Social Networking for Tax Season

As February begins and April 15 draws closer, TurboTax, the tax preparation software from Intuit, has launched a new social network application that connects its users with people who have already filed their taxes this year and experienced similar situations in 2009.

The social network application, Friends Like You, allows users to read reviews of all TurboTax products – including pros, cons, and a five-star rating – from people, as the name implies, like them.

Colleen Gatlin, corporate communications manager at TurboTax, says Friends Like You helps people know what products to use and what TurboTax can handle.

“You can use it for any product you are looking for,” Gatlin says. “It’s not tied to (the) Deluxe (version), but since that is the most popular version, that’s where the link sends you as a starting point. There are reviews for all the products, from the Free Edition up to Home & Business, so a person can select whatever product they think they need and see what others are saying about it.”

Friends Like You also allows users to connect with their actual friends on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Users can see reviews from their friends and followers on those networks and they can also share specific reviews on those networks.

Friends Like You is powered by the Friendlyzer, an online recommendation tool from social commerce technology company Bazaarvoice.

“Bazaarvoice delivers the core technology for collecting, tagging and filtering reviews based on friends and life situations,” a Bazaarvoice spokeswoman told ClickZ News. This includes customized reviewer profiles and the back-end data matching, filtering and normalization.”

In order to use the feature, TurboTax users can go to FriendsLikeYou.com and select “people like you” on the drop-down menu on the Reviews tab. This pulls up a page that allows users to select various scenarios under headings like, “Life Changes,” “Prior Tax Prep Method,” and “Family Life.”

Seth Greenberg, director of national media and digital marketing at TurboTax, describes the new features as, “like Amazon reviews in a way, but with more selections.”

TurboTax expects up to 100,000 reviews per day with “upwards of one million reviews” by the end of tax season.

According to customer surveys, TurboTax says over 50 percent of its 20 million customers are on Facebook. Greenberg says that’s one of the reasons TurboTax is enabling this application.

TurboTax obtains the reviews from customers who have finished their taxes using the software. Those customers who opt in are asked if they want to share the review with their social network. Greenberg says the average TurboTax customer has 150 friends on Facebook, making for a lot of potential impressions.

Greenberg also says friends or people like the users themselves are the most powerful influencers when it comes to decision-making and this can potentially drive TurboTax revenue much stronger than television advertising.

Users can also access the Friendlyzer via TurboTax’s TurboTron, an interactive online display that will appear as a home page takeover on sites like Yahoo, AOL, and MSN prior to the Super Bowl on February 7. The display features Chris Berman’s Tax Season Highlights – a football-themed menu with sportscaster Chris Berman. Through this menu, users can access information like why they should use TurboTax and how to follow TurboTax on Twitter. They can also find a refund estimator called Taxcaster, in which users enter marital status, household income, and federal withholding in order to get an estimation of their federal refund.

And when customers are done with their taxes, they can also share the news with friends by directly updating their Facebook statuses – another new feature this year from TurboTax.

What’s more, Gatlin says TurboTax launched the @TeamTurboTax handle on Twitter this week, enabling taxpayers to tweet questions and receive answers from tax experts. TurboTax also has a Facebook page and a Tax Break blog that includes tax information, surveys, and tips. TurboTax has been operating its Live Community – which also provides answers from TurboTax users and tax experts – for three years.

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