How H&R Block Activated 90,000 Seasonal Tax Pros in Social Media

Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block

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Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block

Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block @sdgully

Scott Gulbransen, Director of Social Business Strategy at H&R Block, joins the Social Pros Podcast this week to discuss the structure of social that allowed 90,000 H&R tax professionals to mobilize in unison earlier this year, driving engagement at a local level, and dealing with federal regulations as a financial services company in social media.

Read on for some of the highlights and tweetable moments, or listen to the full podcast.

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Tweetable Moments

“We did not just want to control social; we wanted to have it permeate the organization.” -@sdgully (tweet this)

“Our vision for the future is that our people are our brand.” -@sdgully (tweet this)

The Social Advocator

H&R Block faces a unique set of challenges with mobilizing its 10,000+ offices across the country (and now the world) on social media: most of its workforce is seasonal. Most of its employees are only on the books for 90-120 days, but corporate can’t just cut those seasonal professionals out of the social scene because, as Scott says, “Our people are our brand.

The first step they took was to give each local office its own social presence with a Facebook page and a Twitter account. After all, who else can communicate with their clients on a local level? The Cleveland office, for example, knows more about what’s happening in Cleveland than anyone handling the corporate H&R Block accounts. “They’re getting much higher engagement at the local level than they would at a branded H&R Block page.”

To get the individual tax professionals active in the social sphere, H&R Block has developed a tool with Expion called the Social Advocator. This lets corporate push approved content out to the local and regional offices. As a financial services company, there are certain things they can’t do according to federal regulations.

Creating approved content that H&R Block tax professionals can personalize and send out to their own networks empowers those individuals to engage with their customers in the social sphere and using their own voice, while also complying to federal regulations.

This setup allowed the body of professionals at H&R Block to mobilize in the grassroots “I Am H&R Block” campaign earlier this year. In response to a disparaging campaign by TurboTax, thousands of H&R Block employees took to social media proclaiming their pride in their identities as seasonal tax professionals. This creative mix of traditional and social media was actually the focus of a “Holy Social!” segment on the Social Pros podcast a few months ago. Scott says people were even coming into the H&R Block retail stores offering words of support, letting their local tax professionals know that they believed in them.

The social team at H&R Block doesn’t just “check out” when tax season is over, either; India and Australia’s tax seasons are just beginning, so Scott’s team is still in full gear supporting the expansion of H&R Block’s brand worldwide.

Social Media Stat of the Week: 665 million daily Facebook users

Facebook’s quarterly earnings were released last week, revealing that 30% of their revenue is now coming from mobile use. Even more interesting on the mobile side is that in the U.S. and Canada, about 71% of the daily users are active mobile users. Facebook has grown the top line of users but remained steady at 71% mobile usage. Perhaps this is more of a statement about how people consume data than it is a comment on Facebook’s brilliance in mobile technology. After all, their mobile app is not particularly earth-shattering at the moment.

The struggle with discussing “mobile” technology is that we are not always literally mobile when we use it. Sometimes we are on the go, but sometimes we’re perusing Facebook on our phones from the couch in our living rooms. Talking about mobile as some kind of monolithic thing is difficult because it has so many applications. How does a company target “mobile users” if that demographic is so heterogeneous? Geotagging might be a lucrative place for Facebook to concentrate its mobile advertising efforts.

Holy Social!

Many television shows are harnessing the Twitter hashtag to foster social engagement with their content, but Fuse is doing the opposite: they’ve created a nightly TV show called the Trending 10 that uses social engagement to dictate the content of the show. Every day they find the top 10 trending topics in music for the day and create a music news show based on that.

This is a cool idea, but we should be careful about where it leads. News needs fact-checkers and curators. “Hopefully we can find that happy medium,” Jeff says, “between the human-curated and -created content and that which is automated.”

Four Your Information

How did you get involved in social media?
Scott is an early adopter. Back when he was working in PR at Intuit, he joined Facebook and Twitter for his own personal use, and before he knew it, Intuit was saying, “From a brand perspective, we should start using this to communicate.” And the rest was history.

What do you like best about social media?
A lot of times, brands can get disconnected from who they’re trying to serve. But with social, “we can interact with real time our customers and understand how they feel and what they’re doing, and then use that for business insights.” Social helps Scott understand what his customers need from him.

What do you like least about social?
The social perspective can sometimes become too insular from the business perspective. We need to keep listening, not just to the “thought leaders,” but also to the people who are implementing real strategies on a daily basis.

If you could do a Skype call with any living person, who might that be and why?
“I know I’m breaking the rule here, but I would love to do a Skype call with the leaders of the eight largest nations in the country, and actually talk to them about why it seems to me that our governments continue to be a little detached from the daily life of their citizens.” That gets back to what he loves most about social: that you’re dealing with real people, and not through any filters.

See you next week!

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