Episode 33: Serious Social – Social secrets from the insurance industry

Episode 33: Serious Social – Social secrets from the insurance industry


Ep 33: Serious Social – Social secrets from the insurance industry

In this episode of serious social, Katy Howell is joined by Ian MacArthur from Sagittarius agency to talk search and social and what insurance brands can teach us. Tune in for insight from our latest research report and learn from what’s happening in the insurance industry today.

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Full Transcript

Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.


Katy – Welcome to Serious Social Live.

It’s easy to get focused on your own brand and market when it comes to social and search. After all, with endless changing algorithms, you need to be paying attention. But every now and then it’s good to look up and see what’s happening in other industries. Often you spot opportunities, you can develop or more importantly, you can learn to look at your own marketing through a really different lens. We’ve picked the insurance industry today, and I am joined by the wonderful, let me add him Ian MacArthur. Hi!


Ian – Hi how are you doing?


Katy – Good. Ian and I put together a report, Ian is from Sagittarius Agency, and we co-wrote our latest report looking at what the data tells us about consumer behaviour as well as how the big 10 insurance companies compare.

The reason we chose the insurance market is because it’s a challenging category, it’s hyper-competitive with large established brands, comparison sites and a plethora of new disruptive challenges. More importantly, it’s an industry under more customer scrutiny than most where cost can be a single trigger for purchase and where the last few months have seen massive changes in audience behaviour.

So let’s start with these behavioural changes because what’s clear on social is that we’re not really talking about the typical trending topics. The things that we’ve gotten used to following and creating content for, for instance, whilst 14% of conversations mentioned COVID and insurance, the rest actually focused more specifically on pandemic issues such as changes to travel plans and an interest in health insurance. In fact, these are more akin to surges a snowballing of behavioural change triggered not just by social media content, but by government announcements and a desire for more ethical or sustainable businesses and personal circumstances like finance, which are really important at the moment. Ian it isn’t just a change in pattern for social though, is it?


Ian – Now I think we’ve seen similar patterns in search too. And I think to a degree that’s in line with expectation but the channels get used very differently. So I think although they kind of come together and combine in terms of being a major source, when it comes to checking facts or courting opinion, in most cases, if you look at search what you see is what I call the selfish gene. And that plays, that plays out immediately after things like press conferences and breaking news. So although real feelings are displayed in social potentially immediate action plays out in search. And most people kind of translate what they’re hearing to how it affects them directly. And therefore, if it comes to things like, I don’t know legal clarification, definition of certain phrases, then you can see search spike. Whereas if there’s no immediate effect for them as individuals and perhaps it’s something more like a societal issue for instance, then you see a slower research phase and then social absolutely is the core influence, search kind of pales into the background. And then perhaps when search behaviour does come in, it’s not traditional kind of Google style stuff. It’s search that jumps directly into a content channel where people are perhaps looking directly in YouTube and finding out information in that way. Yeah so, it’s interesting times I think


Katy – And it feels similar for both channels then doesn’t it in that although they’re sometimes in and out of sync with each other, there is impact which we know search and social are bedfellows, but it does feel like there are bigger forces at play.

We use a lot of Brandwatch data and according to their consumer insights tool almost 47% of consumers want to see diversity in leadership and management, 29% want companies to show support for causes in their social media and 45% want to see businesses supporting local and national community initiatives. So it just isn’t enough to talk the talk you have to kind of do. And that seems really significant right now.

So before I kind of get onto the rest of the kind of behavioural stuff, there’s one aspect of insurance that is not necessarily unique but it’s a hard fact and let’s not ignore the fact that insurance like many products is price sensitive. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It comes as no surprise then that, things like Brandwatch Curiously data shows that a third of the UK now intend to spend less on insurance. How does price impact search?


