Stick to Your Core: H&R Block’s Social Media Lesson – Presentation Coverage from BlogWell

The following is part of a series covering the BlogWell conference which took place at Chicago’s Gleacher Center on Thursday, January 22.

H&R Block had a very successful initial foray into social media marketing. Their first effort: a 2007 sponsored YouTube video contest called “Me and My Super Sweet Refund Video Contest“, whose launch video earned over 1.6 million views and set a YouTube record that held for over six months.

“It was a good thing that our first effort was so positive, because it provided some valuable lessons, but also reduced initial internal resistance to this new medium,” said Paula Drum, Vice President of Marketing for Digital Solutions at H&R Block.

Stick to Your Core

Since that initial foray H&R Block tried additional humorous content, but found that “entertainment for its own sake did not work as well” as specific tax-related content. This result has been consistent across all the various social media efforts they’ve tried, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others.

There was internal resistance, though, to providing tax advice in a social media context. Specifically, there was significant concern the company was giving away their core chargeable service for free. While in a superficial sense that is true, Drum agreed, the additional credibility and preference developed through providing that advice more than offsets whatever small audience may be lost.

Given the rollout of social media efforts since 2007, it appears obvious the corporation agrees with that view, and sticking to their core expertise in online marketing efforts not only obtains the best feedback and level of interaction from consumers online, it also leads to a very positive result for the company.

Expand Your Credibility and Relationship Online

Maximizing the impact of their social media efforts involved using and building on their credibility as tax experts. But how they implemented those social media efforts was critical as well.

“Allowing open comments has been key for us, as has complete transparency,” Drum said. “It’s also important that we understand each unique online platform and interact as appropriate for that site.” Twitter, for example, allows for and requires a deeper, more multi-faceted interaction with consumers than most other platforms.

Doing this properly leads to positive results. Drum gave the example of one surprising result from a Facebook campaign. They ran two different Facebook ads. The first was a direct response campaign (click here to buy our service). The second was a two-step campaign (click here to join our Facebook group). What they found was that the financial results of both campaigns were very similar, but for opposite reasons.

In the direct response campaign they had more consumers reach the offer page, but a much lower conversion rate. In the group campaign, they had fewer people reach the offer page from the ad via the group, but those people had a much higher conversion rate. Credibility earned via giving valuable content and building the relationship through the Facebook group more than offset the decreased clicks.

Drum also emphasized that working online has allowed H&R Block to transform what had traditionally been a 16-week-only relationship each year with consumers into a year-round relationship that builds a much stronger tie. Sticking to their expertise, focusing on relationships, and managing each platform appropriately has maximized that result for them.

Guest blogger James R. Dickey is Executive Director of Marketing for Unitrin Specialty. His personal web site is at jamesrdickey.com. Watch for more of his coverage of BlogWell coming soon.

About James Dickey

You can follow James on Twitter: @jamesdickey.

One Response to Stick to Your Core: H&R Block’s Social Media Lesson – Presentation Coverage from BlogWell

  1. Jeff Baas says:

    Interesting to see how a big corporation like H&R Block does social media and how they do it well. If a tax preparer with its limited busy season can maintain strong relationships throughout the year through social media, social media done right can work for anyone.

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