Twenty top tips for accountants on twitter

This is a follow up to my earlier post “Getting started on twitter” in which I explained some basic introductory points concerning twitter.

When it comes to using twitter there are no absolute rules or universally agreed twitterquette(!) but there is a heck of a lot that we can all learn from the experience of those who’ve gone before.

Based on my experience over the last year and inspired by a variety of guides to using twitter for business I’ve collated and tailored a top ten list of Do’s and Don’ts for accountants who use twitter. I hope you find them useful:

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t attempt to use the main twitter website once you’ve registered, added a photo and your bio. The main twitter website is not user friendly and will turn you off very quickly. Download tweetdeck, hootsuite or seismic to your computer and you’ll find it all gets MUCH easier.
  2. Don’t feel compelled to answer the basic twitter question “What are you doing?” – especially if the answer is something mundane. Better to imagine the invitation is to answer the question: “What is holding your attention right now?”
  3. Don’t automatically follow everyone who follows you or chase hundreds of followers. If you do this you will attract spammers, marketing ‘gurus’, social media specialists, loners and losers. None of them will be prospective clients or advocates. They probably won’t even read any of your tweets. They will simply follow you in the hope that you’ll follow back and increase their numbers. And that is a mug’s game that many twitter virgins play although it serves no useful purpose.
  4. Don’t think you need to read everything on your Twitter feed. Think of it as a river. Jump in-stream, participate, and then get out. NEVER worry about what you’ve missed – it doesn’t work that way.
  5. Don’t assume that all of your followers will see all of your tweets. They only dip in and out – just like you do.
  6. Don’t set up a standard message to auto-welcome new followers – they won’t click on your links and established twitter users don’t like to get automated ‘thank you for following me’ type messages.
  7. Despite the fact that you may be using Twitter as a marketing tool, don’t try to solicit business or make sales. It looks spammy, and will NOT secure you new clients. Bottom line: you will generate enquiries only if your followers get to know you and to like you and if they know you’re an accountant and that you like your work.
  8. Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to be quoted in the press.  Once published all your tweets are there for posterity and you don’t want any of them to come back to haunt you.
  9. It should go without saying, but don’t tweet anything about a client without explicit permission. Along the same lines, even if it’s good or exciting news about the client, don’t assume that the client has already made it public. Even if it IS public, you may still want to get permission first.
  10. Don’t expect to ‘get’ twitter straight away. Apparently 60% of people who try to use twitter give up within 3 months. I suspect many accountants will be the same.

The Dos

  1. Do be social and interact with your followers and those you follow. Be thought-provoking with some of your tweets and pass on tips and ideas that others may find of interest.
  2. Do ReTweet (RT) tweets written by other people that you think are worth sharing with your followers. If you want some of your tweets to be ReTweeted, keep them to nearer 110 characters rather than 140 as the RT element of the message will often be 15-25 characters long.
  3. Do recommend books and articles that you’ve read that may be of interest to your followers.
  4. Do copy behaviour you find that you like on twitter and avoid replicating behaviour that you dislike. Everyone is different of course but a ‘twitterquette’ is developing and worth following.
  5. Do tweet links to your own and your favourite blog posts elsewhere so that your followers know what you write about or like. And do ensure that you add a few words at least rather than just posting a link without any description.
  6. Do use an application like Tweetdeck on your computer to filter topics, create groups, and maximize your time on Twitter.
  7. Do use an application on your iphone or blackberry to enable you to use twitter in odd moments when you’re away from your desk/office.
  8. Do remember that your followers may have friends, followers or family who could be looking for a new accountant even if your followers seem unlikely to be in the market themselves. They may ReTweet your messages or simply talk about you if the subject comes up.
  9. Do respond when people engage you in conversation. If you want to reply publicly use the @ sign at the start of your tweet (eg: @bookmarklee). If you want to reply privately and directly use D before the other person’s user name: (eg: D bookmarklee)
  10. Do engage the people you follow or who follow you in conversation shortly after you connect. Ask them a question, or enquire about something they’ve tweeted. They’ll be more likely to follow you back.

What do you think? Is this list helpful? Do you agree or disagree or have further tips to share? Please leave a comment with your own ideas and suggestions.

If there is sufficient interest I will post a further item on twitter later in the month. In it I’ll offer some tips and ideas to help you develop your twitter strategy by explaining WHAT accountants can do with twitter and HOW some accountants are benefitting from using twitter. In the mean time if you have any questions by all means post them as comments on this blog.

