Insurance Marketing HQ

Writing Skills To Help Your Agency Engage With Internet Users

Posted on Mar 17, 2014

By Allie Viau

As discussed in our last blog, reading online content is different from reading other forms of content. Due to these differences, it’s important to develop specific writing skills that can help you and your insurance agency better engage with internet users through your content marketing.

Check out these tips for writing effectively based on how people read content online:hand reaching through computer

  • Continue to strive for quality, engaging content! Studies show that generally, higher-quality content will cause people to scroll further down the page and read more of your content. Be sure to focus on quality over quantity. What topics does your target audience find interesting? Write quality content about those topics.
  • Add images to your content. Internet users are more likely to scroll all the way to the bottom of a page if there are visuals such as videos, graphs, or pictures.
  • Use writing techniques that force the reader into an “active reading” approach. By presenting your ideas in a relevant, clear, and engaging way, you are making it easier for internet users to engage with your content, thus leading them towards active reading. Try to write your content in a way that sparks questions within the readers’ minds, and then provide them with your answers. Once they are more involved with your content in this way, they will be more likely to read more of your content.
  • Spend some time on your title and introduction. Make your beginning as catchy as possible to attract users immediately. Don’t wait until the end of your article to share your most important tips and information, since chances are most readers will miss it.
  • Format your article in a way that is easy to read. In order to cater to the way internet users skim through content, make it easier for them to find the information that they are looking for on your page. Use shorter sentences rather than longer ones. In fact, in order to hold people’s attention, try to use no more than 17 words in one sentence. When possible, use bulleted or numbered lists rather than paragraphs. Also, utilize bold or italicized words to highlight important bits of information.

It’s not easy to learn how to write effectively for online readers. However, by understanding more about the tendencies of internet users today, you can enhance your content in order to get the most out of your efforts and engage more with your readers.

About The Author
Allie Viau is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish. She creates a variety of content including website landing pages, blogs, and press releases. Allie is passionate about helping small businesses build their brand equity online through quality content and other inbound marketing strategies. She spends her free time baking, painting, and traveling as much as possible.

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Internet Users: How They Are Reading Online

Posted on Mar 10, 2014

By Allie Viau

Be honest: How often do you actually finish an article that you start reading? Rarely?

Don’t feel bad, it’s not just you.

In fact, most internet users who clicked on this blog probably didn’t even make it this far.

Changes in technology, and the incredible growth of digital media, are altering the way that online users are interacting with content they read. So, with all the buzz about the importance of content marketing -creating unique, quality, and engaging content to help your agency’s overall inbound marketing and branding efforts- how can you even be sure that users will read your content before clicking away to another page?computer with human eye on screen

In order to write effectively for an online audience, you need to understand how people read different types of content in different ways.  Before you launch your content marketing strategy, consider  this:

  • Internet users skim content more than they actually “read”. Since reading content online involves more distractions and cognitive processing, screen reading is much different from traditional reading. Even as you read this right now, chances are that you have multiple windows open, are clicking on hyperlinks that will bring you to a new article, and are maybe even listening to music on top of everything else. In order to get past the information overload and find the content we are looking for, we tend to skim online content rather than reading it in the traditional, complete way. Experts call this “hyper-reading”.
  • Internet users typically read in a passive way. Online readers are not participating in active reading or close reading techniques. Therefore, internet users are engaging less with the content they are reading. As a result, when reading online people are less likely to retain information, recognize key themes, or draw their own conclusions.
  • Online readers are looking for immediate gratification. The nature of the internet, specifically the immediacy in which you can access information, has caused people to “power browse” horizontally through headlines and paragraphs in order to find what they are looking for as soon as possible. Ironically, while I was researching this topic in order to write this blog, I found myself power browsing through content in order to find specific bits of information that I could use.
  • Most internet users don’t make it all the way to the bottom of a page. In fact, studies show that most people only scroll through the first 60% of the article before leaving the page, and about 10% of people who open an article don’t ever scroll down.

