billions of dollars on television advertising, are using social media as their main lead generation tool by allowing the customers to go out and explore what they are all about.  Let’s face it, car insurance is a super boring topic but it is something we all have to buy.  These companies have figured out that they can’t get it all into 30 seconds or 60 seconds or any type of print ad.  They did realize that if they supply the information in the places where people are actually communicating, then we will find it and interact with it in ways that make sense to us.  We might even begin to actually like their insurance company as is evidenced by the chart below which shows how many followers these companies actually have on social media channels.  Oh yeah.. and this does not include the mobile apps or Facebook apps that many of them also seem to have.

So after looking at those shocking numbers, what can we learn from the insurance industry’s use of social media marekting?  Here are my thoughts:

1.  Television is truly being relegated to a branding tool

Television is for branding and that is evidenced by so many commercials that drive viewers to social media sites for actual engagement.


2.  It is likely no coincidence that Progressive is the number one car insurance company. 

It seems like they actually understand their customers and engage with them.  You need to take the time to understand your customers and give them what they want in social media.


3.  We have become a society of researchers

We go online to find out about brands and products before we buy.  A strong online experience translates to stronger sales.  Social media is the single most important marketing tool today when it comes to brand building.


4.  People prefer to engage with brands through Facebook rather than Twitter

This can be clearly seen by looking at the numbers above.    Sure your brands rocks on Twitter, but those interactions are short and fleeting.  Facebook is the best social media tool for building a relationship between brand and consumer.


5.  If you actually take the time to put content on You Tube, people will watch it. 

All of you must know that You Tube is the number 2 search engine.  After they Google you they You Tube you!  Make sure that you are on You Tube and using it correctly.  Build it and they will come.

6.  Social media is a great place to generate leads for your business if you truly understand your customer

All of the companies above have a place for people to get quotes on Facebook.  There must be something to that!  Think of what your customers would want to do on your social media sites and then go out and spend the time and money and give it to them.  You will surely reap the rewards.

7.  Even the most mundane of topics can be made interesting with a little effort and creativity 

I don’t care how boring you think your product is.  If you have customers who buy your products, obviously someone is interested in it.  Take the time to come up with creative ways to let people interact with your brand.


8.  People love Flo so much that she was one of the most popular Halloween Costumes in 2011

What more can I say here?  Brand icon makes good!


9.  Insurance companies are notoriously conservative, yet they have embraced social media with a passion and purpose

I don’t care how conservative you think your brand is, there is a place for you on social media and the longer you wait, the further behind you fall.  Even the Pope is on social media to help spread the word about Lent!


10.  Social media is here to stay as more companies start to realize how to generate revenue through it

Take the time to do the work and figure out how your brand can make money utilizing social media either directly or indirectly.  The insurance companies have.  They all have a place to get a quote or find a broker.  Money, money, money.


Those are my thoughts on what we can all learn from the insurance companies and social media marketing.  Let me know what you think.  Did I miss something?  Am I just crazy?  Chime in and share your thoughts.


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