Ian – Yeah well, I think it’s interesting the way that you frame that because I think what people are looking for potentially is value and we’ve perhaps read that as price perhaps. So whereas price used to be a shortcut and obviously that’s the basis for all comparison sites obviously features and benefits play a part in that race but the model relies on two things really, it relies on that you have a limited understanding or appreciation of the deeper value and you have a limited time to investigate and negotiate. That’s how that whole piece work.

So although people are kind of experiencing the pandemic in different ways and that might be kind of the limbo of furlough, desperation of redundancy, or even kind of a simple new life working from home, what you see as a common thread, where everybody has more time and that’s time to consider an insurance company’s offer and what it means to them in the context of a reducing need to use their car for instance, or time to consider their own mortality. And ultimately trying to work out what fits best with them as people and what fits their pockets. So that’s where the price bit kind of comes in. And what we see is that that translates into a lot of search activity around reputation, educational content, and all of that then supports the price point but price is no longer in isolation again. So that’s kind of very interesting and connects directly to the research I think.


Katy – Yeah, do you know what I’d forgotten of course, I’m thinking when people have more time they spend more time on social, but of course they spend more time on search and researching. It’s just me and by my lens, just looking through my lens. So certain social are not always into collecting. I talk about it was big bedfellows but they are not always really interconnected with each other. And actually we see a sign of this which is useful for us as marketeers to remind ourselves that we need to double check our data sometimes. So we saw in search this spike during lockdown of healthcare mentions so healthcare insurance and life insurance spiked up with mentions increasing 51% in July. Just to give you an idea that when I say spike I mean spike, but it wasn’t the case in search.


Ian – No absolutely, and the results were quite different. And I think what again, they can kind of connect it to human behaviour obviously. So you get a sense of urgency level around a particular subject.

So for health insurance we suspect that people would like to get a sense of other people’s experiences and piggyback on that deeper research done by others. And therefore it’s a huge conversation piece. And we know that that can play out in social. What also is true is that you gain kind of more insight from asking on social instead of diving into search. If you think about what that might feel like from a personal experience it doesn’t take much thinking for me to think. I definitely would want to talk about that on social before I kind of dive into search.

So I think search is useful if you want to kind of shortlist leading brands. And I think therefore search is quite powerful. So therefore the brand piece comes to its fore, but I think the moment you ask about quality and almost like, so who are the best companies then you see search kind of plummet to a 20th of the size. And because that’s really because that question is definitely being asked on social and not in search. And that’s where the two channels kind of part and the data, it looks very, very favourable for social, search kind of piled into insignificance really.


Katy – So is it an indicator or is it just a divergence?


Ian – Yeah, yeah, yeah that’s good, it’s one of those things where if you mapped out almost a human journey and the emotional curve that people go through when they’re considering different things including insurance you can sort of map against that when they would revert to particular channels, obviously search and social are easily the two most powerful but sometimes those two absolutely track alongside each other. And sometimes they split because you get an order of priority.


Katy- Yeah


Ian – So it’s probably both of those things and that’s a rubbish answer.


Katy – That’s fine. I want to talk about emotional, because we’re used to as you say value and it feels sometimes that insurance is actually quite transactional in its approach but actually it can be quite emotional been very emotional in the last few months, we’ve seen a real rollercoaster of rants that include anger and sadness, for instance of not being able to travel, even though that’s got nothing to do with insurance companies it’s kind of impacting the conversations, but they’re dying down now who knows with Tier three and two coming along, whether or not they’ll pick up again.

But in reality that there isn’t quite so much but what’s been really, really weird. And maybe this accounts and I’ve just thought this now, maybe this accounts for the fact that people are spending more time doing research is an expression of joy, joy with insurance. I just, it was slightly unexpected. Yeah, maybe not me. Maybe just Katy is the one that isn’t joyful about her insurance.


Ian – To your point, I think that good news travels fast. So we know that only 4% of unhappy customers will actually tell a brand that they’re unhappy via reviews and social feedback. A lot of people don’t think about that, but 90% of people if they hate the experience, they just won’t tell you just won’t retain them as a customer, they’re never coming back and that’s quite difficult to kind of analyse.