So, now that you have a better understanding of how people consume online media, what does this mean for your content marketing?

Yes, developing a content marketing strategy and writing for the internet is hard. But does that mean you should just give up? No!

For those of you who are still reading (probably way less than half of those who originally opened the page), be sure to check out the next blog about writing skills you can adopt for your content marketing  in order to better engage with internet users!

About The Author
Allie Viau is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish. She creates a variety of content including website landing pages, blogs, and press releases. Allie is passionate about helping small businesses build their brand equity online through quality content and other inbound marketing strategies. She spends her free time baking, painting, and traveling as much as possible.

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Social Media Today: A How To Guide To Simplify Social

Posted on Feb 24, 2014

By Chris LaChance

With state of social media today, there are so many channels to tackle. From LinkedIn, to Facebook (timelines and pages), Twitter, and the up-and-coming Google+, how do you begin to coordinate your social media strategy without critical comments or conversations that could ultimately lead to conversions? Astonish will show you how to simplify the management of your social media today through an online tool called Hootsuite.

What You Will Need

  • The usernames & passwords for your agency’s social media accounts
    • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ page are recommended
  • An account on Hootsuite, which we will set up together

Getting Started With Hootsuite

So what exactly is Hootsuite? Essentially, it is an online tool that can bring all of your social media streams into one place, making it easy to monitor, post, and schedule across all of your social channels.

Let’s set up an account together.

  1. Hootsuite account set upVisit Hootsuite and sign up for a free account. Unless you have an agency-specific Facebook page, set up an account in the traditional way with an agency email, your name, and the password you like.
  2. Next, Hootsuite will present you with a screen to add all of your social media accounts. Add all the accounts your agency currently has.
  3. Press Continue, and you will be redirected to your dashboard.
  4. Hootsuite will then guide you through your first-time setup, walking you through how to add streams, tabs, and schedule posts.

Watching Your Social Streams

Once on your dashboard, you can set up any additional streams you want to help you monitor what’s happening in social media today, down to the second. Streams are layout of entries in chronological order, and can be your social timeline, a list of people who mentioned you, a list of posts mentioning a specific search term, your scheduled post, and so on.

As an example, if I had chosen my first stream as my Facebook timeline, I would see the real chronological order of every incoming post, unfiltered and unsorted by Facebook’s algorithm.

The most powerful piece of the stream feature is that you can still comment, like, retweet, and do all the regular things you might by visiting those individual social media sites, without having to jump all over the internet.

Scheduling Your Social Posts

Arguably, the best feature Hootsuite has to offer is the scheduling of posts. Some of the examples of what you can do are:

  • Set up a post to send out to all your channels on social media today at 9pm,
  • Set up a post to go out to just your Twitter and Google+ page at what Hootsuite automatically calculates is the best time of engagement.
  • Send out a post right now to just your Facebook friends.

To create & schedule your posts, start by clicking the input box at the top left of the page. Here you can select the social channels you would like to post to, write your message, and schedule your posts (click on the little calendar icon above the send button). As a general rule of thumb:

  • Marketing posts should be auto-scheduled with Hootsuite’s algorithm.
  • Date/time specific posts should use a set time. For example, if your agency wants to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, you could schedule a post for December 25th at 10am right now.
  • Any breaking news or disaster news should be posted instantly, and not scheduled.

Organizing Your Streams with Tabs

Lastly, if you are looking to organize your streams, you can always separate them into new tabs. For example, you could have a Timelines tab (for seeing all your social media timelines), a Mentions tab (streams you set up that monitor when your agency is mentioned), and a Scheduled Posts tab.

BONUS MODE: Automating your Google+ Timeline Posts

Note: This solution is non-official and a bit buggy. Proceed with caution.

At this time, there is no online service that can schedule your Google+ timeline posts, only ones that can schedule posts to your Google+ pages. This is because Google has yet to release its timeline API for non-Google developers to work with.

