Join us at Kansas City’s 2014 Direct Marketing Symposium

DirectMarketingSymposium14We always enjoy sharing and recommending events we feel will offer valuable learning and networking opportunities for our clients and online audeince, and are pleased to be able to offer a special discount to the 2014 Direct Marketing Symposium hosted by the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association. The event is all about data-driven marketing – from targeting, segmenting and customer insights to metrics and analytics – a great learning opportunity for savvy marketers. Featured speakers include:

Jeff Fromm, author of “Marketing to Millennials” and founder of the “Share. Like. Buy” Conference.

Alessandra Souers, Senior Product Marketing Manager at JibJab Media.

Roberta O’Keith, LEAN Six Sigma Master Black Belt at GE Power & Water.

Rocky Longworth, VP of Insight & Strategy at The Integer Group.

Brian Olson, President of InQuest Marketing.

Jordan Sass, Assistant Director of Admissions, University of Houston.

 

Event Information:

The 2014 Direct Marketing Symposium

Thursday, January 23, 2014, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

At the Kauffman Foundation, 4801 Rockhill Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111

Registration: Regular rate $225. Use promotional code SOCIALIRL25 to save $25.

Register Now

For additional information please visit the KCDMA website.

Smart Social: Walmart’s Chad Mitchell on Influencer Outreach and Employee Advocacy

Walmart logoChad Mitchell is Senior Director of Digital Communications at Walmart.  Positioned within Walmart’s  Corporate Affairs division, he and his team are responsible for managing and supporting all aspects of Walmart’s corporate digital presence, including the corporate website, social media platforms, and email communications both internally to associates and externally to customers.  They are charged with managing and protecting Walmart’s corporate digital reputation, both reactively and through proactive influencer outreach.

Chad recently joined Social: IRL Principal Ben Smith, for Smart Social, an ongoing series of conversations with leaders and innovators in social business.

We’ll be sharing the interview in two instalments. In this first instalment, conversation focuses on challenges and opportunities around influencer outreach and employee advocacy.

Part One: Chad discusses how his team defines, identifies and engages influencers in the social media space, and shares valuable insights on creating meaningful influencer relationships and outcomes.

Part Two: Chad discusses the the challenges and opportunities social media brings to influencer outreach, both in terms of identifying potential influencers and in creating the right content and message for the right audience in the right channel.

Part Three: Chad addresses the need for transparency and authenticity in influencer outreach, and to understand the scrutiny a brand such as Walmart is under with today’s outreach initiatives being conducted in full public view online.

Part Four: The conversation moves from influencer engagement to employee advocacy and Chad discusses the tremendous value of employee brand advocacy and steps Walmart is embarking on to engage, activate and empower their associates to fill this valuable yet largely untapped role.

Part Five: In concluding this first instalment of the interview, Chad discusses identifying and overcoming challenges to effective employee advocacy, from both corporate and associate perspectives.

Continue to Part Two of the interview here.

The Nice List: The Best Campaigns from Holidays Past

Guest post by Courtney Doman, Digital Marketing Manager at Social: IRL sponsor, Spredfast.  Originally posted in the Spredfast blog.

You have probably already seen tinsel and garland in the aisles of your favorite department stores and may have even grumbled that it is “too soon!” But if you are a marketer, particularly for a retail brand, there is no time like the present to put a bow on your holiday strategy for this year.

Social activations are becoming bigger and better parts of many brands’ holiday strategies. We’ve assembled a “Nice List” of standouts from the 2012 holiday season. Check it out for some social inspiration.

Provide a One-of-a-Kind Experience.

A personal touch goes a long way. REI wowed with their #giftpicks campaign in 2012. REI called on their Green Vests—passionate in-store employees who are knowledgeable and helpful, to create real-time video responses to REI members asking for help buying gifts. The team shot about 90 custom videos for this campaign. Not only did the gesture deepen relationships between the brand and members receiving responses, referral traffic to REI’s site doubled. Want to read more about this campaign? Ekaterina Walter wrote a great recap last year.