So if you say how small the number of people is actually complaint and what we see with the good news thing is that actually wise decisions can kind of be framed as part of a kind of a narcissistic urge. So actually if I make a really good decision when I engage with the brand perhaps I want to talk about it, perhaps it makes me look good. And it’s very similar to the kind of fake news phenomenon in the sense that positive stories travel something like six times further, weirdly. I’m not sure if people just like good news I suppose, and often great CX plays a key part in that and can make all of the difference. So audiences are far more likely to shout about good deals, quick claims and extra benefits that come along with it with an insurance purchase if actually you’ve kind of harnessed that momentum. And you’ve ensured that the overall experience encourages them to kind of become ambassadors and rewards them for that. And if a brand can find creative ways to support and amplify that, then that good news turns into a really positive brand halo. So I love the idea that people are joyous about insurance.


Katy – Yeah.


Ian – Makes me happy


Katy – And also it is as you said it’s the advocacy and brands really need to start to look at this because it is a trend we’re seeing right now the pandemic has accelerated a lot of unusual behaviours, but also a need to be quite positive. And the power of recommendation is growing exponentially. We took a look at insurance brands on social to see how the big insurance brands.

We looked at the top 10 and said how are they being talked about, what are they being discussing, and in particular how much are they being talked about, what their social mentions are, what you’d call share a voice just as a temperature check. So I would not advocate this as a mass way of measuring your branding and your activity on social, but it’s a really good temperature check. What was really interesting is the big A’s all kind of had it with Admiral, Aviva and AXA, absolutely knocking pretty much everybody else out of the park. What was super interesting Admiral who does extraordinarily well on social really steps in front again we share a positive sentiment, in the last month 61% of posts were identified as being positive. None of the other brands achieve such monumental advocacy.


Ian – I think it goes beyond the advocacy. And I think you see that reflected in their kind of digital footprint and their customer experience. So the four A’s are the big A’s they take the time to identify pain points and pinch points as part of their conversion rate optimisation. And it helps them build better journey ultimately and that kind of smooth frictionless flow is perfect fuel for social. So it takes the pressure off marketing to be simpler perhaps more honest, more memorable. And then that combination gives room for more innovation. And that’s interesting as well then that attracts PR and then that’s more likely to spin out into social and the circle continues. So that’s why they perform so well. And I kind of tip my hat or whatever they say for them because they’ve got it really sorted and other brands could easily look to that. You could ignore them cause they’re so big and just think well, they’ve got different budgets and different customers and things are different for them, but actually I think there’s loads to learn.


Katy – Yeah, there is, they did some very clever fast moving things right at beginning. And it’s one of the things is that it’s very clear the top brands aligned with very clear messaging. They push their kind of fairness in pricing and behave with a kind of pay it forward attitude. Admiral helped key workers when the insurance claims are made for instance or offered refunds on car insurance during lockdown. I mean, it was just really smart quick moves and don’t get me wrong. I know it costs but in terms of the value back and the loyalty that you see on social. It would be really interesting to have them and have a chat to them about how that translates into repeat or renewals. So emotional content like this will make you more memorable or more likely to shared. It will be relatable and fun and entertaining if you want to kind of grab that share of voice.


Ian – Yeah, absolutely, and I think that the content needs to feel consistent and it needs to feel cohesive, as marketers we would obviously say that I suppose; but if an insurance brand has 10 to 15 key touch points let’s imagine in its journey and the data shows that this can be consumed in a number of ways, number of orders, things get quite complicated. But the technology is there to support you. So if you’re using a DXP a digital experience platform like something like Sitecore, then those roots in, and the unique prospecting that happens that kind of trigger personalisation opportunities. And I think that’s key. We as individuals, we often don’t see it, but very much in the kind of content terms that might be very different for very different people whilst being consistent much like we experienced Netflix and my Netflix is nothing like you on Netflix.

