TurboTax and H&R Block are gearing up to do battle again during the tax season, with each banking on social media as a cornerstone of its marketing efforts.
Intuit's TurboTax has bet big on Facebook and Twitter integrations, inviting users to review its products and then share their thoughts with their social networks. It hopes to goose that along by unleashing Team TurboTax, consisting of 40 experts to address tax questions posted on Twitter. The company has an ambitious marketing goal this tax season: get 150 million earned media impressions thanks to consumer chatter.
"As a marketer we want to get out of the way and let our customers talk about us," said Seth Greenberg, TurboTax's director of national media and digital marketing.
H&R Block, meanwhile, is taking a different approach to its social media outreach. Last year, it looked to answer tax questions on Twitter and Facebook, but this year it has set up a dedicated "Get It Right" site for its tax advisors to answer questions. H&R Block has enlisted 1,000 of its advisors in the effort, according to Zena Weist, director of social media at the company, and has signed up 65,000 members and answered 50,000 questions.
The Q&A site replaced a more standard blog H&R Block published last year. "A community wants a one-on-one relationship where they can continue to go back," Weist said. "That's not what Twitter is. You don't have a continuous dialog."
TurboTax is betting heavily on making its own site more social. The company has integrated Facebook and Twitter's APIs into its site to allow visitors to sort product reviews to find their friends. They can also sort reviews based on tax filers in similar situations as theirs. Facebook looms large, since TurboTax research shows half of its 20 million customers use the social network, said Greenberg. Users of the software are asked at the end of filing if they want to update Facebook with the news.
"This is a big bet for us," he said. "It's not just another media play."
Both companies are going beyond just social media with its digital ad plans.
H&R Block's media plan includes a tax tips radio station on Pandora and a deal with Hulu to bring viewers commercial-free viewing for 24 hours. TurboTax has bought out the home page on Yahoo, one of the Internet's priciest single buys, for five days this month. It is also using search retargeting to find consumers who use Yahoo to look for tax information and has set up a Q&A section in Yahoo Answers. This weekend, TurboTax is running a Super Bowl-themed integration featuring ESPN personality Chris Berman. The "TurboTron" rich media unit has videos and tax tools.
"They're leveraging all the tools we have to create a program that works together," said Mitch Spolan, vp of North American field sales for Yahoo.