As more consumers turn to the Internet for their auto insurance needs, are insurance companies there awaiting them with open arms?

According to a report within the last two years, newer car insurance aggregator sites are witnessing a growing portion of the online auto insurance market that had been dominated by so few companies in recent years.

The report points out that in Q4 2010, the new sites made up nearly 725,000 submitted quotes, accounting for 8 percent of quotes submitted online. The bottom line is that as additional consumers look for auto insurance online, insurance companies are going to need to have a presence there or risk losing out on business.

Meantime, an Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) report states that those who were purchasing online car insurance grew more than six-fold, from only 4 percent in 2004 to more than 30 percent in the six months culminating March 2009.

So why should auto insurance providers go about promoting themselves and their products online?

Among the reasons:

* Social media – One of the most effective tools for an auto insurer to promote and sell coverage online is social networking. Whether through a Facebook fan page, Twitter page, or Pinterest site, auto insurance companies can show off their products and services, engage with current and potential customers, and be seen as an authoritative figure in the auto insurance industry. Social media also allows the auto insurer to have a 24/7 presence, giving them an advantage that those not only social media are missing;

* Branding opportunities – While many insurers turn to traditional advertising means such as television, radio and newspapers, an online presence is a great way to promote your brand. More and more auto insurance companies have a central figure (Flo, Gecko, etc.) who are very recognizable on television. When you unleash them online, they become cemented in the heads of millions and millions of Internet users, through ads and other promotions. As a result, they are more likely to draw consumer attention than those who have no central character. The branding possibilities then become endless each time someone sits down in front of their computer to shop for auto insurance;

* Instant feedback – Online auto insurers can also benefit from the real-time interaction they have with consumers, along with seeing what is being said about them in forums, etc. If there are any negative things being said about a company and/or its product, they can react quickly to mitigate the damage. In the past, it could be days or even weeks until an insurer would get wind of the fact that something negative was being said about them. Customer service response time is also greatly increased when an insurer can go online and respond to questions or complaints;

* SEO opportunities – With search engine optimization (SEO), auto insurers can get favorable placement and notice from major search engines such as Google. Whether it is through social media, blogs, press releases or video and podcasts, promoting one’s products and services online can attract an unlimited number of consumers.

As more consumers turn to their keyboards and apps to research and potentially buy auto insurance, those auto insurance companies who have an online presence stand to potentially drive off with more business.

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