Nice List 1Give the gift of great content.

The holidays are a time to celebrate and look good doing it–whether you’re scoring facetime with your boss at the office holiday party, sitting around a feast with family, or ringing in the new year with your friends. You might guess that Brooks Brothers, America’s original clothier, has your outfit covered. But did you know that they also provide scores of tips and tricks on how to navigate the holidays with style and ease? The Brooks Brothers blog, Of Rogues & Gentlemen, covered everything from creating a knockout charcuterie plate to writing the perfect thank you card last holiday season. The holidays are hectic. By providing useful lifestyle information, Brooks Brothers was able to create value for customers and stay top of mind, with something other than a sale.

Nice List 2

Invite People to Share their Wish List.

81% of U.S. Consumers are influenced by friends’ social media posts. Getting consumers to actively discuss preference for your brand’s goods or services is a powerful tool that can drive further awareness and preference. Last year, Sephora asked their twitter followers to tweet the Sephora products on their holiday wish lists to “@Sephora Claus” and granted the wishes of 30 users. The campaign garnered over 50,000 entries. The great interactive user experience allowed entrants to discover other wishes and engage with the campaign.

Nice List 3

Surprise and Delight

Many brands are tapping in to the visual, inspirational nature of Pinterest to stage their holiday social campaigns. Pinterest collaborated with people, businesses, non-profit organizations, and celebrities to reveal 30 holidays boards in an interactive calendar for their 30 Days of Pinspiration Campaign.

Nice List 4

H-E-B, a Texas grocer, ran a Pin to Win campaign during the 2012 holiday season, asking customers to pin their favorite holiday meal ideas to a Pinterest board for a chance to win a $1000 gift card. It was a great way to start a conversation about holiday food traditions and get users engaged.

Nice List 5

Are there any other holiday campaigns that stood out to you last year? Shoot me a tweet at @cjdoman to discuss. Looking for ways to make your holiday campaign memorable this year? Check out this tip sheet for 5 Social Media Best Practices for Retail Brands.

Advocates vs. Influencers and Steps to a Successful Brand Advocacy Program

Guest post by Eric Melin, Manager Marketing & Communications at Social: IRL sponsor, Spiral16. Originally posted in the Spiral16 blog as the second instalment of an event recap of Social: IRL’s recent workshop in St. Louis MO, with social business pioneer and Your Brand: The Next Media Company author, Michael Brito.

Michael Brito | @Britopian

Michael Brito | @Britopian

Tuesday I blogged about Michael Brito‘s advice concerning the need for businesses to become their own media companies. At the St. Louis Social:IRL workshop, he put forth a lot of great material that brands should be thinking about as they plan their social strategies.

Today’s blog concerns a topic that he spent a good amount of time on — one that has vexed social strategists and community managers for some time now.

His presentation was called Brand Advocacy: How Customers and Employees Can Shape Your Brand Story.

First he started off by defining the difference between a brand advocate and an influencer. An influencer has a high degree of reach. Maybe they have a large Twitter following or a popular Facebook page. An influencer’s relationship with a brand is incentive-based. To get an influencer on your side, posting about your initiatives and talking positively about your brand, they’ll often do things like fly the influencer to an exclusive event or offer them a prize if they post a certain amount of things.

The thing is: Conversation from an influencer stops when the incentive is over.

A brand advocate is someone that actually loves your brand wholeheartedly. They may not have a large reach, but they have a natural affinity for your company and emotional equity built up from years of satisfaction. (Think Apple or Starbucks — brands people are passionate about.) A brand advocate doesn’t need incentives. They deliver long-term business value because they talk about the brand in everyday conversation. If your business is smart, you are already listening online and can identify these advocates.

The thing is: They are so real and organic that they don’t know we’re even paying attention to them!