However, there is an alternate way to automate Google+ timeline posts:

  1. DoShare Extension for Google ChromeYou’ll need to use the Google Chrome browser (which is a good idea anyways) and install the DoShare extension. You will see it show up as a little icon with a number (the yellow one).
  2. Click it to either schedule your posts or send them out right away. It doesn’t have an auto-schedule feature like Hootsuite, however. Astonish has not tested this one extensively, but some user reviews are reporting it as buggy.

About The Author

Chris LaChance is self-taught Graphic Designer, Web Developer and User Experience Practioner with over 12 years of experience in the industry. His passions are corporate branding, customer satisfaction, writing and illustration. When not working, he spends time with his four children, serves in his church, or watches K-dramas with his wife. He is currently serving Astonish as the Lead Marketing Designer.

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Time Management for Insurance Agency Owners

Posted on Feb 3, 2014

By

Are you getting all the things on your to-do list done each week? If not, the problem may have a lot to do with your time management skills.busy employee surrounded by cluttered desk

People who are prone to distractions, and those who tend to work on too many projects at once, often get little or nothing done during the day. They are also prone to overload which can lead to all kinds of problems.

A 2006 study done by the University of California at Irvine found that chronic workweeks of more than 51 hours lead to all kinds of health problems, including insomnia and high blood pressure. Working too hard can also triple a person’s risk of developing hypertension.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder” but putting that into practice can take some time. As an insurance agent with a great deal of responsibility, what can you do to improve your work-life balance? Here are five tips that should help you make your workday, and your insurance business, more productive and help with your time management:

1. Make a list of goals you want to accomplish. When you first come into the office, don’t just jump into work. Take about a half hour to plan your day by listing on paper everything you would like to get done. But be realistic, and realize there’s no way everything on the list will get done. As you complete a task, check it off and be comfortable with the idea that whatever doesn’t get done can get carried into the next day. Remember also that any goals you will be focusing on for the day are only ideas until they are written down on paper.

2. Prioritize. As you make your list of daily goals, be sure to assign a time to any activity or conversation that’s critical for the day like meeting with or returning your clients calls. As to-do lists get longer and longer and managing your time gets more difficult, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you schedule the things that must get done, they will. Of course, you must have the discipline to keep these appointments.

3. Focus on each goal individually. Take five minutes before every call or task to decide what result you want to attain and write it down. This will help you know what success looks like before you start and focus on the task at hand.

4. Record your thoughts throughout the day. Carry a schedule book around and record your thoughts, conversations and activities for about a week. This will help you understand how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.

If you set a goal of spending at least 50 percent of your time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of your results, you’ll soon find yourself getting more done.

5. Ignore distractions. When the phone rings, do you answer it every time? If so, you’re doing yourself a disservice, as starting up conversations unrelated to the task you are working on will surely serve as a distraction.

When you’re hard at work on a task, you need to block out other distractions, which include the phone, email, Facebook and other forms of social media. Starting today, schedule a time during the day to answer email and return phone calls and stick to it.

Remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. However, proactive time management enables you to try. Also, remember the odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results.

About The Author
Justin Brown is an insurance marketing expert working as the Marketing Content Manager for the Bankrate Insurance companies NetQuote, InsureMe, AgentInsider, and InsuranceAgents.com. He provides insurance agents and risk management advisors with the latest news and marketing tips to help them grow their business.

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Agency Advice: How to Motivate Your Staff and Self in 2014

Posted on Jan 13, 2014

TETRRF-00013485-001By Bianca Scartabello

The New Year has arrived! There is so much motivation and determination in this universe right now—from new goals to resolutions. As an agency owner, it is important that you take this fresh start as an opportunity to motivate yourself AND your staff. How? Take a look at what you are currently doing and find ways to IMPROVE.

