People are the killer app

Being a social media strategist requires a balance of two things: logic and belief. We believe treating people like humans in business when done well will lead to greater consumer recommendation behavior and profits. We logically build our case for the future of big business including this human element, creating tests to prove our assumptions with data. It’s not an easy line to walk: narrowing in on the right tests to illustrate conversion and/or revenue creates a challenge, especially when the tests we want to do have never been attempted by any other businesses. (Beyond the creativity involved, there’s the prioritization issue I’ve written about before)

Today the Dachis Group wrote a blog post summarizing some of our recent “social” work in TurboTax. I love that they “get” that for us it’s about business smarts, not fluffiness and buzzwords.  We believe treating people like humans makes good business sense. And we’re logically proving we’re right.

Prioritization presents a pretty pickle

Pickles You know what’s great about my job? Lots of things: I get to work with super smart people, I get to be part of a successful team, plus I really like connecting a business to the humans who make our jobs possible.

You know what sucks? Going through the prioritization process. Why? Because when you’re trying to do something new, it’s hard to get the data to prove what will happen if it gets prioritized. Because it’s never been done before. So we don’t have data yet. Which is why we want to do it in the first place. Any new idea we have to improve on our original idea means more prioritizing.

I’m betting other big companies face the same issues. Lots of important priorities all want access to the same set of assets (engineers, usually) to make their plans happen. How best to balance keeping the core business running and innovation? It presents quite a pickle.

TurboTax is among AdAge’s “America’s Hottest Brands”

Today TurboTax was honored among the case studies of America’s hottest brands on AdAge. Pretty exciting to see our team’s work featured so prominently in the study: from the social media side the Super Status contest, our partnership with NBC and the offline advertising team, and finally our Twitter Google network ad were featured. Our display advertising rockstar Brian Hovis’ work got major props as well. Picture 1

Between a blog and a hard place

When thinking about posts I could write for this blog I had a disturbing thought: most of what I think about, I can't blog about until it's no longer relevant. It's the bummer of working in social media at a major brand: we're doing some really cool stuff, most of it has never been done before, and yet I can't talk about the process of creating it at all due to competitive issues.

Any suggestions of what part of the process I actually could blog about without giving too much away?

The “New” Advertising

Usually when people talk about advertising, they're thinking in "Mad Men" terms: the "we'll create a need for you and then tell you what to do about it" school of advertising. Social media has changed all that. Online social networking has ushered in a new world where word of mouth behavior and recommendations, always a huge factor in purchase decisions, is now visible and increasingly measurable online. Since a recommendation from your friend is more effective than a traditional banner ad, advertisers are taking notice.

Instead of fighting the instinctive human desire to talk to one another about experiences and products, smart marketers work cross-functionally with product teams to create ways to improve the product experience with strategically placed human conversation. The smart advertiser knows those helpful conversations are themselves, brand assets. Armed with those assets, smart advertisers find ways to deliver those helpful conversations to new people by using their distribution channels.

Best Buy's Twelpforce initiative is a great example. To improve the customer shopping experience (even before customers step foot in the store) Best Buy employees reach out to customers with questions via Twitter. They used one of their distribution channels (tv advertising) to inform the masses about this new way to engage with the brand. Smart!

TurboTax won 3 OMMA awards

TurboTax was
recognized as an industry leader during the Online Marketing and Media
Association Awards this week. Although we were delighted to be finalists in 6 categories, the celebration went to the next level when the winners were announced – 3 groovy-cool winners statues are coming to live on our team's "mantle."

Here are the categories we won in:

1. Social: Best Use of Widget – SuperStatus
To start with either of the other two awards would be less than genuine, since this is the award I personally had the most to do with. Since joining Seth's incredible Online Advertising team last year, we've been blessed to win a handful of social media accolades and awards: Ad Age's head-to-head comparison for social media, The San Diego American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year award, even the Bazaarvoice Best Overall Social Commerce Award. As thrilling as each award has been, I must say none of them has been as exciting as this: winning an OMMA award for the Widget that was the centerpiece of the SuperStatus contest. Big ups to Dailey advertising for making the whole thing possible with their great idea and design. (Not to mention nominating us)

To cap it all off, we beat HBO and Disney in this category. As a huge fan of both (we all are), we were pretty humbled by our win.

2. Rich Media: Single Execution – TurboTron
Brian Hovis – take a bow! Brian and Dailey worked their tushes off this year and it all paid off. The TurboTron banner was designed for a homepage takeover of Yahoo. It was so successful it literally ranked as the #2 most interacted-with banner of all time, plus the banner itself was incredibly creative. (Again, Dailey kicks butt).  For those who think social media and advertising don't mix, Brian took the great content created by our customer reviews, Live Community, and Super Status contest and made it part of his banner. The nature of advertising is changing in a good way, thanks to people like Brian.

3. Best Financial Services Integrated Online Media Campaign – TurboTax
More accolades for Brian Hovis.

Finally, a company soon to be part of the Intuit family, also won an award for their outstanding blog.

Scott Cook Innovation Awards

It's been an incredible week for recognition and our team – we won a Scott Cook Innovation Award (very big deal internal award at Intuit) yesterday for our partnership with David Kirven's team to marry our offline and online advertising/social efforts last year. For those who have never worked at a large company, it may seem like it should be easy to marry up all your strategies so they march in unison but it actually takes a bit of work. A lot of work actually.

Happy happy day.

How to Further New Ideas in Corporations

When you start something really new in a corporation a couple of things happen:

  1. You find out who the Open Thinkers are
  2. You find out who the Haters are

In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot easier to find the folks in group two. In fact in most cases they’ll be happy to find you – ironically these are typically well-respected folks in the organization. The really good ones are often referred to as great “critical thinkers.” Either way, it all adds up to a person who wants to tell you why what you want to do can’t be or shouldn’t be done. I’ve been through this a few times and here’s what I’ve learned about how to handle this phenomenon:

  1. Focus on your promoters. Do a couple of people “get” the idea you’re trying to sell? Focus on making them ridiculously successful. If you can stay a bit under the radar while doing so, so much the better. While you’re working through your V1, keep a running powerpoint deck (or whatever the preferred method of communication at your business) to build a case study that tells the story of what your “big idea” is and how it’s changing the way you do business. Have an end-goal in mind of where you’d like to take your idea in a few years and some idea of what resources it will take to get there.
  2. Ignore your detractors: Take careful note of the criticisms of your new idea. Do they have a point? Learn what you can from the nay-sayers and ignore the rest. Figure out who the toxic people in your organization and stay away from them – just focus on making your case study kick ass. If your idea is well thought-through, they’ll come around eventually as late adopters. (Guy Kawasaki refers to these folks as “the bozos.”)
  3. Identify your champions: Make sure you have at least 2 vice-president level supporters. Here’s why I say two and not just one: people at this level leave on a semi-regular basis, so in my experience it’s a good idea to work on getting support from a second person in case your chosen champion leaves. From time to time, make sure you keep your champions in the loop on your progress – don’t allow them to be surprised by someone else’s update on your “baby.”