In this week’s Q&A, we sat down with Lauren Gerstner, the Director of Social Influence Marketing from H&R Block, to learn her best practices for Social Media Strategy, Social Integration, and Project Management.

What is your role at H&R Block?

My role is Director of Social Influence Marketing, so essentially I have responsibility for the development and execution of our brand’s social strategies. Our social strategy starts with evaluating our channel landscape and defining which channels make the most sense for us to have a presence in and which can best drive our business objectives. Next we look at the content that we’re developing to ensure we’re creating compelling content and having conversations that resonate with our audience, foster positive sentiment, drive consideration for the brand, and maintain strong relationships with our current clients. There’s also a big social listening piece of our strategy, staying on the pulse of conversation happening within our target audience and our social communities. We have social segmentation data that we’re also consistently refining to ensure we have a strong picture of who our target audiences are, what they’re interested in, what platforms they’re on, how they’re thinking about taxes. We try to make sense of that through the analytics that we’re tracking and we’re working to bring insights derived from social listening back into the business.

What social networks do you currently publish on?

We have a brand social presence on all the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest but we’re constantly keeping an eye on emerging platforms to understand what makes sense for our strategy. We’re also revisiting existing channel presences to see where it might make more sense to consolidate. Our approach is to maximize our purpose and our presence where we can, producing stronger content on our primary platforms.

What are your business objectives for social media?

Our primary objective is to drive preference and consideration for our brand. When consumers are making a choice about how and where to file their taxes, we want to leverage social as a channel that influences that decision. At the same time, we also recognize that a large portion of our audience is comprised of current clients so we’re looking at it through the retention and relationship management lens as well.

How are you currently measuring your objectives?

Measurement and KPI definition is an always-evolving piece of our strategy. We’ve been tracking some metrics consistently like Share of Voice to understand how visible our brand is amongst the full scope of the conversation involving our competitors. Within that Share of Voice we’re looking at sentiment, so what are people feeling, what is that emotional component when they’re talking about our brand? We also look at sentiment drivers or what the specific conversation is that makes up a particular sentiment category. Engagement on our content is also key…along with other paid performance metrics we can track on promoted social content.

What challenges do you face?

One of the biggest challenges is actually in the measurement space. We’re always working to ensure that we’re tracking the right metrics, that our reporting is equipping us with actionable insights. Because the tax season is only 4 short months, there’s only so much time we have to really make a maximum impact, so being able to extract the insights from our reporting and take action on that quickly is critical to our social strategy.

What is one campaign that you are most proud of?

Our early season promotion campaign, which we ran on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the most recent tax season, was a great success for our social team. The brand promotion running was a sweeps that offered clients a chance to win $1,000 during a 32-day window. We leveraged this promotion as an opportunity to create unique conversation with our clients via user-generated content. We asked clients to tell us what they would do if they won $1,000 and the difference this would make in their lives using the campaign hashtag #MyGrandPlan. And we saw our clients really own this conversation in social, telling amazing stories and sharing great photos about the impact this money could have in their lives.

What social networks are you most excited to try new things with?

I would say we’re most excited about Instagram. H&R Block has been on the platform for almost two years, but our initial strategy was more ad hoc. This year, we’re in a much better place where we can bring a more consistent look and feel for the brand on that platform, and it’s a great space to showcase the more of a human side of our brand,

What advice do you have for other social media marketers out there?

What I’ve realized in the last few years is that social media is this really beautiful intersection of so many different aspects of your business. And it seems to me that if you are in a social media role you’re so well equipped to understand how customers are talking about your brand. That’s a major advantage that not everyone has access to, so use that access to build bridges inside your company. In a very data-centric world, you have the tools to be able to share real customer conversation to help the rest of your organization better understand how customers are experiencing your brand.

What predictions do you have for the future of social media?

I don’t know if it’s a prediction as much as an observation, but I’ve noticed that customer service has become a legitimate customer demand in the social space. Customers today expect that brands are listening, responding, and resolving issues that surface in social media. And that can be a challenge to brands to adapt their organization to adequately serve customers here. The other observation is that video has really emerged as the premium content format over the last year or so. It’s far and away the most engaging. So, investing in video as a major component of your content strategy will be a key trend.  

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Posted by Sheena