Because of social media and mobile interaction, conversations are influencing consumers at all stages of the purchase funnel — sometimes even influencing people NOT to buy. And many times, these people are employees of the company itself. Think about it, if your friend works for Sprint, you’re going to ask them a question about your service first, right? Here are some stats Michael referenced to prove his point:

  • 92% of consumers say that peer recommendations are the most reliable
  • 65% of business professionals are asking each other for advice in social media. (Knowing this stat, an advocacy program might be a good idea!)
  • 67% find employees of a company reliable when seeking info about brand/products

Use these insights and turn customers and employees into advocates, empowering them to share long-form stories that deepen brand affinity and influence others.

Advocates can:

  1. Drive awareness
  2. Change perceptions
  3. Educate customers and prospects
  4. Solve customer support issues
  5. Provide feedback and insight
  6. Influence peers to buy

Why try to actively turn customers and employees into advocates? What’s in it for the brand?

First off, you can gain third-party content, which — I can vouch for this being a content marketer myself — is always nice! Secondly, the amplification opportunities for the brand are enormous. Lastly, these advocates will develop into trusted sources for insights about the brand. They’ll tell you when you’re off course and when you’re kicking ass. And their opinion will matter. After all, they’re already in your court.

OK, well what’s in it for the advocates?

Advocates will get all kinds of rewards: Public recognition as a elite community member, access to exclusive content from the brand, a platform for sharing thoughts with a wider audience, and the opportunity to develop thought leadership. All these things will make them very happy.

Three Advocacy Programs to Think About Creating

  1. An employee activation and brand journalism program
  2. Customer advocacy or evangelism (make it campaign-driven or goal-driven)
  3. Brand storytelling – should be happening all the time, train employees to talk about brand externally, mobilize customers to do this
Five Steps to a Successful Advocacy Program
  1. Define the program
  2. Identify the right tools for advocate identification
  3. Activate them: Mobilize your advocates – enable brand sharing, empower them with quality content and rich activations
  4. Amplify advocacy in realtime: share advocate content
  5. Measure and optimize: top shared content, reach impressions, earned media value, sentiment/share of voice, community growth rate, number of trained employees

Nonprofit Solutions Conference: Get Ignited, Create Impact, Be Inspired.

Social: IRL has been proud to invest in the regional nonprofit community, working with a group of sponsors and partners to host an ongoing series of social media for nonprofits workshops. To date over 800 nonprofits have participated in this free training opportunity.

A valued partner in hosting workshop events in the Kansas City area has been Nonprofit Connect, a membership organization that links the nonprofit community to education, resources and networking, so organizations can more effectively achieve their missions.

Nonprofit Solutions ConferenceOctober 21-22, Nonprofit Connect will host their annual Nonprofit Solutions Conference. This two-day conference designed specifically for the nonprofit sector, offers a valuable opportunity to learn alongside passionate nonprofit professionals and community leaders who are looking for new ways to advance their missions and bring about change. The conference theme sums up today’s current nonprofit needs… get ignited, create impact, be inspired.

Being familiar with many of the speakers on the two day agenda, and with the agenda covering many issues critical to continued growth and future success of nonprofit organizations, we highly recommend this opportunity to the many nonprofits we have connected with through our own workshop series, and to all nonprofits in the Midwest region.

To view the full event agenda and lineup of speakers and experts, visit the event website. Register using enter discount code “NoSoCo-Feehan” and save $50.

Social Media Crisis: Lessons from the Front Lines. Is Your Brand Prepared?

By Social: IRL principal, Ben Smith. Originally published as a personal post on Google+

Some important social media lessons for both businesses and individuals can be taken from a pretty incredible and somewhat scary series of events that took place on Facebook last week.

DislikeOne of my clients suddenly started receiving a string of angry comments on their Facebook Page over a comment an employee (we’ll call her Jane – not her real name) had posted on her own personal Facebook Profile. The company wasn’t referenced at all in the post, the post wasn’t relevant to them in any way, and the views were in no way held to be those of the company. The only connection was that the company had been tagged as Jane’s employer in the About section of her Facebook Profile.

The comment posted by Jane was provocative and directed at members of the armed forces. She later deleted it. Following is a summary of events that unfolded and five important lessons that apply to us both personally and professionally for the brands we represent.

