A Social Media Take on Community Service
By Katie Peet
The Watkins Insurance Group team, based in Austin, Texas, has always held a high regard for being involved in the community. The team has embraced the agency’s tagline, “We’re here to help,” both when providing service to insurance customers and in the local areas surrounding their seven branch locations. This service-oriented culture naturally led Watkins to use social media to expand its engagement in the community, beginning with a Facebook page in 2011.
“We use social for promoting our agency’s volunteer efforts, but we also promote other organizations in our community helping people,” according to Hanna Ogle, vice president of personal lines and director of agency automation. “Even if we’re not involved in it, we’re sharing it to help. We’re living up to our tagline.”
The Watkins team is a leading example of putting social media to use in an agency. Their success is partly due to their unique approach that they call “ShareWatkins” — a modern take on a long tradition of community service.
The "ShareWatkins" Approach
The “ShareWatkins” idea came after the agency got involved with social media, as they realized the opportunity they had to share their culture of helping people with the outside world. Many of the agency’s producers were already participating in local non-profit organizations in which they felt personally vested, and the Watkins Aware program led monthly community service projects. The team looking to market Watkins more broadly wanted to get people from each of the seven branch locations to share what they were doing on an ongoing basis.
The “ShareWatkins” committee from left: Amanda Sasser,
Dshanya Reese,Sheila Noxon, John Aoueille, Hanna Ogle, Kelly Lyttle
“We had people raise their hand to be involved and we needed a formal approach to keep the pipeline of information flowing,” Ogle said. “It wasn’t just about marketing and sales; it’s about who we are and how we’re trying to help people.”
What began as a marketing committee was transformed into “ShareWatkins,” a name for their group but also for a process that they could embed into the agency culture.
The “ShareWatkins” committee sets the example for others in the agency, and works with them to create and share content. The team also looks for ways to connect content and social posts with business goals. For example, producer Chris Heinchon wrote a blog post about business insurance for breweries. The post was designed to build Heinchon’s network and create positive buzz on his LinkedIn account.
“We want Chris’s clients to be impressed by what they see posted on his LinkedIn profile. He knows his stuff, and the blog post proves it,” Ogle added.
Making It Happen
“ShareWatkins” is a committee by design. Involving other employees was a practical way to share the work load but also a natural way for the people at Watkins to operate.
“We could have just done this and not involved anyone, but that’s not how we normally do things at Watkins,” said Ogle. “We like to involve everybody.”
“Everybody” includes a mix of roles from commercial lines and personal lines, from producers to upper management. The committee meets once a quarter to discuss metrics and plans for the next quarter.
“We’ve had a natural growth over the past few years, and now we feel comfortable with the content we’re generating on Facebook and Twitter,” according to Communications Administrator Dshanya Reese, who manages the day-to-day publishing and engagement for Watkins.
“Our focus for 2016 is effectively using tools, such as HootSuite, in conjunction with a marketing calendar, to push content relevant to our clients and prospects in a timely manner to the appropriate social networks,” Reese added.
Committee members are encouraged to write content about their areas of expertise. Knowing that their team members might be wary of writing something that will be published, Ogle and Reese purposefully include them in discussions about what content will be most useful and who is the best person to write it. The committee also provides coaching and feedback to help talented sales professionals craft articles based on storytelling and personal anecdotes.
“We could write it, but that’s not the same as someone with specific expertise on that topic telling the story,” Ogle said. “It’s about pulling our talent together in our agency and helping them to be involved.”
In addition to educational articles, “ShareWatkins” posts about new hires, office activities and personal interests of the agency staff. They get the best results from posts that relate to their team members on a personal level. This works for Watkins, because they want people to get to know them.
“We want them to like us and to know us, because those people are going to be more likely to call us and buy from us,” Ogle said.
Reese added: “If Watkins has a place in someone’s life due to a 30-second post, we’re doing the right thing. It’s one more customer touch.”
Katie Peet has been the social media director at State Auto since January 2012. Prior to that, she held similar leadership positions with Westfield Insurance in Westfield, Ohio. She is an expert in corporate and web marketing and leveraging social media and is an in-demand speaker on the subject at industry meetings nationwide. She is a graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.