Josh Feyen at American Family Insurance shares how he developed a social media training program for their 2,800 insurance agents nationwide

Josh Feyen, Field Digital and Social Media Administrator at American Family Insurance, is helping thousands of insurance agents improve their social media skills.

My main role is to help our agents stay compliant, and manage a steady stream of content available for them to add to their social media networks.

“My main role is to help our agents stay compliant and manage a steady stream of content available for them to add to their social media networks,” says Josh. “But the most fun part of my job is developing training for our agents and their staff so that they can do digital and social marketing better.”

And that's no small task. With 2,800 agents who essentially operate as independent small businesses, Josh's training spans 19 states across the country. “To support those agents, our marketing division supplies lots of assistance,” explains Josh. “We help them with compliance, content creation, training, and social media marketing. I also manage a help desk that they can call if they have questions — like, ‘Hey, I got a negative review, what do I do next?' or ‘I want to do some Facebook advertising, how do I do it?'”

A big part of that training is instructor-led sessions and webinars focused on improving their agent's social media literacy.

“Last year our talent development, sales, and marketing divisions jointly developed a formal, four-hour, instructor-led class for all of our agents,” says Josh. “It was optional, but it was part of an internal certification program.” That session's goal was to get agents up to speed with the social media basics — or, as Josh puts it, “So that they could get on Facebook, write a status update, use our internal tools, and not get themselves in trouble.”

Once that instructor-led class was completed, Josh found that a lot of their agents were asking, “What's next?”

“So, as the year ended and I was getting asked the same kinds of questions, I started assembling similar ideas,” says Josh. “Before you knew it, I had a five-part webinar series that I am now delivering via Skype for Business.”

The webinars range between 20 and 40 minutes, with a new one coming out every other month for the duration of the series.

They're really confident that these numbers can be attributed to that basic social media class.

The five webinars cover: compliance, social media customer service, how to get and respond to online reviews, “pay to play” (for Facebook and Yelp advertising, Google Adwords, and American Family's text messaging program), and a photo workshop to help them create higher-quality, local content.

“The webinars get people engaged and interested, and I can interact with participants. But I think the key component to this course is the series of emails that follow each webinar,” explains Josh. These three to seven emails — depending on the corresponding webinar — provide agents with the tactics to apply the higher-level ideas shared during each webinar.

“For example, the first webinar is called ‘What Not to Do, and What to Do Instead.' It's all about compliance,” says Josh. “We tell them not to build their own web page from scratch during the webinar, and then tell them all the ways that they can customize the page that they already have. One of the follow-up email includes pre-recorded how to videos and a Word document with templated language that they can use. So we give them everything they need to do the task at hand.”

After the series is over, the Data and Analytics team is going to study the impact it's had for American Family Insurance agents.

Last year, the team did a study of the four-hour instructor-led class and found that their new policy count had a 20% lift in new business, their overall policies in force went up 6%, their attrition rates went down 28%, and their renewal count went up 4.5%.

“These were just tremendous improvements,” says Josh. “And their confidence ratings for those numbers are anywhere between 80% and 95% — they're really confident that these numbers can be attributed to that basic social media class.”

“My premise is that, if the four-hour instructor-led class delivered ‘keep the lights on' material,” says Josh, “what can we do with something where I'm talking to them about the value of online reviews, Facebook advertising, and better content? I think it could be phenomenal.”

As for expanding the series in the future, Josh is considering recording the webinars to make them more accessible and the program more scalable.

“I'm a big believer in providing recorded material. The participants don't have to wait through all the webinar housekeeping at the start, the inevitable hold music or someone clacking away at their keyboard. So I'm developing a way for people to walk through the series; they watch the first webinar recording and then add themselves to a list to get the emails. The last email contains a link to the next webinar recording — they can't get to the next recording until they get through all the emails, and so on,” explains Josh. “I want the series to be a little more self-serve so I'm not having to start a new series every month. I'm thinking about starting a live version quarterly.”

Josh has been a member of since 2011. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.