First, although Jane deleted her post, someone had taken a screen shot of it and posted it in a military support group on Facebook. From there it spread virally at a rapid rate. A screen shot showing her full name, Facebook profile photo and the update itself were very quickly being shared by thousands of Facebook users. More evidence that “delete” doesn’t work and that once you post an update you can never effectively take it back or control who sees it beyond your intended audience.

Second, Jane was one of the many Facebook users who have no privacy controls in place. From seeing her name and profile photo, it had been easy find her personal profile. Her Facebook Timeline, photo albums, and personal information were all public. Her profile was quickly covered in thousands of angry, hateful, threatening, obscene comments – about her, her husband, and even about her young baby. From the information she was publicly sharing and the link back to her husband’s Facebook profile from her About information, it would have been very easy to track them down offline. With the nature of many of the comments made, that was a scary prospect. Again, her comments were offensive to many people, but the response was still shocking in both its speed and ferocity. Facebook gives us privacy controls. Use them. The public nature of Jane’s profile and the personal information shared goes beyond the thousands of angry comments to being a personal safety issue for her and her family. We can’t blame Facebook for giving access to our personal information if we fail to take advantage of the privacy tools they provide us with.

Third, the angry comments on the Facebook Page threatened to have a very real impact on their business. The comments came quickly, and in most instances the company was being held as having the same views as the individual or in some way having responsibility for her actions. Again, the comments Jane posted were on her personal profile, never mentioned the company, and were never implied as being on behalf of the company. Absolutely the only connection was her About information tagging the company as her employer. That alone was enough for the company to be held (in many instances) as responsible for her comments, even an assumption that they shared Jane’s views. What most of those people had failed to pay any attention to was that Jane listed the company as an employer with and end date in 2012. She hadn’t even worked for the company for close to a year. So understand this, when your employees affiliate themselves with your company they are absolutely your brand ambassadors – for good or bad – and will absolutely impact perceptions of your brand. Don’t ignore that fact. Do you have social media guidelines or policies in place? Do you educate employees on digital citizenship risks and responsibilities or online privacy? Of course it won’t magically stop incidents like this one from happening, but education, guidance and accountability are a great first step. An HR Director told me not too long ago that due to the risks that came with social media their company had avoided any social media presence – mitigate risk by shutting it out. My reply to her was simply that if they had any employees who were social media users, then their company had a social media presence. In this particular instance, Jane’s comments were from someone who didn’t even work for the company any more. People simply saw the name and established a connection. It was unfortunate that they came to such quick conclusions about the company from nothing more than that connection, also that they apparently failed to notice or just ignored the fact that the same information that said she worked for the company also said she had left their employment nearly a year earlier, but that’s another discussion entirely.

Fourth, I’ve had plenty of people say to me that having a Facebook Page or any other type of social media presence is a liability due to the risk of negative comments or brand attacks. I’m sure some of those people would use this example to reinforce that viewpoint – the brand came under heavy attack with highly negative and damaging comments posted very publicly on their Facebook Page, including calls to boycott their business. Yet the company was entirely innocent in the situation. If there hadn’t been a Facebook Page, then all those negative comments wouldn’t have been posted, right? Wrong! They would – just in places we wouldn’t have known about them so quickly (if at all) or been able to respond to. I say that having a brand-controlled space for those negative comments to be posted to is beneficial. It meant in this case that we could see the comments happening quickly and were able to respond to and be part of the conversation – not have it take place (and escalate) without us. We could ensure those already in the conversation were acknowledged and their concerns directly addressed, and that those coming to the Page to join the conversation were met with a statement from the company helping them make a more informed decision. As a result the issue was actually able to be resolved relatively quickly as far as the company involvement went. A lot of the anger was able to be diffused relatively easily given the overall scope of the situation, and a lot of damage was avoided. Without the ability to engage quickly and effectively at a central focal point, the attacks against the company could quickly have escalated out of control.

