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Social Media: Information Sharing and Insurance

For the property/casualty insurance industry, 2011 was a remarkably “sharing” year.

I don’t mean what you think. I’m talking about sharing on social media websites.

Of the eleven most shared events during the year, three were directly related to property loss. The Japanese tsunami, Hurricane Irene, and the U.S. East Coast earthquake were major occasions for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. 

When such events happened, people wanted to exchange facts, thoughts, feelings, photos, videos, and just about everything else. In fact, according to AdAge MediaWorks, the earthquake was so remarkable that only one event scored higher — the assassination of Osama bin Laden (2011’s most shared event). 

The AdAge MediaWorks post claims that sharing on mobile devices, like iPhones, iPads, and Androids, increased by about 600 percent in 2011. With sales of smartphones and tablets growing smartly, it’s a safe bet that the sharing trend will continue.

As I wrote in my previous blog (Social Media: Fighting Insurance Fraud), insurers are learning to mine the social media for insights into their customers’ behavior and to fight potential insurance fraud.  However, fraud is only step one.  According to a recent post on AOL’s DailyFinance website, carriers are now working with vendors to mine social media sites for information that can help in rating potential customers.   These vendors are working to develop a “social media score” not too dissimilar from your personal credit score.

Of course, use of any such score in rating or underwriting insurance policies is bound to cause controversy. Just take a look at the comments after the AOL DailyFinance article for a small sampling of opinion on the issue. And it’s too early to tell how insurance regulators and state legislators would regard any attempt to use social media data in a rating plan or underwriting rules.

I will be watching developments in this area with interest, and I plan to keep blogging on this and related topics in the months and years ahead.

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