Demystifying social media for accountants

District Society AGMs are not generally the most popular of events for accountants. However there was a “capacity crowd” at SESCA’s AGM last month and I am flattered that this is being attributed to me! The organisers had sought to tempt the local accountants to attend with the promise that the AGM would be followed by a free seminar presented by yours truly. I should stress that my services were engaged on a commercial basis 😉

The subject matter, which is presumably what attracted the audience of c80 accountants, was: Demystifying social media for accountants. This was a tough gig as I was asked to cover whatever I could in just 30 minutes.

Simon Hurst subsequently posted this short and kind review of the talk on the ‘IT Counts’ forum:

Mark’s own extensive experience in the area was crucial – as a fellow professional he was able to explain the relevance of the differences between the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn and stress the importance of understanding how best to use each of the different services. Comparing it to more traditional forms of human interaction – chatting in the pub – he pointed out how easy it was to get the approach completely wrong and do more harm than good.

A particularly valuable aspect of Mark’s talk was his discussion of the misconceptions surrounding social media and Twitter in particular. Likening it to satellite television, he pointed out that, although there is a fair amount of mind-numbing personal trivia perpetrated via Twitter, just like the shopping channels on satellite, you can easily choose to ignore all of that and concentrate just on the content that is of interest and use to you.

From the level of attendance and the audience reaction, it is clear that increasing numbers of accountants are either already involved in social media or seriously considering investigating the possibilities.

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Useful links and ReTweets of the week

As I’ve explained on the twitter page of this site I don’t think twitter is for everyone, but it works for me. This new weekly blog post is for the majority of profesional advisers who are not using twitter.

I’ve copied below some of the tweets I have shared (ReTweeted) this week that you may find useful. In each case I read the blog posts and articles that are the subject of the original tweet. A couple link to postings of mine elsewhere on the web.

Whenever I ReTweet something I’m sharing the links with a wider audience who I hope will find them useful. My contribution to the tweets in question is the comment at the end after //

RT @NewModelAdviser: DS: Tax avoidance or tax evasion. Are you sure you know the difference?

RT @N3W_Media: One app every Sales Prof’l will want on their #iPhone Manage your pipeline where ever you are// It’s fab!

RT @vatconsultancy Great advice from @BookMarkLee Why now is the time to review your VAT liability – Citywire // Thanks

RT @cheapaccounting: Have you been asked by your boss to go self employed? // Well explained Elaine. This is very good.

RT @TheTaxBuzz: Do ‘economists’ really think increasing tax rates is ‘the’ answer? // Re letter from 52 ‘economists’

RT @cheapaccounting: Accountants can you please tell me – Just how do you get the E in QBE? // GREAT blog again Elaine.

RT @natashagram: Creating a Marketing Message For Your Accounting Firm // Worthy of WIDE circulation. GREAT advice


Why do I have 3 blogs and 2 websites?

I’ve been asked why I have a number of different blogs and websites. It’s not something I would encourage many people to do so perhaps it’s worth explaining my thinking. I accept it could be flawed, but bear with me.

Firstly let me stress that in all of my writings for professional advisers (eg: on AccountingWeb, AccountancyAge, New Model Adviser and this blog) I focus on encouraging best practice. I typically share what I have researched and can see or believe will be commercially viable advice for working professional advisers. I do the same in my talks. I offer an objective and independent view. I have no agenda re practice management or consultancy services. In this context I think, I write and I speak. That’s it.

I frequently stress that what works for me is not automatically going to be right for accountants in practice for example. The most obvious case in point concerns the way I use twitter.

Enough background. Here’s my thinking about my websites and blogs.

There are two key points to keep in mind:

  • The first is that I want the visitors to each site or blog to know they are in the right place;
  • The second is that I want to have clear analytics that reveal the relative interest from different types of audience.

My personal website started life as a consultancy business but it’s now simply a home for my profile and to promote my availability and expertise as a speaker. Also on this site is my blog. This blog.

More people are interested in my blog posts than in my availability as a speaker so I frequently link to the blog directly rather than expect people to find it via my home page.

I have a sense of humour and have long collected humorous stuff related to accountancy and tax. I maintain a separate blog (now called on which I post all such items – it now has over 500. Much of the traffic for this fun blog comes from overseas. And the audience reaches far beyond the worlds of accountancy and tax. Many people are looking for the sort of material featured on the blog to include in speeches and talks. Keeping the fun blog separate means I don’t fall into the trap of thinking that anything else I do has a big overseas audience – unless and until it really does!  It also means that I don’t risk alienating those members of our profession who might not share my interest in the humorous side of things.

The Tax Advice Network has a wholly different focus again. That website has a home page for people seeking specialist tax advice. Those people are neither interested in Mark Lee, my blog posts nor my joke collection. It’s a sophisticated business website and has to be separate from my personal sites.  I also have specific landing pages on the website for Accountants, for Tax Advisers, for IFAs and, shortly, for solicitors too.

As a plug for the Tax Advice Network and to encourage relevant writing and speaking engagements I write the Tax-Buzz blog. This matches the Tax Advice Network branding but is hosted separately on Google’s blogger platform. This makes it more Googlicious than if it were integrated into the website.

Each of the blogs contains links to the others and to the websites.

So that’s what I do and why. To summarise:

  • Where the fundamental offering is the same (ie Tax Advice Network) but I have different audiences I have separate landing pages for each audience.
  • Where the subject matter of what the target audience is seeking is very different I have separate blogs and a personal website.

It makes sense to me. The only change I could realistically make would be to bring the accountant-jokes blog inside the BookMarkLee website/blog – whilst keeping the domain name and pointing it at the relevant section. I’d have to believe it would be worthwhile. At the moment I don’t.

Feel free to share your views below as to whether this makes sense to you or if you have some constructive suggestions/ideas.


The British Accountancy Awards 2011

The Accountancy Age awards are dead, long live The British Accountancy Awards (an Accountancy Age event).

I’ve enjoyed the Accountancy Age Awards ceremonies over the years. I remember the time back in the Natural History Museum when the then editor announced the launch of an AccountancyAge website. He seemed to think we would all be logging on throughout the day to find out about the latest news and views. I was doubtful that would happen then and remain doubtful now. We all log on when the mood takes us – generally in response to an email prompt or when looking something up online. Must admit I’m sad the printed version is no more, but life moves on.

In recent years the Awards have been held in the big convention marquee in Battersea. But there will be no more such Awards. Unlike the newspaper though they have not disappeared entirely. They are being reborn as The British Accountancy Awards and I would encourage you to consider entering. These awards will be quite different to those of the old ceremonies as there a loads of new categories for regional independent firms.

I was one of the judges of the Taxation awards for a number of years. I was always surprised by the number of entries which did not comply with the entry guidelines. If you’re inclined to enter the British Accountancy Awards – do make sure you read the guidance and ensure your entry satisfies all of the criteria.

Do not underestimate the potential value to your practice if you win one of the awards. Indeed, getting short-listed is also something to celebrate. Both are newsworthy – in your local area at least.  Good luck!