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The social media phenomenon: where is South Africa?

Although many international insurance bodies, insurance publications, brokers and companies are actively using Twitter, the changing and highly individualised communication potential of social media has been slow to catch on in South Africa.

Yet, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our industry could benefit from, and should also adopt, quick, personal communication in our day-to-day dealings with staff, brokers, customers and brand recipients. Our communications team is constantly writing, designing and distributing blogs, tweets and social media messages of various kinds.

While large local companies such as Hollard, 1st for Women, Sanlam and OUTsurance have a Twitter presence, none yet appears to be utilising its potential as an effective business communications tool and awesome builder of relationships. Some insurers have posted their television and radio advertising on YouTube, but have neglected to run their channels to encourage two-way communication.

Recent social network statistics reveal that 95% of business decision-makers worldwide use social networks. Twitter is the leading social media platform among Fortune 100 companies and is extensively used by international corporates like Starbucks, American Airlines, Dell and Kodak.

International business strategist, thought-provoking visionary and founder of the global consultancy TomorrowToday International, Dr Graeme Codrington, recently spoke to Etana’s management, staff and invited guests. In his talk entitled “After Shock: The TIDES of Change”, he outlined the trends most likely to influence the way business will be done in the next five to ten years.

The trend of direct person-to-person interaction is here to stay, and companies need to understand that and harness its power both internally and externally.

At Etana, we are keeping pace with this phenomenon; to empower our internal people and our brokers in the use of social networking tools, we have held a number of social networking workshops. Many are now actively tweeting and making full use of the ability to communicate instantly and individually to vitally important people in their spheres.

We have found that Flickr, with its active library of four-billion shared images, is an ideal platform to share photographs of broker events and initiatives like our recent Etana daREDevil Run.

Quick communication

Our world is fast-paced and technology-driven and most people have no time or patience for slow movers. Communicating quickly and instantly is a terrific relationship-building bonus we now all have at our fingertips. It is a powerful dividend for our insurance industry where we continually fight against negative perceptions.

With social media, the focus is less on the type of content disseminated and more on the personal appeal and subjective value of the content, whether it happens to be on video, a still image, blog or an instant message.

Twitter’s international micro-blogging facility provides companies with immediate access to business associates, clients and industry news. Worldwide businesses are finding it to be an effective tool for keeping staff and customers apprised of upcoming events, new additions to websites as well as developments in the business field.

For local insurance companies, this new viral marketing tool can be such a powerful asset.

Website springboard

In addition to being an essential online marketing tool, the Etana website ( offers brokers an online domain on which to connect with potential clients. It highlights our decentralised ‘local is lekker’ philosophy and we have deliberately designed it to provide brokers with a platform to promote their businesses, give access to product information and social networking sites.

There is also a registration facility for their convenience for fully accredited in-house training through our Etana Academy. The feedback is positive with general insurance enquiries via our online portal increasing steadily together with new brokers seeing value and joining our network. A point of interest is that Twitter is more popular in South Africa than in any other country, taking eighth place in terms of this country’s top 10 websites.

Social Media has initiated a massive paradigm shift within society at large. We have gone from passive consumption of content to more proactive responses. Today, recipients select news that interests them and interact with it, sharing and spreading the message.

It is my hope that our insurance industry takes hold of this new phenomenon with both hands to build and cement positive relationships within their spheres of influence for the benefit of our industry as a whole.

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