By adaptive - April 22nd, 2013

In this practitioner interview, we talk with H&R Blocks Director of Social Business Strategy, Scott Gulbransen.


Entering his second year as Director of Social Business Strategy at tax giant H&R Block, Scott Gulbransen recently returned to the tax business after previously spending 10 years at rival Intuit working on the TurboTax & Quicken brands. In his 17 years as a marketing, public relations professional and journalist; Gulbransen enters his 12th tax season after a wildly successful foundational year at H&R Block. A strategic thinker and business problem solver, Gulbransen has worked for some of the world’s top brands including TurboTax, Sony Online Entertainment, and Applebee’s.


[USM] Can you outline how you use social media within your organization? 

[SG] Currently, social media in our organization is used in a multifaceted fashion. It's mostly used in marketing and client support but increasingly we are also using it to recruit talent, stay in touch with employees, and also to connect clients to one another to create a strong peer-to-peer community online. While marketing has led the integration of social business into the overall enterprise, we're now making great progress at having every part of the business assess and create social plans for their own purposes.

[USM] How is social media organised within your company? What organizational models do you use and why?

[SG] We are using a Center of Excellence approach. After I was brought in to lead social business at H&R Block, we realized that it was primarily siloed into the marketing function. In order for it to grow outside of social marketing, and to include our valued business partners, we had to make it OK for others to own pieces of social across the company. We do that but remain the in-house experts helping other functional units, outside of marketing, understand what social means to them and how they can best use it to accomplish their business goals. We're in high-growth mode so things are getting very exciting. 

[USM] As a corporate user of social networks, how does your company value the networks it has a presence on?

[SG] We value any network or presence online where we can listen, speak to and learn from our clients. Facebook plays huge in our world, as that is the place many of our clients choose to reach out to us. We spend much time and effort there because our clients have self-selected it as their social network of choice to interact with H&R Block. At the same time, we also do the same in other networks like Twitter and Google+ as well as launching our own hosted community on our website where clients can interact with one another. We're building a very strong and deeply interactive peer-to-peer and peer-to-tax pro community there.

[USM] Can you outline a recent initiative that included a social media component?

[SG] We run many different types of initiatives from offering a direct line of client support via Facebook (clients services app) to contests, etc. This year we launched our H&R Block At Home (online tax prep) Dreamfund contest on Facebook that was beyond successful. It allowed clients to share what their dream refund (Dreamfund) would be and what they would do with it. We gave away $10,000 per week for six weeks and used user-created videos of the winners to drive more interest. Even Facebook was blown away by the engagement and rise in intent to purchase. Great stuff.

[USM] How much pressure is there to show ROI with the social media you use?

[SG] Right now, there isn't a tonne of pressure but it is growing as it should. At the same time, our executives to whom I report to also understand ROO – or Return on Objective. Not every social program or initiative is built around ROI. There are certainly times when you can have a direct link (conversion, sales, etc.), and we've done those with mixed success. At the same time, if you're in a situation where the only question for the social leader or team is "What is the ROI on that," then you're probably not in the right company or you're not answering or setting yourself up for the right conversation. At H&R Block, our executives value both and understand the multifaceted nature of social media and social marketing.

[USM] How did your organisation approach the mapping of your enterprise to identify where social media should reside in the corporate structure?

[SG] It really was trial and error. Since I know my predecessors here at Block, I know they bounced from marketing to corporate communications then back into marketing when I came on board. But since the day I've joined, I've always preached that social needs to live everywhere. The Center of Excellence resides in marketing but every employee and every function in every department truly own social.

[USM] What is your advice to organisations that are beginning to map their own corporate structure with the view to embedding social media activity within their enterprise?

[SG] Don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. It can be different depending on your organization so don't put too much stock into how someone else is doing it. You can look to us long in the tooth for guidance, but at the end of the day you need to find what's right for you. That can be different. Also, you need to make sure you recruit as many evangelists from other areas of the organization as soon as possible. Have a groundswell of support before you choose to push large asks or initiatives.

[USM] Are there any specific tools you employ that help your business manage its social media activity across multiple departments?

[SG] Educational tools are the best. I'm like a librarian – I'm constantly sending links to stories (Harvard Biz Review, etc.) to everyone to educate them on how social is being used successfully across the enterprise. I find that if people are allowed to learn on their own they ask questions and become more engaged. That helps grow social across the organization and leads to better buy-in.

[USM] How do you see the management and development of social media in your company evolving over the next few years?

[SG] We're fortunate that our executives already understand and appreciate the value we're bringing to the business. Yet, we still have to do a better job of having them understand the differences and what works and what doesn't. These folks are incredibly busy and they look to us to bring them data and insights to help the business grow.


Scott Gulbransen, Director, Social Business Strategy, H&R Block





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