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Getting started on twitter

Regular readers may be surprised to see this post here – remembering my first post about twitter: Twitter is not for accountants.  In effect that suggested that accountants can get by quite happily without using twitter. It’s also true to say that accountants do not need to try telemarketing or direct mail. But many do and some do so successfully.

I still enjoy using twitter myself but I’m not sure my view about twitter and accountants has really changed. However I am seeing an increasing (although still very small) number of ambitious accountants experimenting with twitter.  I have therefore accepted that the time has come to help accountants explore twitter.  If you’re inclined to experiment I’d like to assist you in getting maximum value and pleasure from the time and effort you devote to this.

I’ve set out below some basic steps to help you get started. A subsequent post will contain twenty tips (my top ten Do’s and Don’ts) to help you use twitter and then, if there is sufficient interest, I’ll offer some thoughts on how accountants can develop a twitter strategy.

What’s stopping you?

Last month I sought to clarify the biggest misconception about twitter.  It arises due to those in the media who still think that twitter is a ‘micro blogging website where users post inane messages telling each other the answer to a standard question: “What are you doing right now?”  Indeed plenty of people think that twitter is full of people talking about what they had for breakfast or tea. BUT I use twitter without ever seeing that rubbish. And you can too.

It’s easy. You only see the tweets of people YOU choose to follow. People you find of interest. If someone you are following posts stuff you think is ‘rubbish’, uninteresting or “pointless babble” you simply stop following them. And that’s it. You won’t see any more rubbish.  The secret is simply to choose who you follow with care and to ‘unfollow’ them (it’s really easy to do) if you’re bored by their tweets.

Conversation not advertising

To avoid disappointment let me just stress that accountants can derive business value from of twitter. However that value is often indirect in nature and depends greatly on your personal approach and twitter strategy. I set out my own twitter strategy here.

Just as with all other forms of online social media, the overt : Tax worries? Call now! messages will fall on deaf ears.  Do not bother experimenting with twitter if you are thinking of using it for overt advertising. It doesn’t work like that. You will simply waste your time.

Set up your account

You start by going to www.twitter.com and setting up an account with a username (eg: AndyPandy) and a brief biography. Identify your locality (eg: Shropshire, or North London) and your website address.

Choose your username carefully

Be clear whether you are going to post tweets in your name or in the name of your firm.  I suggest that, in most cases it’s generally best to start using your real name as your username, the one that people know you by. Of course, if you have a common name (as I do) you may need to adopt a variation. I’m @bookmarklee). You can use underscores if that helps. Another exception is if you’ve built a brand around a name other than your own (e.g., @thetaxbuzz), then staying consistent takes priority.  In time you may choose to start a separate twitter account using your firm’s name but that’s often best saved until you’ve got the hang of twitter and decided how you want to use it for business.

Add a photo

It’s clear that more people will want to follow you if you also add a photo showing your face, rather than a logo or any other sort of photo. A face photo can also help your followers feel that they are getting to know you as it will appear alongside each of your tweets. And this is the first step towards them starting to like you and trust you – which are usually prerequisites to them becoming clients.

Tweeting

Tweets cannot be more than 140 characters in length. It’s common to provide links to interesting items on the web, websites and blogs. Most people who do this use url shorteners (eg: bit/ly) to reduce the length of their links

You may want to follow a few other accountants to see the sort of things that they tweet. There’s a list of over 130 accountants using twitter on the UK tax and accountancy listing here.

Who will read your tweets

There is no point in starting to send loads of tweets until you have people following you. They become your ‘followers’. There’s a bit of a catch-22 here as few people will follow you until you start posting tweets. So do post maybe 2 or 3 a day and think about what sort of style and approach you want to adopt. If you only post promotional messages no one of value is likely to choose to start following you so that would be a self defeating policy.

Your tweets can only be seen by people who are following you or by those who search twitter for words contained in your tweets. In time your tweets may be seen by other people if any of your followers ReTweet (RT) your tweets so that their followers can see them too.

As distinct from your followers are the people you choose to follow. There will often be some overlap but despite what some twitter ‘experts’ suggest there is no logic in following back all those people who follow you. That would be like saying you should subscribe for the email newsletters of everyone who reads yours. We all have different interests and different reasons for choosing who we follow.