And I think social media sort of personalises experiences better than any platform. And I think that website information architecture and the experiences that those brands they’ve kind of owned media for lack of a better phrase, they should kind of aspire to using soft data in that way. So some of the stuff that plays out in social and the way that you can tailor those experiences and have those conversations they’ve got to think about their own assets in that way and use that kind of ethos to shape their own experiences.


Katy – Yeah.


Ian – That’s where I see the kind of a great opportunity for brands.


Katy – So I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it’s a real challenge now for most brands, but competition is hotting up isn’t it? Insurance companies need to improve their reputation. Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to, they only want to do their own research as you said earlier, and they kind of want to own that journey themselves. They view insurance companies as scepticism. And again, the data shows that only 1.9% of consumers consider insurance a priority.

Ian – Yeah and I think consumers want to engage on their own terms as you say, it’s all about trust. And of course that means more fun, entertaining, informative, and creative content on social. And we’ve always said this and I think COVID is kind of catapulted it. Authenticity is firmly back in the spotlight. So brands need to embrace their inner personalities. Tactical thinking is often stuck in an old world that I would call adaptation. So the TV ad that’s just hacked about for various digital platforms to save money and time. But I think that the content needs to be unique. It needs to be relatable. It needs to be tuned into the passions and interests of the target audience of course. And then if you craft it in a way that really suits the style of consumption in that channel, and when it comes to search that’s got to be intent-based and then kind of matched directly to the core journey through your CX.

So search rankings are valuable but the money and effort that you put into that rapidly goes down the drain if the next few clicks aren’t on pleasurable. And I think two thirds of an audience are attracted to your brand. They’ll be gone in the first 30 seconds of landing on your site. So that experience is everything. And then if you think that the further than 80 to 90% of them will leave during the buying process because of friction that’s in pounds or dollars that’s something like 10 times your eventual revenue. And I’m not sure that brands understand how much they’re losing by getting that wrong.


Katy – Do you know we see it from, from social’s perspective as well which is the failure often comes in performance as you kind of move through the journey. So you invest all this money or you focus all your efforts in getting to the top of the search engines or to get the most amount of awareness and attraction and intention out of social. And then they go to a landing. In fact I did this the other day where I saw this really interesting product going live on a sale pre-Christmas sale. And I clicked on the link and it took me through to a hundred million products. And I had to try to remember what bloody products I’d seen in the feed, in the first place. it’s like Oh, you made that so difficult for me. You made that… Whereas if it was not a high price item, I might have bought that. I couldn’t be bothered look through all the products.


Ian – Sometimes they do that deliberately. I see it because I probably spend more time doing this anyway as a job, but you see that deliberate thing where they either, it’s either super pointed and they take you to exactly the thing that was in the image that you clicked on. And therefore it’s like this seamless buying journey. And then in other places they don’t really want you to buy that thing, they were using that as a hook. And they just want to show you the whole range. So it’s deliberate, but yeah, I don’t like it. I like to, if I saw a pair of trainers in a picture, then that’s what I suddenly want to click on and buy the faster the better, but some brands don’t want that.


Katy – Oh, it’d be so interesting to find out whether or not it works or not. Whether that go wide and tempt you into something else. Actually it must do if people are using it. But my purpose when we get to social is the frustration of sending people to landing pages which actually have no relevance whatsoever that happens a lot.

One of the things that happens when you look at an industry that has maybe aligned to yours or has nothing to do with you is that you often spot nuggets of opportunity that you suddenly realise are the same kind of opportunities that might exist in your own spectrum or make you just think in a different way. So tell me, I know you, I’m cheating here because I know you found some really interesting golden nuggets of opportunity for the insurance companies.


Ian – Yeah, I think that unsurprisingly business insurance terms have been affected and search around business interruptions spike hugely when full lockdown was announced. But what I think is perhaps more fascinating is that there’s a real opportunity for insurance brands in terms of surges of new activity or alternative types of business or where traditional businesses are perhaps changed their business model or individuals are looking for new work because they’re in a different situation.

