Q&A: Ryon Harms, director of social media, Farmers Insurance

Ryon Harms, Farmers Insurance director of social media, says people want to connect with faces, not products, on Facebook.

Q: What is the Farmers Insurance approach to social media marketing?

A: For us it really starts and ends with our agents. We’ve got 15,000 agents across the country through our core 30 states. So when I first started, I thought right away leveraging our agents in the field would be the most effective way to actually connect with people on Facebook. I started getting emails from agents that were excited [that] Farmers had a social media director and that we were taking it seriously. One agent, Joel McKinnon, said, ‘I’ve had a Facebook page for my agency for over a year now, and in that time it’s helped me double the size of my agency because of the leads coming in through Facebook.’ He said his approach was about not telling people what he sells but showing who he is. His Facebook page [was] probably more sophisticated than the vast majority of Fortune 500 brands. His Facebook posts were getting 5.5% feedback, and at the corporate level we’re pretty happy with a 0.5% feedback. He’s killing it, and the reason is because he’s doing it at the local level. 

Q: Social return on investment (ROI) is such a big issue right now. How are you able to track and measure social ROI?

A: Our agents are independent business owners. If they’re not writing policies, then they can’t keep the lights on. It’s not like a big brand where you can experiment and try to figure out what it means for your brand. At the local level, it’s so important for them that it’s helping out their business. Our mentality is to figure out how we can help our agents. It’s the agents themselves assigning a lead to Facebook in the CRM system. That’s direct attribution to Facebook. 

Q: Regulation poses a challenge to insurance marketers looking to engage consumers on Facebook. How do you address those certain restrictions?

A: It is very difficult on the regulation side. The regulatory agencies are still coming to grips with what everything means, and that creates confusion for the rest of the market. Our agents want to be on Facebook. We know we need to get them on Facebook. Right now it’s such a difficult thing, especially in financial services. Our agents are not allowed to talk about financial services on Facebook because it’s too big of a risk for our compliance team to say, go ahead and do that. In the insurance vertical there are still some regulations, but nothing like in financial services where it gets stifling. But I think the regulatory agencies will come to grips with … social media and hopefully we’ll figure out some framework that will work for everybody.

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