Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Strategy

7 Lessons From the Front Lines of the Social and Content Convergence

1000 Posts

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.”

Jay Baer Blog PostThat 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

social_and_content_convergenceThe 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.

Which of these 7 Lessons are most important for you?

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Hi Jay. Congrats on the 1000th post!

    I’d be very interested to know more about Jeff’s model for estimating Earn Media. Do you have anymore details on it?

    I have a certain expectation of the amount of shares each of our blog posts will receive, but it’s only based on historical performance, not any kind of model.

  2. says

    I agree with Jose! I work in social and have yet to refer to it as earned media, but sometimes it is truly about the packaging. Because of the sometimes false connotations with social media, it is necessary to give it more credibility in referencing.

    And lesson #6 ties nicely into this notion! Every piece of earned or social media should be expected to drive traffic or sales in some way. I think this is challenging especially when it feels like you need to produce content constantly, but benchmarking is key for progress.

  3. Kevin Magee says

    Congrats on 1000 and thanks for a most excellent keynote last week. As Albert said so eloquently, if you approach everything with a ‘why do I care about this’ approach, you get to the answer quickly. You brought great Youtility, shared with everyone, and now summed up a jam packed coupla days. That’s why I care.

    Also, the more people you share RunPee with, the better we all are.

  4. says

    Way to hit a momentous 1k goal, Jay! Completely deserved, with all the great content that’s always posted here and discussed on Social Pros. Thanks for a great recap and some things to think about.

  5. Tracy Stonard says

    Many congratulations on your 1000th post!

    I’m curious about the ‘Earned media’ too, can you elaborate any further on the benchmarked data or how the MRY group estimate it?


  6. says

    Awesome job on the 1,000th post! Quite the milestone, eh? I love the “Earned Media” concept, showing that getting your desired “venue” is all about creating value through your brand. Great suggestions! Always good to see new ways of merging content & social.

  7. Graciousstore says

    Congratulations for this 1000th post! It is good to look good, because looking good helps to attract people to you before they ca see what you have to offer them

  8. JimYoungPRBrigade says

    Congrats on the 1000th post, Jay! Totally with you on H&R Block. By being top of mind with useful and entertaining content, they’re shedding a new light on taxes and lightening it up a little for people. When people do need to complete their taxes, H&R will be on the short list of companies to hire.

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