Lessons from a Corporate Social Media Guru

The big brands with big budgets are doing big things with social media, and their work provides lessons for school PR practitioners. 

Tax preparation giant H&R Block invests significant energy and resources into its Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube presence. In fact, Time Magazine named the company in its list of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds to follow.

H&R Block’s social media strategist, Matthew Staub, agreed to share some of his wisdom with NSPRA members:

You have a much bigger budget than school districts do for social media work. What are the important truths about this work that transcend budget and still apply, even if your budget is $0?
It is all about fostering a community, and having a conversation doesn’t cost anything. Parents and the broader community are invested in the workings of school districts, just like our clients are invested in the company that provides a critical service for them. I’m sure schools are emotional, life-impacting topics that bring out the passion of your audience. Foster that conversation and participate with as much transparency and candor as possible. Social media is a place for human interaction, so it’s a place to show the human side of organizations.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make in social media marketing?
I think there have been plenty of examples of a build-it-and-they-will-come mentality with social media. “We need a Facebook page” isn’t a strategy, and when an organization puts itself out there, it has to be ready to provide content and respond to its community. Social technologies are among the many tools communicators have in their belts, and they should be used strategically.

Another common problem I see is people trying to control the conversation. This isn’t a world for control freaks. There will be negativity. There will be tough questions. That’s an authentic representation of the feelings of your community, and your dealing with those challenges directly and transparently will endear your advocates to you. I see so many people ready to delete comments and sanitize their pages, robbing them of that humanizing authenticity.

And finally, you can’t ignore it: conversations about your organization are happening whether you are participating or not. Get in there.
What is the next big thing out there in social media?
It is impossible to say. If anyone claims to be an expert in social media, run away! This world is totally subject to the whims of users.

That said, I think location awareness will continue to grow — where users are and where they’ve been, what places they like and what role places have in their social lives. Social media will also have a growing role in search and discovery, with more of our friends’ recommendations floating to the top. It’ll be a world with fewer algorithms and more personal opinions.


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