Fifth, be ready. What would you do in a similar situation? It can happen to any company, large or small. Speed of response was critical in this instance and with the right steps taken to respond in the right way and in a timely and proactive fashion, the attacks against the company were relatively short-lived. Many users continued to visit the company’s Page to post comments, but after the response plan was initiated a majority of the comments moved from negative to positive sentiment, even while the incident itself continued to escalate out of control. The statement posted by the company was not negative about Jane. It simply clarified that it was former employee and that her views did not represent the company views, and explained what the company views actually were. Did it stop every negative comment? No, but a majority of them. No spin or PR, just a simple statement of fact. Of course, a few people still were angry with the company, a few clearly didn’t read the statement. But a vast majority acknowledged it and either clicked the “Like” button and went on their way, or left a comment of support. What if it was your business? Do you have a plan – how and when you’ll engage, what you’ll say, who can approve statements being issued on behalf of the company and how quickly can that approval be secured? What if it’s after hours, as happened to be the case in this instance?

Meanwhile the individual who posted the original comments lost her current job as a result, is dealing with literally thousands of very unpleasant comments on her personal Facebook Profile, and is being forever indexed by Google alongside the very negative comments she made – despite having deleted them – and will likely suffer long term consequences for her choice of words.

Some important lessons, and a very scary series of events in terms of the speed of escalation and ferocity of response. As I’ve said several times, the comments Jane posted were considered offensive and were going to generate an angry response, but I don’t think anyone would ever have imagined a situation quite like this. So pause and consider the question: is your brand prepared?

Help, Not Hype: Jay Baer Keynote at Expion’s Social Business Summit

Expion Summit 2013Expion’s third Social Business Summit took place last week in Raleigh NC, bringing together an impressive group of brands and agencies for a discussion focused around the challenges and opportunities in managing social media programs.

Opening day two of the Summit was Convince & Convert  founder and New York Times best selling author Jay Baer, who delivered a powerful message on the value of smart marketing based on “help not hype”  - the theme of his new book YOUtility.

We’re sharing below a Storify recap of attendee tweets, edited to highlight key audience perspectives and takeaways from Jay’s presentation. Many valuable insights are included.

For additional recaps of all key Summit sessions, you can visit Expion’s blog.

Mission Possible: Insights from Expion’s Social Business Summit

Expion Summit 2013Expion’s third social business summit kicked off today in Raleigh NC, bringing together an impressive group of brands and agencies for a discussion focussed around the challenges and opportunities in managing social media programs.

Expion will be posting recaps of key sessions here in their blog (they’ll be added as the event continues). To supplement that we’re sharing below a Storify recap of attendee tweets, edited to highlight key audience perspectives and takeaways.

Today’s sessions included included:

Earn It. Don’t Buy It – Ignite Social Media’s Jim Tobin  How earned and owned social can save your brand money and create advocates without paying for them.

Your Brand, The Next Media Company – Edelman’s Michael Brito  How organizations can evolve into a fully collaborative social business.

Inside Social Enterprise  - DoubleTree’s Diana Plazas, Group1 Automotive’s Sajeev Mehta, IBM’s Tina Williams, and Whitewave Foods’ Lori Anderson. Moderated by Expion’s Zena Weist  How top brands are aligning the organization to operationalize social throughout the enterprise. 

Generation Z – Students from NC State, Duke, University of North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Moderated by 360i’s  Matt Wurst  How Generation Zs  interact with brands via social and what they think brands are doing right and wrong.

Brand Advocacy – American Dental Association’s Bridget Houlihan, H&R Block’s Matt Staub, Jeep’s Vicki Carlini, 360i’s Matt Wurst  Brands and agencies discuss how providing content suggestions to employees and customers assists with social selling and influencer marketing.

Client Keynote – Mondelez International’s VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement, Bonin Bough  The beauty of real-time engagement often lies in improvisation, it’s also about planning ahead: building the right muscle memory, culture and technological backbone.

