AccuQuote: “Social Media for the Analytic Marketer” — Live from BlogWell

4:20 — Bob Pearson introduces Sean Cheyney, AccuQuote’s VP of Marketing and Business Development.

4:23 — Sean: ROI is a big question in social media. AccuQuote is very analytical in everything that we do. We say “we’ll do branding” but it’s a by-product of doing direct response. Early on, the question was how we can justify being able to use social media.

4:24 — Sean: Life insurance is an interesting product. It is a fully underwritten product; there has to be an agent involved. We’re talking about a very personal transaction, involving subjects that make people squirm.

4:25 — Sean: Social media is just an extension of the dialogue we’re already doing.

4:26 — Sean: But how do we measure the effects of social media? We’re measuring everything else, so we tried to apply that to social media. Some tools we couldn’t use, of course, but we’re a big Omniture shop so we used their web analytics tools for our blog.

4:26 — Sean: Two questions frequently asked when we first started blogging are 1) How do you measure results? and 2) How do you get around your legal? Well, we use our common sense.

4:27 — Sean: 2% of leads generated were coming from blogs.

4:28 — Sean: We recently got into podcasting and we’re using Feedburner to track new subscribers.

4:29 — Sean: We’re also looking at it from a monitoring standpoint. What were people saying about us? We’re using Google Alerts, TweetDeck, and Twitter Search.

4:29 — Sean: Lead generation is a big part of how our social media program fits into our company. Omniture has introduced a Twitter API and a WordPress API that we can use. We’re likely underreporting the leads we’re getting from social media, but by itself the number is already more than enough to justify the effort we put into it.

4:31 — Sean: The big focus of our social media efforts is life insurance education. Social media is a platform for dialogue. It took a while for me to get used to it, but we realized this early on. We put out a lot of information on life insurance. Our CEO posts five times a week. I post from time to time. We cross-post blog information and we tweet about them. This year we launched our video learning series.

4:33 — Sean: I want people to look at us and say, “You guys are in life insurance. My product is more exciting than yours; there’s no reason we can’t be in social media.”

4:33 — Sean: More recently, we’ve started to use social media for recruiting. We integrated our HR department into social media, so now we’re using social media to push out that we have jobs available and that we’re hiring. People are now finding us through social media and getting hired.

4:35 — Sean: Social media is also helping from a company culture standpoint.

4:36 — Sean: The other area that we measure is PR. We follow a lot of our reporters. People are coming to us and finding out about what we’re doing through following us on our blog and on our Twitter. We’re generating conversation based on what’s being talked about– not necessarily about us, but about the topic they’re interested in.

4:38 — Sean: We’re also using social media for our strategic partner promotions. We integrate our partnerships with what we’re doing in social media, and when possible we give them unique links so that we can track where our sales are generated from.

Q&A

Q: Not many are focused on lead generation. What are the first things you need to do to find leads for your company?

A: You have to adjust your thinking. You can’t just do a heavy push. We had to shut off a couple of affiliates recently because they were just spamming Twitter.

Q: If you’re taking more of an educational approach, are there other ways you’re connecting that to lead generation?

A: That’s why we’re tying that to the number of subscriptions.

Q: At this point, this is standard for you, but what obstacles did you hit at first?

A: There’s one tactic that we take as a sort of informal focus group that we call our blog/email combo. We’ll ask people what other products and services would they like for us to negotiate on their behalf and make available to them? We expected financial responses but we weren’t expecting other kinds of response. What we didn’t expect was the sheer volume of responses. We were inundated with responses. It’s not bad, but we weren’t expecting it.

Q: Your CEO blogs several times a week. Do you and your team help ghost-write them for him?

A: Some of what we do is we repurpose the articles that he writes. But he will be happy if he can talk about life insurance all day long. It’s his biggest passion in life. Giving him another opportunity to talk about it was pretty easy. We asked people once to ask questions and what we did was we took our CEO to a room, and used a flip cam to tape his responses. He liked that a lot.

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