Mila Araujo, Director of Personal Insurance, Ogilvy & Ogilvy Inc. and social media advocate

Mila Araujo is the Director of Personal Insurance for Westmount, Quebec-based Ogilvy & Ogilvy Inc. With 15 years of experience in the insurance industry, Mila’s now embraced social media and has become a strong advocate for social media in the business world. She shared her thoughts on how the connection between social media and insurance, advice for social media newcomers and more in this installment of Five Questions.

You’re Director of Personal Insurance at Ogilvy & Ogilvy and also an avid social media user. (On Twitter at @Milaspage and through the the blog.) What’s the connection between social media and insurance?

Social media is a tool that people use to share and learn more about each other. In doing so, you get to know people better and build relationships. As insurance brokers with over 85 years in business, we built our business on relationships.  Social channels are giving us new opportunities to deepen and build our existing relationships and establish new ones.  Dialogue allows us to better know our clients, allowing us to serve them better. We want to take every opportunity we can to strengthen these relationships – social media is a big part of this moving forward.

Does having a social media presence benefit the company or the consumer?

Social media first benefits the consumer and that in turn benefits the company. Here’s how that works: The company has the greatest opportunity now, with the advent of the social networks and the number of people now using the social web, to provide value added services via social channels. In addition to providing value added content and resources for clients, the company as a result also creates content that increases audience reach (via search engines, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+). Increased reach can then lead to new business development.

The company is also in a position to learn more from our clients about what they care about – as they share on a personal level, ask questions in the public eye, or dialogue with us. We get a direct line to understand what they want from us, what gives them value. Companies used to have to conduct research, surveys and focus groups to get this kind of valuable information in the past. Now we have very real and immediate access. Social media has given consumers a way to speak up and be heard. We, as a company are there to listen, share, and build our relationships in this way as well.  So, to answer the question: Social media is a win- win. Customers have a very distinct voice which drive services in to meet their needs, and companies who listen and engage stand to benefit.

What advice do you have for insurance companies or brokerages that are just getting started with social media?

The best advice I can give is to get involved on a personal level to see what interactions are like. Then once you feel comfortable, look into bringing your employees into social interactions as well. Seek help from others who already have done this, network and dialogue about it. Most importantly, start internally, then expand outward. To be successful you must live the values of a social business – it’s not just about putting up a Facebook page. It is about understanding who your brand is, and then living it. It starts in-house. This is the true key to becoming a truly social business.

Many people say they don’t have the time… Well, I will ask you this, do you have the time to do the same thing over and over reaching one client at a time- or would it be beneficial to suddenly give that answer once and be speaking to 20, 50 or 100 clients? How about employees? The business world is evolving, people on social networks are not just college kids. Even those who argue that their clients aren’t on social media, have to be realistic and realize everyone has a cell phone, everyone is getting into social in one way or another for personal reasons –  social is the way to be in  that  space. Become a part of your clients’ communities, even if you start on a personal level, you have to start somewhere. This is a mindset, not a plug-and-play sales tool. Put in the time to understand what is going on. This is how you will be successful.

What do you think the biggest misconception or myth is surrounding social media use in a corporate environment?

There are two major misconceptions. Many people think it is about e-commerce.  E-commerce has nothing to do with social media; in fact a great way to fail at social media is to spend your time using it to “sell”.  Just because you have a sales-enabled web site does not mean you are social.

The second biggest issue for brokers seems to be confidentiality: “We can’t be on the social networks because it’s a liability risk – what if the wrong person takes our advice – or we give out personal information?”   If people understand what social networks are about, they will realize it’s not about solving the specifics of a client’s issue online in the public eye, it’s the art of conversing, being accessible, sharing general knowledge, making the connections and then taking those issues and concerns that contain personal information to a traditional private conversation. In my article, “If you don’t get social read this” I compared it to a cocktail party or the golf club. Do brokers avoid talking to people at the golf club or at a party because they are afraid to breech confidentiality?  It’s all about spending more time with your clients and getting to know them via social environments. When they need something, you direct them the most appropriate channel be it on or “off line”.

In May, you produced the 140 Conference, Investing in Social Media, Investing in Relationships, Investing in Community, in Montréal and Ogilvy & Ogilvy was a sponsor.   Why was it important to bring a social media conference like the 140 Conference to Montreal?

In 2011, as I participated as a broker in the promotion of the Aviva Community Fund, a fantastic initiative that allows non-profit organizations to compete using social media for a piece of a 1 Million Dollar give away, I tried to reach out to local non-profits to help them get involved in the contest, and obtain funding for their causes. Through these efforts, I became aware that so few knew how to work Social Media and among those who tried, they had not set up their “online community” which made finding sufficient support for their causes too difficult, they did not have the resources and they could not generate support fast enough to make it through the elimination rounds. While doing community outreach, I felt that there was a true lack of understanding, and therefore lost opportunity for so many of these wonderful causes. I know from my background in having worked in non-profit in Quebec, we have passionate communities, we have strong organizations – my conclusion was we aren’t doing enough to let our non-profits know how to use social media. In fact, businesses in general, brokers, insurance companies, they don’t understand social either. These are lost opportunities. It’s not social media, it’s social business and people need to find a way to understand.

I believe that businesses and non-profits who become involved in social, and who understand the workings of this form of communication and engagement can thrive. Participating in this type of conference provides an advantage that I believe people  should have access to – locally – in order to compete in today’s marketplace and achieve new levels of success. This is the root of why I endeavored to bring the 140 Conference to Montreal – to benefit our community and our clients.

Bonus sixth question: Looking back at the recent 140 Conference and ahead to other live social media-related conferences, why is it important for social media users to connect in “real life”?

Every relationship has to make a move to the next level at some point. Social media gives people the opportunity to dialogue, to observe each other, to find common ground, but like any relationship, if you really enjoy each others company, you will want to get to know each other more. Very little substitutes face-to-face, a Skype call or a phone conversation.  The 140 Conference gave the opportunity to people to come and meet some of the leading minds in social media business, face-to-face. It gave the opportunity to get together and focus on many of the issues and concerns that occupy us in today’s business environment. Relationships deepened from the meetings and everyone walked away with a greater understanding of what is really happening in the social business s landscape, as well as having the chance to get a feel for the human beings behind the Twitter pictures, blog articles or corporations.

One of the nicest things about the leaders in the social media community is that they are in fact extremely social, positive and helpful people. Having access to this kind of knowledge and these kinds of people makes learning about the online space incredibly interesting and rewarding. In addition, attending an event like the 140 Montreal that condensed what would have otherwise been months of research into one day makes the day incredibly efficient – in insurance we tend to carry heavy workloads and tight schedules – this is the perfect answer to getting it all in one spot. At Ogilvy, we were pleased to sponsor the event and give access to our clients. If we can help our client’s business grow, then again, it’s a win-win. We are here to be their resource, we were happy to step out of the box and share this with them and our community.

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