The key equation re Social Media for accountants

Here’s a slide I prepared for recent talks about Social Media for Accountants. I reference it after I note the desire that an increasing number of firms have to experiment with social media.

Whoever takes responsibility for your social media activity could be doing something else. So you need to determine whether the time spent on social media could be spent more productively. This is true whether it is you, a colleague, someone in your marketing department or a third party consultant ‘doing’ your social media work for you.

Let’s imagine that you ask Harry to devote some time to managing the firm’s social media projects (or maybe Harry is YOU). In order for Harry to devote any time to this new project he’s going to have to give up doing something else.

The equation sets out his priorities in formulaic terms. He could stop doing X, to do Y in order to accomplish Z which is more important than Q.

Starting with X – What is going to give? Your newsletter? Your direct mail campaign? Harry’s smoking break?  Is he currently wasting his time? Or does the practice or business benefit from what Harry does at the moment?

Moving onto Y – You can’t just say: “Harry I need you to do our social media”.  You need to be clear WHAT exactly he will be required to do, on which sites and with what objectives. You also need to agree a reasonable amount of time each day or week. And a word of warning. Once Harry starts it can be quite hard to stop. It may start at just 2 or 3 hours a week. It can easily end up as 2 -3 hours a day. It’s likely to require at least 5 hours a week IF you plan to use social media as a serious marketing tool.

Now Z – This is the value you attribute to the strategic and financial impact you hope to achieve from having Harry involved with social media activity. If you hop on the bandwagon without a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, how can you determine that it’s more important than anything else you’re doing? ie: X

And, finally, Q – If you’re considering getting engaged in social media at your firm or company, don’t you think it would be a good idea to consider what else Harry could be doing with the time you are going to free up and the impact that might have on  your business? It’s basic due diligence I think.  It’s the same if you are considering recruiting someone to run your social media campaign – or outsourcing this to a marketing organisation.  What impact might you reasonably expect from any OTHER activity you could engage them to do for you? Social Media is NOT the only game in town although, perhaps, there are some firms who are doing EVERYTHING else they could be doing such that Social Media is the only thing they have yet to try.

Does this equation work for you? How might we improve it?

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Social Media for Accountants – Why Bother?

This was the topic I was asked to speak about at a Cloud Accounting conference run by Cloud Advocates (David Terrar and Richard Messik).

A couple of hours before I was due to speak I posted a tweet:

Any accountants who’d like a mention during my talk @ #clouda21 , please answer the Q: Why should accountants bother with social media?

This was retweeted a couple of times and I received far more responses than I would ever have expected. I’ve posted most of them below with, in some cases, my observations. I’m conscious that not all replies directly reference twitter and may refer to other forms of social media:

Simple 1. It wins us business, 2. It helps us keep in touch with existing clients and potential, 3. To follow our competitors

I’m not attributing this yet as I’ve asked for clarification given the tweeter has only 105 followers and has only posted 410 tweets since joining twitter last November. I’m guessing she has had her success on other social media platforms. Re “keeping in touch with existing clients” – this implies that she has clients she follows on twitter or elsewhere.

how about because it shows that we are real people and not just hidden away? clients appear to like it and can easily get us (@Theataccounts – 96 followers, 124 tweets since joining twitter on 30 March 2011)

Assume that those clients are on twitter or the other social media platforms where this accountant is active.

‘cos we often have to use a lot of tedious financial jargon: social media gives us a great chance to connect, chat & be fun !! (@EacottsTeam – 33 followers)

Fair enough. I stressed the fun side during my talk.

we should be part of the conversation on sm, from a technical and accessible point of view. Our Partners love blogging too! (@MercerHole with just 114 followers despite a twitter presence for over 2 years – July 2009)

A classic case of big firm marketing team approach. Following the crowd but not really making it work.

it keeps you in touch with your current clients and a presence for others to see you and company.. I think it …. Be a mix of business and personal, as people do business with people.  (@Cam42 – Alex Walls with 154 followers since march 2009)

Of course it only keeps you in touch with those clients who are engaged on the same social media platforms where you choose to be active.

Social media is a vital tool in marketing accountants and allowing access to millions of potential new clients. (1/2)  Cloud accounting then enables us to remove any distance problems with the click of a button. Cloud accountants @GloverStanbury (@bussdean 70 followers)

Sorry. This all sounds like wishful thinking. Whilst accountants may be happy to service clients anywhere in the country, only a TINY minority of those prospects seeking a new accountant will choose one outside of their local area. Much better to focus your efforts on social media with a LOCAL bias.

