Social Media so hot, Ben & Jerry's email marketing melts

The story that Ben & Jerry’s are dropping email marketing in favour of social media hit something of a sweet spot with me. Not only do I not like trawling the ever increasing mass of emails each day but I also have a keen interest in how the Internet is evolving and a highly developed sweet tooth. The story is quite interesting as it tracks some of the trends Celent observed in our Digital Marketing in Insurance report. For many insurers email marketing and communication is the primary digital method of reaching consumers, however most insurers saw social networks and social media as becoming an increasingly important channel to market. Perhaps Ben & Jerry’s move is both a little early and a sign of things to come. This also comes at a time when rumours abound regarding yet another social network set to come from Google, possibly to be called Google Me. Indeed there are stories that disenfranchised companies working with Facebook may already be signed up to work with Google Me. A slide show published by a user experience researcher at Google offers some insights into the key issues with current social networks, how the new social network will look and the features it will offer businesses. For insurers looking at social networks as a medium to customers or looking at how they can expand their use of social networks Celent’s report on the subject may well be of interest. Addendum: Also making waves in social media is the old spice campaign on YouTube. Effective use of this style of campaign is discussed in our report but it is particularly well executed here.

Measuring the value of your web sites

The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that the UK Government is looking at closing up to 75% of it’s websites. The challenges facing the UK Government in terms of cutting costs and ensuring that they are getting value from assets are no different to the issues facing insurers in these uncertain economic times. Whilst it may not be typical to look at the approaches taken in the public sector to cost cutting there are some interesting features of the approach taken by the Government. Of particular interest was a KPI quote in the report regarding cost per visit. The article cites one website that costs £11.78 a visit versus on that costs £2.75 a visit. Such an analysis and metric would be most useful to insurers – particularly those that are operating multiple brands on different sets of technology. Of course getting to the true cost of running a web site can be difficult, but an educated estimate along with existing web site analytics data would allow a similar analysis – one that could produce the same savings in a direct insurer or any insurer with multiple Internet applications. The other point made in the report is that some government units were competing with each other in terms of marketing and search engine optimisation spend. Having two units in the same organisation bidding for the same search term in Google advertising for instance is simply not cost effective. As above, in any insurer operating multiple web sites or multiple brands this kind of activity could be prevalent but not immediately obvious, perhaps this is something insurers could review and see where savings could be made. I doubt insurers should make the kind of culling of 75% of their websites that the UK Government is discussing but the principle is sound and relevant to Insurance. Insurers should ask themselves how many websites they are running, are they all equal in cost and could any of the services be merged onto cheaper platforms. In these cost constrained times it’s key that insurers not only examine core systems for possible cost savings but also the eco-system of ancillary applications and servers running the enterprise.

Social Search Engine Optimisation? Google's Buzz is part of a bigger strategy

Just before the Google Buzz announcement (and associated bad press) Google announced a change to its core search product. This is a potentially huge change and a pointer to Google’s broader strategy. Given the annual budgets aligned to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for Insurers, IT Vendors and brokers alike, this change deserves a closer look. Social search was originally announced last year as an experiment and then released as part of the core search product this year. In brief, social search uses a persons connections to personalise the search results. So for instance, if you search for Car Insurance and your friend Bob has something to say about Car Insurance on a blog or Twitter – then you will see a link to that in your search results along with a summary. For example in my Twitter feed I follow Aleksandr Orlov – the meerkat character used in’s advertising campaign. In my search results for Car Insurance I see an update from Aleksandr suggesting I go to In effect free advertising for that brand. Of course if one of my friends has had a bad experience with a particular insurer the details of that will be visible to me in the search results too, and I would likely get in touch with them as a result to understand the issue. It becomes clear where Buzz fits in with Google’s strategy – Buzz is less about creating a new Twitter or Facebook, but more about getting users of Google’s products and particularly the search product to provide more, rich information about their own content and their network of friends. Why is Google introducing this change? The Guardian newspaper in the UK recently reported that more twice the number of people were coming to news organisations web sites from sites like Facebook and Twitter than from Google News. This demonstrates a huge shift in the way people are interacting with the Internet. In the last decade people went to a portal or plain search engine web site and keyed in what they’re look for. In this decade people are being fed relevant links from their network of contacts. This again places Buzz as a core part of Googles strategy to remain relevant on the Internet. What does this mean for insurance? Simply, the automation of word of mouth. It means that the various social network sites will become increasingly important. Many Insurers are already investing time in a Twitter and Facebook presence and must continue to do so. Not only will Twitter updates and Facebook updates appear in front of people when they use those websites but increasingly these updates will appear in search results. Positive comments about the company should be repeated and lauded. Negative updates from customers will appear in their friends search results, responding directly to criticism where possible and stating your brands position will become increasingly important. Of course, you could take this approach and ask your customers to ask their friends about your product. Look out for Celent’s upcoming report on Digital Marketing. Feel free to add your comments below too.