H&R Block started following me on Twitter. I didn’t think much of it. I’ve been followed by Spiderman before. (I assume the movie, though they never reached out to me.)

Truman GreeneA couple days later, I got an email from a person named Michelle asking me if taxes and social media mix. Here we go again. But she started the email with, “I see you’re getting ready for SXSW. I’m so jealous.”

(Thank you, Lord, for at least one PR pitch person who isn’t a freakin’ idiot.)

Now I’m intrigued. This gal’s done her homework, wants to know if I’ll take a look at H&R Block’s social media campaign, leaves me a ton of links and background info in the email and even admitted it was her as The Block following me on Twitter.

I was going to write something, even if it was just to compliment her on the pitch. Turns out she (and by association, H&R Block) get it. We’ve communicated primarily through direct Tweets this week. Take that, other tax preparer people!

As it turns out, H&R Block not only gets the outreach portion of it, but has figured out a way to be 100-percent, totally marketing/advertising to people using social media tools and somehow pull it off. No, I wasn’t sure if it was possible, but I’ll be damned if I don’t like this campaign.

I just spent an hour discovering Truman Green, H&R Block’s “Biggest Fan” who has goofy YouTube videos, an interesting, if not engaging, MySpace page and a MySpace blog that, while obviously served as a clever story-to-marketing message, is full of first-person narratives from the goofball Green character.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB34YfoZRIw[/youtube]

Now, the blogs may not be all that effective. There are no comments on any of them and not getting a comment on a blog in MySpace is like not getting zits in high school. There’s always a wing nut ready to yell “First!” or call you a name. Truman has his comments limited to just friends, but with almost 3,000 of them, you’d think someone would pipe up if they were being read.

The campaign includes a Facebook page, presence on Second Life, widgets and gadgets you can put on your blog and profiles (not sure why you would want to, though), a website for tax discussions which includes Podcasts of tax tips and, of course, the Twitter account, which doesn’t just serve up branded messages or leads to their website. I saw this one on their timeline, indicating there’s both responsiveness and personality mixed in:

@JillFoster We’re sending you calming vibes, and some tips on relieving tax stress- http://tinyurl.com/ynskgf
06:56 PM February 22, 2008 from web in reply to Jillfoster

What H&R Block has done is create an obvious fake persona for a social media campaign, but done so transparently. They’ve nailed a fun, off-beat spokesperson who is over-the-top corporate shill, but still engaging and entertaining. They’re providing valuable content, not just in entertaining videos and silly blog posts, but in tax tips, count down clocks and valuable link resources, even if most of them are directly to H&R Block. (I mean, I’d trust something found on their site. Wouldn’t you?) They’ve even asked for user-generated content with an idea of showing them your tax refund face, though I saw it on a Twitter post with no apparent official place to participate.

But perhaps the most refreshing part of this whole H&R Block thing? This line from Michelle’s email in reference to Truman Green:

“He’s obviously a corporate shill …”

So here’s to H&R Block, which figured out a way to be:

  1. Honest/Transparent
  2. Human
  3. Fun
  4. Engaging

And still try to sell me something. If I weren’t married to a smart woman who does our taxes each year, I’d totally be down with the Block.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. H&R Block Gets Social
  2. H&R Block’s Tango In Plain English
  3. H&R Block Launches An Island In Second Life
  4. A.G. Brown Files Injunction Against H&R Block Over “Rapid Refund”
  5. Ross To Buy Block Service Mortgage Unit

[tags]social media case study, H&R Block, Truman Green, social media, advertising, marketing[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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