So you see stuff like tailored insurance for couriers. If you think about how much food is now being delivered by perhaps what were traditional restaurants all kinds of stuff going on, you’re getting lots of insurance around home visiting hairdressers and even kind of artisan bakeries are now operating out of the owner’s kitchen. And therefore they need kind of different types of liability insurance. So things that were kind of perhaps cottage industries and now becoming big business. And I think the insurance industry needs to follow that and pay very close attention to it. Definitely listen hard on social. You’ve got to keep an eye on those search trends because we’re seeing them all the time. And then also, I suppose take a step back and look at the packages that you offer in your portfolio and work out whether or not that’s matched to the new normal because there’s a huge opportunity and somebody is going to seize it.


Katy – Yeah, and I think that’s really one of the things is it’s easy to skitter across the top lake of data and insight. And it’s only when you look for the, sometimes the hypothetical and sometimes it’s digging deep and go, what the, what, what, why is this happening?

And I think it’s the same for search, is looking always constantly in those trends and with it what we’re seeing right now is the opening of smaller markets or smaller opportunities that you can fly into very quickly and fly back out of it. It could be simply clarity of message or it’s a new product or a new way of people are talking about a product in a different language. These little tiny things are how we can optimise what are tighter and tighter budgets and then social brands that are kind of nailing it are very clear with those messaging and they’re simple and repeated sense of purpose. And more specifically those that notice what their audiences ask about the clarity around the policies pleurisy, policies. And that how they reward their buyers.

So wow. I think we’ve covered quite a lot.

We can see that the insurance industry maybe just not quite as boring as we thought it is actually its super interesting and in a way, because it’s quite a clear proposition it becomes quite easy to look at how audience behaviours changed, and look at how search is impacted by the environment and the situation we’re in as much as just trying, the fact that we have a renewal for insurance and all those impacts that we can see are things that we can translate into our own businesses if we’re not in the insurance.

So look at one of the things that you want to do is look at what we should be doing, regardless of whether we’re in the insurance industry. And always look beyond trends to consider how changeable environmental issues are impacting behaviours; because if you can spot the surge right at the beginning, you can jump on that tail which is when people are looking for clarity, I want to understand more detail around my policy that going out with campaigns that do that might be well actually as you pointed out, add the value that means the price becomes less sensitive.

The other is being agile around those rollercoaster of emotions. We are without a doubt going to have so many more and as the night’s darken and we go through all sorts of strange and wondrous things that the government makes us do. The reality is that emotionally we are impacted and that is leaking into the way that we talk about brands around us. More important, you’ll find triggers that increase brand favourability connecting us on social and search and customer experience and making that journey as seamless as possible. I don’t think it’s ever be more important because we’re stuck in front of screens. And I think it almost it’s now incumbent on us to be more focused on the journeys that our customers are taking. Because tolerance for complex buyer journeys are just low and it will limit advocacy and recommendation. We need to look beyond price and offers dig deep to find the nuggets of opportunity. It’s time to be a bit more lateral in our comms. Of course then we have to also think about brand trust and it is a key focus this year, without a doubt. And I think it’s just everything that’s going on. We are suspicious and sceptical of everything in the world. So brand trust is really important and that’s with building reputation across all your channels.

So I hope you enjoy today. You can download the report. I will put something I’m just going to pop it into chat. So hopefully in comments you can see that you can download the report. It’s on our website www.immediatefuture.co.uk/resources So you’ll be able to find it on there. And I will go back and put it back into the comments so that you can see it.

Ian thank you so much, you have been utterly fabulous I thoroughly enjoyed myself and could go on for, Oh my gosh. We’ve only got a few minutes left. I think we could have already gone on quite a while. We will be back next Friday with another Serious Social Live. And in the meantime, have a wonderful weekend. I know I will and see you next week. Bye.


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