SPECIAL NOTE: This is the 1,000th blog post to appear on Convince & Convert since I founded this site in 2008. Many, many thanks to all readers and fans for their tremendous support over these five years. I hope to continue providing you thoughtful, interesting content about social/content/digital for a long time to come! ~ Jay Baer
“It’s hard to get less sexy than taxes.”
That was just one of the excellent and interesting lines I overheard last week at the Expion Social Business Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Expion is an enterprise social media management software platform, and I was the opening keynote speaker at the event’s second day).
Here are my 7 Lessons Learned about the convergence of social and content, from the Expion Summit:
Lesson 1: Don’t Let Your Inherent Seasonality Stand In Your Way
The very frank – and very funny – statement about taxes was put forth on stage by Kevin Cobb, Jerry Green, and Matt Staub – who run the social media team at H&R Block. They delivered a fascinating breakdown of the brand’s social progress, which began in 2011 with a goal of taking back the offseason (most people only think about taxes during spring tax season).
H&R Block wasn’t willing to let customers ignore taxes for most of the year, and used social media and content marketing to keep tax topics on the minds of customers and prospects. With a three-pronged strategy of “Educate; Engage; and Entertain” they set to work.
Lesson 2: Give Your Brand Permission To Talk About More Than Its Products
The brand created many bite-sized educational content pieces that very much epitomize the “marketing sideways” trend I talk about in my book, Youtility. The goal was to make customers realize that many life events were actually tax events. Thus, the content focused on infographics like back-to-school sales tax-free holidays, and preparing for winter checklists.
H&R Block also fully decentralized their social chatter, empowering and enabling 100,000 tax professionals to share content.
Lesson 3: Pick Specific Success Metrics (just a few) and Stick To Them
The hub for the initiative is BlockTalk, an information portal that offers up tax and life advice. Traffic to Block Talk doubled from 2012 to 2013 (more than 2 million visitors, annually), and share of conversation around tax issues increased by 13% year-over-year. The brand has also evened out (to some degree) the previously vast gap in chatter about them during tax season, versus the “off season.”
This was a terrific case study that included broad strategy tied to business outcomes, smart and measurable objectives, and several well-executed tactics.
That kind of unveiling was common at this Expion event (theme: Mission Possible) as companies like IBM, Doubletree, Jeep, Univision, Coca-Cola, and Molson-Coors shared their in-the-trenches stories of what works today, and why. It was like a whole conference of Social Pros podcast episodes! (In fact, if you want more detail on the H&R Block tax preparer social enablement program, check out this episode we recorded with them earlier this year)
Lesson 4: Looking Good Is As Important As Working Well
Another highlights of the event were Expion’s unveiling of their spiffy new user interface, which they hilariously (and honestly) described as: allowing our customers to marry James Bond, instead of being stuck with Bill Gates. (it was very “Radical Transparency” which is also a theme in Youtilty).
Lesson 5: The Best and Broadest Content Engine You Can Access Is Your Existing Customers
Perhaps surprising for a brand-side social media conference, the big thread for the event was content marketing.
Several examples were shown (like H&R Block) of companies producing truly useful content (music to my eyes), and Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction even dangled what will become the next phase of content marketing in this excellent quote:
“The most honest content is from your customers, who are the most important people in your world. Figure out how you can leverage that content and extend the social value and shelf-life of it.”
Lesson 6: Earned Media Isn’t an Accident, And Can Be Predicted
One of the most intriguing presentations was by Jeff Melton, the Chief Distribution Officer of agency holding company MRY who talked about detailed and integrated planning for earned media. Like most companies, I don’t estimate earned media (impressions, shares, et al) in social, and via content. They just….happen. At MRY, Jeff and his team created extremely detailed models that use benchmark data to determine how much earned media in social each piece of paid, earned, or owned content SHOULD generate. Before they add something to Facebook, they have a “budget” for what they expect it will do. Very interesting, and extremely smart. In fact, all agencies in the MRY group are committed to this approach. So much so, that the big broadcast agencies like BBDO have earned media goals for every TV spot, etc.
Lesson 7: Maybe Social Media is The Wrong Term, with Too Much Baggage
It was also fascinating to hear Jeff say that they never use the words “social media” at MRY, but always “earned media.” This is because “social media” carries specific connotations and baggage, whereas “earned media” (which of course is often located on social media) is viewed as more precise and applicable. It reminded me of speaker, author, consultant David Meerman Scott, who told me once that he never mentions “social media” in the C-Suite, due to misunderstandings of social’s purpose and role.