Finally – in this post – let me stress that you will often find that a good proportion of people who choose to follow you are based overseas. Many of them will be in marketing, social media ‘experts’ or hoping that you will buy their products. My advice, unless it makes strategic sense for you to target or engage with such peoples, is to simply recognise that the NUMBER of followers is NOT a reflection of the number of people who are genuinely interested in reading your tweets or engaging with you – other than for their own benefit.

If you think you might continue with twitter do send me a message on twitter (@ bookmarklee) and ask me to add you to the UK tax and accountancy listing.

More to come

In the next post in this series I’ll set out twenty top tips collated and adapted from the hundreds I’ve read over the last year. I’ve created what I hope is a useful list of top Do’s and Don’ts for accountants using twitter. And then finally, if sufficient people are interested, I’ll offer some tips and ideas to help you develop your twitter strategy by explaining WHAT accountants can do with twitter and HOW some accountants are benefitting from using twitter. In the mean time if you have any questions by all means post them as comments on this blog.

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Common sense required – you can’t blame your SatNav

A driver who drove his car to the edge of a 100ft drop after he “slavishly” followed its SatNav instructions has become one of the first motorists to be convicted for placing too much trust in his SatNav.

When I noted this news story today I was reminded of a comment I make during my talks about how to avoid professional negligence claims. It’s in the context of evidencing ‘good practice’. One way of doing this is to comply with your professional body’s Membership Handbook. In normal circumstances you might expect that if you can show that your actions were in accordance with the guidelines contained in the Handbook you would have a strong defence against allegations of professional negligence. But this is not the whole picture.

During my talks I focus more on the practical and commercial issues  than on the legal ones as I have an accountancy and tax background rather than a legal one. In this context I make the point that, whilst the position is not free from doubt, slavishly following guidance that is patently wrong may not be a good enough excuse. There is some precedent for this in the world of medical negligence.

We need to recognise that some of the guidelines in membership handbooks may be out of date – and that the Courts will expect professional advisers to apply common sense. The test will be what would a reasonably competent accountant have done in the circumstances. If this would differ from the membership guidelines then you should have done so too. It seems the same is true for drivers – is it reasonable to follow your SatNav instructions if they are clearly wrong? The report today suggests the answer is ‘no’ – and you can’t get off by blaming your SatNav.

I don’t imagine that the recent ‘SatNav’ case will figure in future courses about professional negligence but it is a useful reminder that we are all expected to apply common sense rather than slavishly following generic guidance that may be out of date, irrelevant or dangerous.

I have written a 10,000 word ebook drawn from my talk on How to avoid professional negligence claims, containing tips and risk management advice for accountants in practice. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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What does Networking have in common with inheritance tax planning?

This is a first. It’s the first time I’ve had something to blog where I can see how it could fit on any or even all 3 of my blogs!

  • It sounds like a riddle or joke – so would fit well on: Accountant jokes and fun
  • It includes reference to tax planning – so would seem well suited to the TaxBuzz blog
  • On reflection though, the rationale for the post is related to my advice and tips for ambitious accountants.

Earlier this week I was chatting with a nice guy who has been on a sabbatical since taking early retirement from a public sector role. He is now thinking about what he’s going to do next and is quite happy to accept that he may need to start networking once he secures a position.

I suggested this was to confuse networking* with selling. He would be much better off to start networking asap. Networking to build relationships. Networking to identify ways in which he can help other people. And Networking to build a deep and wide network of people who know him, like him and trust him. This cannot be done overnight.

It’s the same with inheritance tax planning. Ideally one would do this at least seven years before dying. I’m not suggesting that you need to start networking seven years before you hope to reap the benefits. Of course not. It’s just that seven years pre-death is the optimum time to start inheritance tax planning. Of course it’s not possible as you rarely know when that seven year period begins. Still, if you leave it too late your inheritance tax planning may be ineffective.

So, returning to Networking: If you want to achieve promotion and advancement within your firm you will generally increase your chances if you are well known and liked before your name is first mentioned as a potential partner.  If you are thinking of setting up your own practice, how much easier would it be if you were already well known  in the local community – by people who could become clients, recommend clients or help you source trusted suppliers? You get the picture.

If you leave it too late to start networking you could come across as desperate, needy and ill-prepared. In effect if you leave it too late your networking efforts will be ineffective – for a while at least.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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