As of this writing, there are 12 groups on LinkedIn dedicated to social media in insurance. Those groups have 41,837 members. Yet a client who sells software to insurance companies told me she wasn’t devoting resources to a Facebook page because it wasn’t worth the effort and wouldn’t return any value. Bad move? Not so fast:

Slightly more than 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook are actually engaging with the brands, according to a study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank that counts Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and other major advertisers as its supporters … That means less than half a percent of people who identify themselves as like a brand actually bother to create any content around it.

Leaving questions about what’s going on in all those LinkedIn groups aside, you have to wonder: If so few folks use Facebook to engage with household-name consumer brands, why are so many people trying so hard to find so many crannies for social media in insurance?

This is a textbook case of BMS: better mousetrap syndrome. In fact, social media constitutes extreme BMS because it’s free. We’ll reach more people, more quickly, all of whom will fall in love with us. Our phones will ring off the hooks. Our marketing people will be hailed as geniuses. Our salespeople will become feverishly overworked order-takers, their frantically flying fingers worn to nubs on keyboards smoking from the fervor. And the medium through which we’ll accomplish all this is free. Free, I tell you! IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!

Really? No.

If just one percent of Facebook users are engaging with Coca-Cola, it ain’t gonna happen here folks. Sorry. Numbers do lie.

The Facebook pages for GEICO and Progressive have 418,373 and 2,933 likes respectively. But those likers aren’t there to engage with the brands, to provide the sacred content. They’re there because they’re fans of geckos, cavemen, and Flo. Those aren’t brands, they’re personae. Aflac’s Facebook page has 32,163 likes. But those likers aren’t there because they’re buying supplemental insurance. They’re there because the duck is cool and Gilbert Gottfried wasn’t.

Beyond that, customers of companies like GEICO and Progressive are shopping on price. That’s why GEICO and Progressive advertise their pricing. And beyond relatively commoditized products like personal auto (“Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance”), buying insurance requires big decisions. Buying commercial insurance requires bigger decisions. And buying insurance systems and software requires even bigger decisions and bigger budgets.

The guy who woke up this morning, slapped his head, and said, “Dang! I gotta go online and buy car insurance today” won’t wake up tomorrow morning and say, “Dang! I gotta go online and buy insurance for my national fleet of trucks today,” or “Dang! I gotta go online and buy a policy administration system today.” People who need to buy the latter two will be engaging with agents, brokers, consultants, and/or lawyers long before they’ll be engaging with any brand. If they don’t, they’ll likely be engaging with the unemployment line.

Yes. Small insurance companies and agents with local and regional practices will be able to use social media to cost-effectively engage folks. If the relationships they build are personal enough (social), if their reputations are sound enough to elicit customer references, and if their intent to treat their customer bases as affinity groups — rather than as fish in barrels — is genuine enough, they may succeed in building social media communities. Within those communities, they’ll be able to converse about products, services, and programs. But social media will not be effective if the personal relationships and customer references don’t come first. Products, services, and programs do not a community make.

The World Wide Web’s manifestation of BMS wore out its welcome so effectively it precipitated banner blindness. If you don’t think social media has the same potential to push saturation and overload to dismissiveness, just watch.

Folks don’t fancy Internet spam nearly as much as they do the canned variety. And the purpose of the better mousetrap isn’t to trap the trapper.

Caveat emptor.

Image by geralt, courtesy of