Evaluating your efforts and seeing hard numbers are not only going to motivate you and your staff, but will show you the areas that need improvement. How do you expect to sell policies if your sales team is not up to par? How do you expect to round out policies if you are not marketing correctly via your website, social sites, etc.? You can’t expect results if you are not evaluating, acting, and changing.

Once you pinpoint the areas that need improvement, you’ve already got the ball rolling. New, fresh ideas and efforts will naturally excite both you and your team.

Here are five other ways to motivate your agency and yourself to conquer change in 2014.

  1. READ a motivating book to kick start your positive attitude. Take a look at Attitude 101 by John C. Maxwell. This book is incredibly inspiring for agency owners or any business owner for that matter.
  2. CREATE a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account. Check out its features and read about how these social tools can benefit your business.
  3. SET clear goals for your agency. Write them down, elaborate on them, and celebrate big wins. Every win—major or minor—will motivate both you and your staff to keep going.
  4. DISCOVER new ways of doing things, by looking into tools, technology, resources, and training geared towards the insurance industry.
  5. EVALUATE by looking at metrics from the previous year. Find the ups and downs and figure out what helped you grow, or in some cases, what made you fail.

Now, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which areas of our business can we improve on this year?
  • Which ones are we doing great on?
  • What are some of the things we can do to move forward in a positive direction?

Ask yourself these questions and remember—you are going to be starting this year off on the right foot by finding the answers to them.

About the Author
Bianca Scartabello is a Sr. Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish. Her long-time passion for writing and creativity has launched her into the world of digital marketing, with a focus on content curation. Alongside her love for cranking out content, Bianca enjoys baking, music, reading, fashion, comedy, and autumn.

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6 Ways to Use Social Media for Social Good

Posted on Jun 26, 2012

Has your agency wanted to get more involved with giving back? It can be difficult to know where to start – Do you send a check? Do you ask for donations? Do you volunteer your time? Remember that you have an amazing resource at your fingertips: social media! Your social networks aren’t just for insurance marketing, they provide the perfect starting point for social good. Here are a few of our favorite tips for giving back and helping out:

  1. Share articles and information. To get started, try sharing links to articles about local or national charities. The more people who read about a charity’s work, the more likely they’ll be to help. Every share (including yours) helps! You can ask your employees about their favorite charities and read your local news sources to learn what’s going on in your neighborhood.
  2. Choose a charity. If you like, you can focus all your support on one charity of choice. Choose something close to your heart, or brainstorm with your employees to find a local or national charity that means a lot to one of them. Write about the charity often on your page, and link back to their website. Share their events, fundraising efforts, and anything else they publish. Remember: charities often have limited resources, so every little bit you do really helps.
  3. Promote your offline efforts, online. Chances are, you are already supporting local charities offline. Perhaps your employees are running a 5k to raise money, or you have a collection box in your office. Write about these things on your social networks! Encourage people to stop by and drop off a donation, or come out to an event and participate.
  4. Run a like or retweet campaign. Many agencies like to run like or retweet campaigns. For instance, you can promise that every new like on your Facebook Page until a certain date equals a $1 donation to a certain organization. Promote this heavily on your Page, mentioning the organization your supporting in your post. This is good for everyone, as you’ll get more likes on your Page, and the organization will get a donation! You can also do this on Twitter, by tweeting, “For every retweet of this tweet by midnight tonight, we’ll donate $1 to ABCFoundation!” Be sure to include a link to the charity so people can learn more.
  5. Partner with other local businesses. Maybe your agency isn’t in a position to donate a large amount of money. That’s fine – there are still things you can do! Talk to other businesses in your neighborhood to see what they’re doing to help charitable organizations and ask if you can participate. You can help promote the efforts through your social networks.
  6. Get creative. There are hundreds of ways to help and give back to your community.  Sit down with your employees and have a brainstorm session. You’re bound to come up with some extremely creative ideas!

Choose an option that’s right for you and your agency, and start giving back. Studies have shown that giving back makes companies more successful in the long run, so it’s a win-win all around!

 

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