TurboTax answers tax questions... socially

Last minute taxpayers need not fret... all they have to do is jump to Twitter for help.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

With one more day until dreaded April 15, last-minute taxpayers all over the U.S. are clamoring to get all of their ducks in a row so they can file on time and get either that email confirmation or postage stamp and breathe an annual sigh of relief. On the positive side, taxpayers have a plethora of options for getting information online thanks to the social movement. Unfortunately there's a risk that people are Googling and landing on blogs and resources from dime-store accountants and those without the expertise needed to keep taxpayers out of trouble. TurboTax, whose products range from extension help to business filing, has moved in swiftly on the social movement by creating tools, live chats, and even social network presences that allow taxpayers to ask questions and get trusted information. I spoke with Julie Miller, director of public relations and social media for Intuit, about how TurboTax is using social to not only help customers, but grow its business during tax season.

Q. [Jennifer]How is TurboTax engaging in social media? Please give examples.

A. [Julie]Innovative uses of social media allow us to extend conversations already happening around consumers’ shared experiences with their taxes and ignite new conversations that steer them back to the TurboTax brand. Some new programs for the current tax season include:

  • Enabling customers to celebrate completing their taxes with a “Publish to Facebook” option. We’ve found that ‘Friendcasting’ – the posts to a customer’s newsfeed - is four times more engaging than a banner ad and has a 30 percent higher conversion rate.
  • Based on our point of view that the most powerful recommendation for any product comes from a friend or someone you know, “Friends Like You” is new way for TurboTax customers to see and sort tens of thousands of unfiltered product reviews and narrow them down to see just those from their friends (through Facebook Connect) and from people like them.
  • New this year, taxpayers on Twitter can tweet questions to @TeamTurboTax and get answers from a team of tax, tech and TurboTax product experts. We created @TeamTurboTax in response to the growing use of Twitter by consumers.
  • Going beyond a traditional Facebook fan page, this year we introduced TurboChat – a bi-weekly online chat with a TurboTax tax expert to give our fans customized one-on-one help for any product or tax questions they have.

Next: Does social help the tax business? -->

Q. What are the business objectives of TurboTax's social media presence?

A. Social is an important part of our marketing mix, because we have a huge challenge every year of driving a billion dollars in revenue in about 100 days. Engagement across social channels helps us acquire and retain customers and effectively address or amplify key consumer trends we’ve identified in the online tax conversation that has both short and long-term implications for the brand. We assess our social media outcomes against current year business goals as well as how our efforts are driving engagement and recommendation over time. We measure success on a channel-by-channel basis in different ways.For example, on Twitter, we measure both number of followers and, more importantly, engagement – sharing of content, RTs, inbound conversations, etc.

Q. When did TurboTax's foray into social media begin?

A. TurboTax is a business built on word-of-mouth.  We’ve been building relationships with our customers for 25 years - it’s part of our DNA. At TurboTax, social media builds on the fundamentals of WOM marketing and is deeply rooted in basic principles religiously applied:  relevancy, so we cut through the clutter; go where customers are – fish where the fish are; and transparency, unedited content, we take the good with the bad.

Q. How does a company like TurboTax balance community with the potential liabilities that go with tax preparation?

A. It’s important to us to get the right people at TurboTax in touch with our customers in social channels. For example, on Twitter, we’re pairing qualified tax and technical experts with customers to get them accurate answers fast.  Customers want to help each other and get a great deal of satisfaction from sharing their expertise with others. In the TurboTax Live Community, we have one super user, a retired CPA, who answered more than 50,000 questions last year. Within Live Community, customers rate/rank answers, so the best answers are most visable and viewed – like any community, it becomes self-correcting. But we also have our own qualified tax experts moderating and participating in Live Community regularly to help ensure accuracy. Q. Can you provide any metrics that show how the social network community has grown, or costs saved by TurboTax, through using social media?

A. We’ll have program-level success measures at the end of this tax season. The most important metric for us is business performance. As of Mar. 17, TurboTax Online units are up 20% year-over-year – social media programs are key contributor to that growth.

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