Koskinen's YouTube Debut as Commissioner

New Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, John Koskinen, delivered a special message to the nation via the IRS YouTube channel.  For many this is a video of first impressions.

On a side note, I’m not sure what the point of these videos is because regular taxpayers don’t watch them and those people that do watch (tax attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, and general tax professionals) don’t really benefit, as these videos normally consist of a series of ambiguous soundbites.

Koskinen’s message falls in line with other IRS videos: positive and hopeful, but lacking any kind of substance.  Here are the main points:

  • He got right to work after being appointed to his new position
  • He has been traveling around the nation taking the pulse of the IRS
  • The IRS is here to help taxpayers during 2014 tax season
  • Refunds will be issued quickly
  • The IRS will work to reduce tax fraud and ID theft
  • Over 120 million people filed their tax return electronically last year
  • Resources are limited & there will be long wait times if you try to call
  • Quicker way to get help: irs.gov, tax software, tax professionals, IRS YouTube channel, IRS2Go smartphone app

As the new Commissioner of the IRS, I want to be up front with you and call it like it is, just as I have been doing my entire career.

~ John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner

My mom always told me to be skeptical of phrases that are prefaced with “I’m gonna be honest with you,” but whatever.  On the other hand, Koskinen was sufficiently stiff, boring, and unhappy in this video to convince me that he’s the right guy for the job.  He’s going to fit in just fine at the IRS.

IRS Not Concerned About Likes & Followers

The IRS is still intent on growing its social media presence.  Yesterday it unveiled a Tumblr account, even though it has actually been quietly sitting around for about six months.  I’m not sure why the IRS waited until now to formally introduce it.  According to Mashable, nobody has paid much attention to IRS Tumblr, so maybe the Service was hoping to see some more activity first, but it never came.  I’m still not sure there’s much of a place for the IRS in social media, or mobile apps, or the like.  I think it’s hard for people to socialize, even virtually, about something so boring or loathesome (loathesome for those who have a tax debt, boring for those who don’t).

Isn’t all social media supposed to be a venue for sharing and discussion?  That’s the goal, right?  I don’t know, maybe I’m missing the point.  Maybe the IRS has different goals when it comes to social media:

 The new Tumblr platform is part of a larger effort at the IRS to get information to taxpayers when and where they want it.

~ Terry Lemons, IRS Communications Director

If their objective is to “spread the word” and make tax information available, I suppose they’re doing a decent job at it.  So, while the IRS has only 33,274 Twitter followers*, its Facebook page has only about 9,600 likes (probably a vast majority are tax attorneys, accountants, and the like), and it’s had a rather dismal Tumblr debut, I think the stated goal of getting information to people “when and where they want it” is being achieved.  The IRS seems pretty content with their 3.1 million YouTube video views.

The bottom line, I think, is that you can’t measure the success of IRS’ social media campaign by counting likes and followers.  Not many people “like” the IRS so why would they care to follow them?  What visitors probably do is they get what they need and move along.  No committment, no lasting relationship, and very little actual socializing.  I suppose it’s no surprise people would want to keep their distance virtually, much like they do in real life; normally the less of a role the IRS has in your life, the better.

*33,274 Twitter followers is pretty crappy considering the IRS, in one way or another, impacts pretty much every household in the country.  Compare this to the 380,666 San Francisco Giants followers on Twitter, a team that nobody pays much attention to outside of California.  And never mind the 33.6 million people around the world who hang on every word produced by Justin Bieber’s two thumbs.