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360i to help H&R Block hone social media strategy

H&R Block has appointed 360i as its social media agency of record (AOR). The tax preparation company anticipates 360i will optimize its existing social media strategy by showing “tangible, measurable results,” says Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block’s director of social business strategy.

“We’ve always been trying to find better ways to connect with clients,” Gulbransen says. “We have a shorter amount of time to make a client happy. The only thing people like less than taxes is dental work. When you talk about tax season, for many people, [it’s] 90 days. We need to be ahead of the game and make sure we’re both listening and responding at a difficult time.”

Tax preparation companies like H&R Block have a shortened earnings period—with only 120 days to produce an entire year’s revenue, Gulbransen explains. Yet H&R Block still needs to maintain relationships with clients and prospects even during times when tax preparation isn’t top-of-mind. Social media provides this capability.

“That’s where the clients are,” Gulbransen says. “They want to communicate directly with the brand, whether it’s questions or directional advice. We think it’s an important part of the mix and a way to develop a deeper relationship.”

Part of H&R Block’s social strategy involves developing content relevant year-round, which entails demonstrating its expertise beyond its core business of tax preparation. “We have a lot to offer. At the end of the day, taxes are about money and money is a way of life,” Gulbransen explains, adding that while tax preparation is for most consumers a once-a-year crucible, life events can catalyze significant changes in one’s tax situation. “As part of our social strategy, we’ll give great content on anything that has to do with finances.”

One of the issues Gulbransen has commonly faced with social media marketing is getting buy-in from the various enterprise stakeholders, many of whom see value only in terms of ROI. “Not every social program is about ROI,” Gulbransen says. “Sometimes it’s about changing perception, which will end up in ROI, but it takes longer to get there. You don’t go after a hard sell in social media. It’s about community and relationships with clients, and that’s hard.”

Though H&R Block is not a social media newcomer, it did not have an official social media AOR, relying on agency partners to help establish certain footholds. Gulbransen, who has worked at three large brands including H&R Block competitor Turbo Tax, felt it was important to have a social AOR that understands the pain points, needs, and structure of large brands.

“I believe social interaction is intertwined and part of a greater marketing mix. We can get that from 360i with social, which works closely with search,” Gulbransen says. 360i had an existing partnership with H&R Block, as its provider of search marketing services. “When people are out looking for answers on anything that has to do with money and taxes, search is a big deal.”

Prior to selecting 360i, which assumed the role of social media AOR in August, H&R Block put out a formal request for proposal and considered “a very small list of top social agencies.” Gulbransen declined to name them.

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