To show how witty, smart, approachable and normal we are oh and to tell the world that we’re pretty good at what we do 🙂 x (@NicolaSwalwell who works for Wright Vigar and has 362 followers, having been on twitter since Feb this year).

to prove we have personality! (@TheYowser – 67 followers)

Accountants need to talk to their clients – social media is a way of talking, it builds trust, and it’s dynamic. And if I look like a marketer, yes I am, but I’m also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. (@divariotweet with 171 followers, since joining twitter in March of this year)

Common view expressed by marketing types and based on a series of assumptions that will only be true in some cases.

as a result of engaging with a web savvy audience, they help us (helps both parties) use cloud more effectively  – and it is Twitter more than any other SM tool which really makes the difference (@proactivepaul with 1355 followers built up over the last 3 years)

Paul is very active on twitter and has been at it for some time.

Social Media allows us to communicate with a wider audience at little cost. We have advertised Seminars & gained contacts (@RobertShawMyers with 113 followers – on twitter since June 2010)

Think they’ve bought into the myth. The wider audience to which they refer is a subset of the 113 followers they have – as they won’t all be interested, and even those who are won’t see your every tweet.  Gaining contacts is good but follower numbers looks very low after more than a year on twitter.

SM = potential to reach & engage with a much wider audience, incl clients, prospects and associates/colleagues (@chapperscounts 478 followers since May 2009)

Potential indeed. Lots of things have potential.

f in forensic analysis indicates that if you want to raise your f in profile then SM is an f in fun way to do it ! – I’m the f in (forensic) accountant BTW ;o) But you knew that already (@forensicfreddie – 86 followers since Nov 2010)

Agreed. On all counts. Though you still need to consider whether the audience with whom you want to raise your profile is engaged on social media. Mine is. is yours?

My favourite reply was this one from @figurate (Louise) and I suspect there’s an element of truth in it:

because it pleasantly passes the time, whilst on hold to #HMRC 😉

The last response I received, an hour after I completed my talk, was:

We believe it provides a megaphone to promote our services. It also challenges the status quo of “old fashioned” accountants!

I’ve not attributed this one, to avoid embarrassment, as the tweeter is very new to twitter (32 tweets and 64 followers) and completely misunderstands how it works. As I said in my reply:

‘fraud with that approach you will be sadly disappointed that no one is listening or interested in your megaphone

We continued exchanging tweets for a few minutes and he thanked me for my help – which included pointing him at the twitter page of this blog.

NB: I’ve only quoted follower numbers and joining dates above to show that many of the comments come from relatively new or inactive tweeters. There is no point in chasing follower numbers. There are plenty of tweeters who do this with the sole aim of getting large numbers of followers in the mistaken belief that this means a wider audience who are going to see every tweet they post. That’s not how twitter works. It’s only worth following people in whom you are interested. For most local accountants that should include as many local business people and tweeters as you can find using twitter search facilities.  For the record, at the time of writing I had almost 3,000 twitter followers built up slowly over a 4 year period [Edit October 2016: 7,200 followers].

I appreciate that there are many more accountants on Twitter than are quoted above. Only those who happened to be around and saw my tweeted Q or the ReTweets of it will have answered. I’d be delighted to receive further responses and feedback in comments on this post.  Feel free to reference other social media too.

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Examples of good facebook pages for accountants

As part of my focus on how accountants can use social media I have not, to date, paid much attention to Facebook. I do compare key features and benefits of facebook with other social media sites during my talks and articles but that’s about it.

My gut tells me that spending BUSINESS  time on facebook might be worthwhile for some accountants. But only if you focus on certain niches – such as inheritance tax, landlords, the newly self employed or business start-ups.

I’m not convinced but, as always, I’m willing to be persuaded – by evidence rather than by hype. In this connection I was intrigued when I came across a tweet this week that linked to a blog post titled: “Examples of good facebook pages for accountants“.

The author of the blog post, Lara Solomon, had been trying to find great examples from the Accounting profession.  She claims to have looked at over 500 accountants’ pages on Facebook and was clearly unimpressed. She identified just 3 of these as being worthy of reference as good examples.  I’ve looked at all 3 of them. Well, I tried to. It seems only one is still there. That’s when I noticed that the blog was written in June 2010 and that the author is based in Australia. I also noted that, despite a clear request to ‘like’ the facebook page of the accountancy firm in question, just 145 people have done so. I don’t know how many had done so before Lara wrote her Blog post, but either way it’s not proved very popular over the last 15 months. This is a shame but may be evidence that my gut feel re the value of facebook to accountants is well founded. I’d like to find out.

I wonder whether much has changed since Lara did her research. Do let me know if you have your own accountancy firm business page or know of any accountants with facebook business pages.  Just like Lara I’m especially keen to find some ‘great’ examples that have proven worthwhile. Are there any? And are any of these in the UK?

Please post your links as comments on this blog post. If there is enough interest I’ll then write an article on the subject for my regular column on AccountingWeb where I am consultant practice editor.

[Edit: This post went live in September 2011. In the two years to September 2013 it proved to be one of the most popular items on this blog. But, to date, NOT ONE link to a good facebook page for a firm of accountants. This rather supports my original contention, but I’m still open to examples that prove me wrong]

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