How H&R Block made social media everyone’s job - SmartBrief

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How H&R Block made social media everyone’s job

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This post was written by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund and was culled from their forthcoming book, “The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter & More Social,” available for pre-order and debuting Feb. 1. Download the first chapter free at

It used to be so simple.

Decisions were made according to an organization chart that classified people according to their functional role. If you were low on the chart, you just carried out the orders handed to you from higher on the branches. If you were higher on the chart, you handed down the decisions and were accountable for whatever happened below you, rarely getting your hands dirty in the details. Businesses sorted employees into silos like marbles into jars.

But the increasing speed of business calls for broader leadership and collective accountability. We need a distribution of decision-making and authority throughout an organization to make us quicker, more nimble, more responsive to the demands of immediacy. We need not just new roles, but teams that communicate faster, with more fluidity and less friction. And nowhere is that fluidity more necessary than in social media, where in any given second a customer could be praising or punishing your company — in public.

The key to succeeding in social media is not to control and centralize, but rather to advise and then decentralize.

H&R Block is the world’s largest tax-preparation business. Its social media program started in 2007 in the marketing department, mostly as a promotional vehicle, and as an extension of their traditional marketing campaigns and efforts.

But the more engaged it got as a company, the more the focus shifted from acquisition and lead generation to more strategic communication overall, with a heavy focus on customer service. Zena Weist, the company’s director of social media, supported the decision to move social media underneath the corporate communications umbrella.

The H&R Block social media team, which consists of five people in addition to Weist, is housed in corporate communications, but it gets just about everyone involved. The team members partnered with digital and retail divisions to educate those teams and immerse them in social media, since customer service was a key area of focus for them. They also work with people from regulatory, retail field teams, legal, franchise teams and even information technology to make sure online communication is being supported and stewarded wherever necessary.

“We realized that in order to grow our social media efforts, there was no way our team could own and control everything,” explains Weist. “So we’re aiming for something that’s less centralized and more organic, and that helps equip our teams with information and expertise so they can participate in social media, too.”

Here are 10 steps to adopt a distributed social media strategy in your organization:

  1. Understand your entry point for social media and where the roots are.
  2. Create a coaching staff to coordinate and guide the companywide social media efforts of players.
  3. Recruit team members across the business to represent their functional areas within social media.
  4. Consider new roles that you might need to bolster your social media goals and efforts.
  5. Create a social media co-op that involves and empowers employees outside official social media teams.
  6. Create a social media policy that accurately reflects your corporate culture and desired outcomes.
  7. Think about what role you want your agency to play in your social media programs.
  8. Create an internal social system to gather company stories, and feed important information from all corners of the business.
  9. Adopt the tools that suit your culture, infrastructure and existing communication style.
  10. Train your employees and establish a system for ongoing refresher training.