 

Smart Social: A Conversation with Ignite Social Media’s Jim Tobin

Smart Social SmallJim Tobin, is president of Ignite Social Media, widely recognized as being “the original social media agency.” He is also author of 2008’s Social Media is a Cocktail Party and a new book publishing in the fall of 2013, Earn It. Don’t Buy It. The CMO’s Guide to Social Media Marketing in a Post Facebook World.

Jim recently joined Social: IRL Principal Ben Smith, and Expion VP of Strategy, Zena Weist, for Smart Social, an ongoing series of conversations with leaders and innovators in social business.

During the interview Jim discussed issues ranging from the evolution of Facebook and challenges it’s now facing in keeping users engaged, to Facebook’s advertising model and its impact on user experience, to frustrations with the current state of social marketing and an over-reliance on buying impressions rather than earning engagement.

The interview was conducted via Google Hangout.

Part One: Jim discusses the title of his new book, in particular the reference to a “post Facebook World.” From there Jim discusses where the onus lies in keeping users engaged in the channel – with Facebook in the UX, or with brands in the quality of content created and shared? Jim also discusses Facebook’s current advertising model and whether financial success had come at the expense of user experience.

Part Two: Jim discusses social media advertising vs. social media marketing and the need to move beyond simply buying impressions to develop a deeper understanding of your audience and what they care about –  why they care about your brand, what gets them to react to your content, what gets them to advocate for you.

Part Three:  Jim discusses the current agency environment and the role of niche specialty agencies, such as Ignite.  A key point of emphasis, the need for greater agency collaboration with a focus on the end-user experience.

Part Four: Jim shares some of the frustrations he feels towards the current state of social media marketing and a too common reliance on buying impressions rather than earning results. It was these frustrations that ultimately proved to be the motivating factor behind his new book.

Smart Social: A Conversation with Expion’s Erica McClenny

Smart Social SmallErica McClenny is Senior VP of Client Services at social software company Expion, and is responsible for providing strategic support and guidance for the company’s major brand clients.

For this latest installment of our Smart Social interview series, we spoke with Erica about some of the key challenges, opportunities and trends she has seen emerge through working with this diverse group of brands. The conversation includes valuable insights for any company embarking on or continuing along the path to social maturity, and concludes with a powerful and practical definition and application of the “smart social” theme.

The interview was conducted via Google Hangout.

Part One: Erica discusses working with brands in a strategic business development role and some of the specific challenges and opportunities that have emerged during that process, from creating the right operational structure for social success, to not setting yourself up for perceived failure by trying to measure against a running stage when in reality you are only crawling.

Part Two: Erica discusses social media-driven and empowered employee advocacy as a means for providing a valuable and trusted extension of brand voice, while also allowing individual employees to serve in a valuable lead generation role.

Part Three: Erica discusses key emerging trends, including the consolidation of data and analysis of cross portfolio customer insights. Also the opportunity for brands to connect through social on a local level without overtasking local employees. She also includes a word of caution about keeping focus and avoiding the temptation or pressure of jumping on every new trend -  “doing an average job of being everywhere vs. doing a great job of being in the channels that most closely align with your goals and KPIs.”

Part Four: We conclude the conversation by focussing back on the “smart social” theme and Erica shares a powerful and practical definition of what smart social means to her.

Social: IRL and Callahan Creek – Announcing a New Partnership

A personal announcement about the future of Social: IRL from agency principal, Ben Smith.

Social IRL Logo (large)Social: IRL launched in the summer of 2010, after I left the media industry in which I had worked for 10 years prior to that.

At the time, social media was reaching a point of acceptance as a serious business tool, but relatively few businesses were looking beyond its most obvious marketing function.

My goal with Social: IRL was to help businesses understand the true impact and potential of social media: engaging consumers throughout the journey from prospect to customer to advocate, and connecting and empowering employees and fostering innovation and collaboration. Also to help businesses move beyond their social marketing goals to aligning social media with higher-level corporate goals.

