Professional networking within the community you work has long been a successful business development approach for insurance agents and producers.

Let’s face it, having good people skills is critical to building the trust and relationships your insureds are seeking. People join social media as a means to stay in touch and connect with others around a hobby or interest. Since 73% of online adults now use a social networking site, adding social media into your marketing efforts is a logical extension of the tried and true way of keeping your rolodex active and up-to-date. So how does one go about incorporating social media into their marketing activities?

Most local insurance agency owners are already stretched pretty thin. The thought of tackling the bevy of social platforms can seem daunting. With some planning, you could be well on your way to implementing a social media strategy for your insurance agency in no time.

First up, determine your objective. Whatever social platform you are on, your business profile and the content you post should always be in line with your goal. Participating just because everyone else is doing it can lead to a birdshot approach and can be difficult to gauge its effectiveness. Some common objectives include brand building, prospecting for new customers, or engaging with your customers. Of course, there may be some overlap on the benefit derived from your social media marketing across all of these, but knowing your primary reason for having a social presence will definitely impact which platform you spend the most time on and what content you post.

Decide how much time you can commit and stick with it. Whether you decide to commit to an hour a day or two hours a week, make sure you are operating within the range you established. It’s safe to assume that any time you log in, you will be bombarded with something that wants to pull you away from the task at hand. The phone rings. A customer walks in. These competing interests can easily push social media to “do it later” on your calendar. Schedule the time in your calendar or adopt the use of free social media scheduling tools but you decide how much time you can reasonably commit and stick to it. And when you log in, avoid the time traps—getting drawn into funny goat videos, grumpy cat memes and your cousin’s cruise pictures is not an effective use of your time.

Integrate social media into your other marketing outlets. Make sure your website is up to snuff, especially if your primary goal is to find new leads or build your brand. Incorporate links between your website and your social media and vice versa. Add social icons to your business cards, advertisements, brochures and signage. And don’t abandon the networking in person. Following up an introduction with a LinkedIn invite is a perfect way to build on conversations you may have had during an event.