Social media can improve the reputations of professionals and organizations. And let’s face it—your reputation is your brand. 

Social media is similar to traditional networking except, of course, it takes place online. And that’s where things can get complicated.

Most brokers and large agents already participate on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—the three most popular social media networks. However, the firms differ in their engagement with other tools and networks, such as Google+, YouTube and Vimeo.

Social media marketing is a necessity for brokers, says Kristen O’Leary, director of strategic quality at J.M. Wilson. It helps customers get to know your firm, she says, which builds longer and stronger relationships, which in the long term equates to increased revenues and bigger profits.

For digital marketing to be effective, O’Leary says, “you need to be willing to invest the time.”

The meteoric rise of marketing tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, says Aartrijk’s Rick Morgan, “are all telling us that customers want to do business with people whom they feel like they know and trust.” And trust is the advantage insurance brokers have advocated since the business began.

Social media is also opening new doors of opportunity, says Eric Joost of Willis North America.

“The firm’s presence on social media has resulted in our ideas being broadcast to a broader audience,” Joost says. “And now we’re starting to hear from a range of professionals—not just risk and insurance professionals—who are interested in our expertise.”

Social media gives Willis “an alternative way to present points of view,” he says. And it provides additional channels “to say the same things.” The company, he explains, repurposes its content for social media formats by adjusting the voice to fit the social media channel. For example, he can take the text of a speech, punch up the language and post it online.

Then there’s LinkedIn.

“We find LinkedIn is certainly the go-to place to be,” says Dean Davison, the direction of communications at Lockton. “We use our company profile to share our intellectual capital and encourage our associates to use their individual profiles to share content with their clients.”

The networking site also offers LinkedIn Groups, which provides a place for professionals with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts and establish themselves as industry experts. While the groups offer another way to engage, agents and brokers have different experiences with its usefulness.

“We have participated with LinkedIn Groups with mixed results,” Davison says. “We have not broken the code on making LinkedIn Groups tremendously productive. We have done some experiments that are showing some promise, but LinkedIn Groups are not for everybody.”

R&R Insurance started different groups for particular niches, says creative marketing specialist Stephanie Schreiber. But it’s challenging, Schreiber says, to find the time to dedicate to them, “considering all of the additional social platforms and online presence we maintain.” 

One of which, of course, is Twitter.

“We believe in communicating any piece of information seven different ways, so Twitter is often just one of those ways,” says Leslie McNeice, the director of group communications and advertising at AmWins. “Corporately, Twitter is a great communication vehicle for us. It’s another way that we communicate news about the company or share content that we’ve created. Our producers are encouraged to use Twitter as a way to position themselves as specialists.”

To get the most out of Twitter, she says, “Know your audience, join in ‘trending’ hash tags to increase your reach, be an active listener, retweet, and thank people for following you and tweeting your information.”

While some are skeptical about engaging on Facebook for business-to-business marketing, O’Leary says it is essential because she wants her firm to have a social presence wherever their customers visit.