The “IRL” in the company name stands for “In Real Life,” reflecting a key belief that while it is an online media, the true potential with social is to sync online and offline communities to the point where they seamlessly overlap and co-exist, with a very tangible “real life” impact on individuals, businesses, organizations and communities.

Over the last three years, Social: IRL has been fortunate to work with a diverse group of national brands as well local and regional businesses. In addition to the client work, a key focus has been on education and advocacy. We developed a national conference series featuring acclaimed experts such as Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis and Jason Falls, in event formats going well beyond the typical keynotes, focused on providing attendees with depth of learning and practical takeaways that empower them to drive change within the organizations they represent. Most recently, we conducted a series of workshops that provided free in-depth training for over 700 nonprofit attendees within a six-month period.  On a personal level, I am also proud to serve on the Global Board of Directors of Social Media Club, a nonprofit organization focused on providing digital education and advocacy through a network of more than 300 local chapters.

Much has changed in the three years since Social: IRL launched. The focus is less about channel or media-specific solutions, and more about overall consumer engagement and experience. It has progressed beyond social engagement to digital engagement, and ultimately simply “engagement.” All businesses must evolve to not only “do social” but to “be social.

Callahan Creek Logo LargeWith this imminent shift, I am excited to announce my new partnership with Callahan Creek, a full-service marketing agency that has spent the last 30 years working with national and regional specialty brands. As Callahan Creek’s social media director, I will help grow the agency’s social media service offerings and at the same time continue to build the Social: IRL business.

The challenges and opportunities for specialty brands are unique. Their products and services are distinctive, often more expensive and sometimes harder to find. Callahan Creek has developed an unparalleled understanding of those brands’ challenges and their unique customers: category enthusiasts. It has learned how to connect specialty brands with the passions of the category enthusiast and needs of the trade while crafting strategies and messages that help brands not simply engage those consumers, but grow them from enthusiasts to influential advocates.

Callahan Creek is headquartered in Lawrence, Kansas, with additional offices in Torrance, California, and additional staff onsite at several of the national brands they represent.

I’d encourage you to subscribe to their blog and weekly email updates for valuable brand insights, and to connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

The partnership between Social: IRL and Callahan Creek will provide a true focus on integrated consumer engagement and experience.

 

Smart Social: A Conversation with H&R Block’s Scott Gulbransen

Smart SocialScott Gulbransen is Director of Social Business Strategy at tax giant H&R Block, and is the veteran of 13 tax seasons.

Before H&R Block, Scott helped create the social media platforms at both Applebee’s and TurboTax.

Scott recently joined Social: IRL Principal Ben Smith, and Expion VP of Strategy, Zena Weist, for Smart Social, an ongoing series of conversations with leaders and innovators in social business.

During the conversation, Scott provided valuable insights on some key issues, including empowering employee advocacy, the “local social nugget”, aligning social initiatives with business strategy, marketing with the unexpected, and the role and responsibilities of the company’s social media department within the greater organizational structure.

The interview was conducted via Google Hangout.

Part One: Scott discusses where the social media department is housed within the H&R Block organization, and the role the department plays in “leading and empowering,” rather than controlling social.

Part Two: Scott discusses the “local social nugget” and explains how and why H&R Block are working to empower local offices to tap into the power of social communications.

Part Three: Scott discusses employee advocates and explains why, even in a regulated industry, empowering employees to speak about your brand in the right way is not only powerful advocacy, but is actually safer for the brand.

Part Four: Scott discusses the”Stache Act” – a marketing campaign that earned H&R Block a great deal of attention and acclaim. Scott explains that while the campaign was about having fun and playing on the unexpected, the key to its success revolved around “making a business case and having real business reasons for what you want to do” and ensuring social was aligned with the greater business strategy.

Part Five: Scott answers the question, “During your time at H&R Block, what are you most proud of?” His answer is not what you might initially expect, shifting focus from the ‘Stache Act and other high profile successes, to strategy and team members.

Part Six: We conclude the interview by focussing back on the “Smart Social” theme, and Scott explains what “smart social” means to him.