Why Social Media is Important

By Bonnie Robinson

Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. Whether you are selling products, offering services, educating people or seeking feedback, an organization needs its messages to reach its target audiences. This is especially true of the CIA, which keeps its members informed about important issues that affect the actuarial profession, and provides a way for those members to engage in conversation and contribute to the maintenance and development of actuarial standards and professionalism.

New technologies provide more options, and more challenges, for communicating with others. To engage with members, future members, and the public, the CIA not only communicates via e-mail and its robust website, it also uses four social media platforms:

"Social media is a way to reach a wider audience that we can’t reach outside of our membership," says Kelly Fry, CIA manager, marketing. "It’s a cost-effective way to reach these people."

According to a 2015 Forum Research study on social media usage, 59 percent of Canadians use Facebook, 25 percent use Twitter, and 30 percent used LinkedIn. These numbers are often higher among young users, aged 18–34.

For many associations, reaching a younger audience is also key, particularly to attract new members. "There is a need to keep up with mainstream marketing practices in order to be viewed as relevant to current and future actuarial students," says Fry. "It’s important for students and younger actuaries to know we are a progressive organization and that we will use the latest tools and can meet their communication needs."

Siddhesh Pawar, president of the Actuarial Students’ National Association (ASNA), agrees. "The CIA definitely should engage with young actuaries, and especially aspiring actuaries, to connect with them on a platform they use on a daily basis," he says. "It is extremely important for the younger population in the actuarial industry to have a lot of information relayed through social media platforms." He notes that the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has a massive presence on Facebook and Twitter. "I get almost all of the updates from SOA through my Facebook wall feed."

Pawar believes that 100 percent of ASNA’s members and followers on social media use those platforms for information and resources on their chosen career. ASNA constantly posts information, and writes articles and blogs on trending topics in the industry. It also shares articles and links from organizations like the CIA, the SOA, and other actuarial organizations. "Social media is a very powerful channel for our team here," he adds. "We strive hard every single day to connect with each and every member of our organization to keep them engaged with us."


Facebook is still the most popular online social networking site, with 59 percent of Canadians using it. Notably, among youth (ages 18–34), that number is 75 percent. Facebook users create a profile where they can post messages of any length on their profile page, and share photos, videos, and links to websites. When other users like and follow an organization’s Facebook page, they may choose to receive notifications whenever that organization posts new information.

At the 2014 ASNA convention, Fry discovered that the majority of students she spoke with are on Facebook and do follow companies of interest. "If we want to reach students who might want to know about the actuarial profession, we go to Facebook," she says. "We want to make sure we are in that same space, so that students know to come to us when they are ready to become an Associate."

Pawar agrees. "I personally use Facebook only once or twice a day because I find it too addictive sometimes. I prefer my information to be sent to me on paper or by e-mail," he says. "But if we happen to conduct a survey today, the probability of students/young actuaries who check their e-mails or the CIA website will be five times lower than the probability of them checking their social media accounts."


Twitter allows users to send and read short, 140-character messages called tweets. Messages may include announcements, links to articles, personal thoughts, or photographs, as long as the message stays within the 140-character limit. Users follow and are followed by others, quickly sharing information and engaging in conversations on a wide-range of topics. Twitter is most popular among young users (36 percent).

For many businesses, including professional membership organizations like the CIA, Twitter is a way to develop one’s branding and stay visible. The CIA uses Twitter to keep members informed of industry trends/reports and CIA events. It also helps to reach employers, policy makers, and the general public to educate them on the actuarial field and highlight the benefits of working with actuaries. "Twitter helps to build our presence and grow awareness of the CIA and actuaries," says Fry. "It is also a great way to keep track of the discussions taking place around actuarial areas of expertise. It is interesting to follow conversations that are taking place around a specific #hashtag, like #pension or #CPP, for example."

The use of Twitter, with its brief, sometimes cryptic messages, may be at odds with a profession known for being methodical and thorough. However, this is not necessarily the case. Many actuaries are embracing the Twitter platform.

Until a few months ago, CIA Fellow Norman Dreger, partner, international consulting group leader Central Europe at Mercer, wasn’t even on Twitter. "I’m 38-years-old. I’m firmly in Generation X. I thought I needed it like a fish needs a bike," he says. "But that’s how young people communicate. You can either stick your head in the sand, or you can embrace it."

Dreger explains that the marketing department in his office approached him to start tweeting. "Consulting is a pretty traditional field. In the past we’ve used traditional forms of communication," he says. "We need to get with the times and take a modern approach. I’ve been loving it ever since."

Dreger uses Twitter for job postings, to keep track of developments in the field, and to share intellectual capital with the market, always with a personal touch. He follows movers and shakers in the industry who are posting, as well as clients, prospects, and competitors. "Even over the last few months, I have seen such a positive impact," he says. "It’s fast-paced, but very easy to use. Even a Gen Xer like me can figure it out."

CIA Fellow Houston Cheng, consulting actuary and senior manager at KPMG, has distinct personal guidelines for how he uses social media. Although he restricts Facebook to family and friends, he uses LinkedIn and Twitter professionally, mainly as networking tools. "I don’t produce content," he acknowledges. "I do read and share posts from others, including promoting events I am attending. I also use Twitter for information. Sometimes it’s faster than regular news."


LinkedIn is a business-focused social networking site where users share resumes, network with other professionals, discover business opportunities, search for jobs, and take part in professional development. Aimed at those already settled into or on the cusp of their careers, it is the one social media site where usage rates are higher among 30- to 49-year olds (32 percent) and those 50–64 (26 percent) than 18–29-year olds (22 percent).

"It’s the right place to find young graduates or people early in their career," says Dreger. "It’s like a walking CV. You get insight into who has visited the page. Are they well connected, do they have publications?"

The CIA currently uses LinkedIn to share upcoming CIA events, news and information of interest to actuaries, and the link to the CIA actuarial jobs bank. In the future, the CIA may add a discussion forum.


YouTube is a video-sharing website. Although less prevalent as a business tool, YouTube can still be an effective platform for communicating with the members of an organization. The CIA has its own YouTube channel where it shares video content including a regular message from the President, updates from the Board, educational talks from Enterprise Risk Management specialists, and clips from events (CIA Annual Meeting, Actuarial Standards Oversight Council meeting, etc.).

Fry encourages CIA members to explore its various social media offerings. While they do not replace traditional methods of communication, they do provide a quick way to find out what the Institute and its members are doing, engage in conversation about areas of interest to the profession, and to reach out to the next generation of actuaries.

 Like us on Facebook.

 Follow us on Twitter.

 Connect with us on LinkedIn

  Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Bonnie Robinson is the English editor at the CIA Head Office.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires