Twitter lists of UK accountants and tax bods – who's on and who's not?

Some years ago I started a list of UK accountants and tax bods who had set up twitter accounts. The idea was to provide a useful resource for anyone who wanted to see how UK accountants use twitter. That list now has almost 200 followers.

As and when I became aware of new people on twitter I added them. All was well until I had 500 accountants on the list.  I then had to set up a second list due to the twitter imposed limit of 500 people on a twitter list.

After my recent posts re twitter names I decided I should split these two lists more logically. I have now moved all the tweeting firms of accountants onto a new list: Accountancy firms – UK.

I’m trying to be consistent so the new list includes:

  • Firms where the twitter handle is a firm’s name and there is no ref to who is tweeting in the firm’s name
  • Firms where the tweeter’s name appears in the profile but there is no photo of them

There are other variations too, but you get the idea. The new list currently has almost 400 firms on it even though I have not attempted to include ALL of the twitter feeds published by the Big 4 firms in the UK.

The other accountancy related twitter lists to which I add tweeters are:

  • Accounting and tax bodies – UK only
  • Accountants and tax bods – This is the merged list of all tweeting UK accountants and tax advisers. (The list has approaching 500 on it. As and when we reach the maximum again I will probably remove those accounts without profile photos and/or those who no longer tweet).

If you want to see how other accountants use twitter you can follow any or all of the lists via your twitter feed. Following a list does not mean the tweets of list members will show up on your “home” page.  To see the tweets whenever you choose you can simply set up a column to do this in Hootsuite, tweetdeck or in your smartphone twitter app.

You can follow any of these lists, without following the individual members. Alternatively you can just choose to follow individual accounts that are included on the lists.

Caveats

  • Checking out how other accountants are using twitter will not, of itself, show you how much value anyone is getting from twitter. It can also be a mistake to confuse large numbers of followers or frequent activity for ‘success’ on twitter.
  • A fair proportion of the firms and individual accountants on my lists no longer tweet. This is typically because they went about it the wrong way and had unrealistic expectations about how twitter works. Sadly these expectations were often encouraged by marketing, social media or tweeting ‘experts. All too often they do not REALLY understand the accountancy profession and share generic advice that simply reinforces the hype around twitter.  My own approach is somewhat different and very much ‘without the hype‘.

By the way if you think you, or anyone else, should be added to any of my twitter lists do follow me on twitter and/or drop me a tweet 😉

 

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Twitter lists of UK accountants and tax bods – who’s on and who’s not?

Some years ago I started a list of UK accountants and tax bods who had set up twitter accounts. The idea was to provide a useful resource for anyone who wanted to see how UK accountants use twitter. That list now has almost 200 followers.

As and when I became aware of new people on twitter I added them. All was well until I had 500 accountants on the list.  I then had to set up a second list due to the twitter imposed limit of 500 people on a twitter list.

After my recent posts re twitter names I decided I should split these two lists more logically. I have now moved all the tweeting firms of accountants onto a new list: Accountancy firms – UK.

I’m trying to be consistent so the new list includes:

  • Firms where the twitter handle is a firm’s name and there is no ref to who is tweeting in the firm’s name
  • Firms where the tweeter’s name appears in the profile but there is no photo of them

There are other variations too, but you get the idea. The new list currently has almost 400 firms on it even though I have not attempted to include ALL of the twitter feeds published by the Big 4 firms in the UK.

The other accountancy related twitter lists to which I add tweeters are:

  • Accounting and tax bodies – UK only
  • Accountants and tax bods – This is the merged list of all tweeting UK accountants and tax advisers. (The list has approaching 500 on it. As and when we reach the maximum again I will probably remove those accounts without profile photos and/or those who no longer tweet).

If you want to see how other accountants use twitter you can follow any or all of the lists via your twitter feed. Following a list does not mean the tweets of list members will show up on your “home” page.  To see the tweets whenever you choose you can simply set up a column to do this in Hootsuite, tweetdeck or in your smartphone twitter app.

You can follow any of these lists, without following the individual members. Alternatively you can just choose to follow individual accounts that are included on the lists.

Caveats

  • Checking out how other accountants are using twitter will not, of itself, show you how much value anyone is getting from twitter. It can also be a mistake to confuse large numbers of followers or frequent activity for ‘success’ on twitter.
  • A fair proportion of the firms and individual accountants on my lists no longer tweet. This is typically because they went about it the wrong way and had unrealistic expectations about how twitter works. Sadly these expectations were often encouraged by marketing, social media or tweeting ‘experts. All too often they do not REALLY understand the accountancy profession and share generic advice that simply reinforces the hype around twitter.  My own approach is somewhat different and very much ‘without the hype‘.

By the way if you think you, or anyone else, should be added to any of my twitter lists do follow me on twitter and/or drop me a tweet 😉

 

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How do you explain twitter to novices?

A couple of non-tech savvy friends recently confirmed my view about the media stories that reference twitter. “Why would anyone get involved with that stuff?” they asked. They were visibly shocked to learn that I was ‘into’ twitter and that I help accountants to understand this ‘new’ facility. I offered to explain.

I knew there was no point in starting with the standard description of twitter as a micro-blogging service. That’s jargon. Talking about it being a social media platform and the 140 character limit would be equally pointless.  I also wanted to avoid any of the fallacies that mislead new twitter users. You don’t tweet all of your followers (unless you only have a few of them); you can’t easily use twitter to broadcast promotional business messages (as no one will be listening, watching or reading them).

So the first thing I had to do was to help my friends to understand what twitter is all about. But their question was why does anyone use it? And why would they want to do so?

I did what I always do when I introduce twitter. I talk about it as an information resource. A place to pick up on news items and new developments in ‘real-time’. (I explained this in more detail in my blog post: Is twitter for me? Ten NON-business reasons to be on twitter)

My friends seemed less cynical after I gave some examples but were still shocked by the media focus on celebrity and politician tweets.

I’ve just checked and note that my explanation of twitter accords with the ‘about’ twitter website which starts by saying:

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can discover a lot in a little space. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place.

As when I explain twitter to accountants this implies that it’s best to start using twitter as a resource – not as somewhere to tweet, chat, blog, micro-blog or post promotional messages.  As I have said many times on this blog before: You WILL be disappointed with the outcome if you start out on twitter hoping to generate work, leads or followers on the back of your tweets.

Do you agree? How do YOU explain twitter to novices?

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Be realistic as to what Social Media can do for you

The MediaCoach, Alan Stevens, recently shared his views about people who wonder why social media isn’t working for them.  We tend to agree on such things even though we have very different backgrounds in business and the media.

I thought it was worth sharing Alan’s views on a subject I have blogged about before.  Alan reminds us that social media is not a panacea. It is just a tool – as is a tennis racket.

I can have the same racket as Roger Federer, but just using it won’t help me win Wimbledon. It’s just a tool. Social media is similar, in my view. It’s just a tool. It’s how you use it that matters.

A lot depends on your type of business. If you’re offering high-value professional services, at substantial hourly rates, you’re not going to close deals with clients over social media. You need to get face-to-face with them, look them in the eye, shake them by the hand, and gain their complete trust.

It’s possible (and reasonably easy) to set up the meeting via social media, but the real business is done when you meet.

This is similar to a key point that I also make during my talks on Social media without the hype – and about which I wrote in a previous post: 5 things to SCOPE or check before you embrace social media. Essentially, be cautious before looking to emulate someone else who claims that they are gaining business success through the use of social media:

Start by considering the person who has been using or who advocates the use of social media for business purposes. When they refer to it being successful and worthwhile, what do they mean? What does success look like for them? Would you feel the time and effort was worthwhile if you secured similar benefits? Similar levels of new fees? Similar types of new clients? And so on.

I have also shared my views previously as to how social media can be a useful tool for accountants and tax advisers. I would stress (again) that you should not set out hoping to attract large numbers of prospects. It’s unlikely to happen and there are more effective ways to generate a significant number of new clients. Social media can be a fun and fast way to access data, news and insights. It may also have unexpected business benefits for you. The important thing is to have realistic expectations as to what can be achieved with the tool – when it’s in your hands.

It’s important to recognise that a tool that may work well for other businesses will not automatically work well for accountants. As Alan says:

If your business is providing products or services that are an impulse purchase, then gathering a large following on social media is much more beneficial. However, you still need to be responsive to questions and complaints from individuals. I always urge companies with a large customer base to think carefully about their social media strategy, especially with regard to staffing. It is not a one-person operation, though customers like to know who they are talking to.

It’s not about the tools at all. It’s all about how you use them. Your serve.

Alan Stevens’ quotes above are used with his permission, and originally appeared in “The MediaCoach”, his free weekly ezine, available at www.mediacoach.co.uk (By the way, Alan also produces an accompanying podcast ‘radio show’ that I thoroughly enjoy every week. Highly recommended)

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more Social Media related insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Is a 'me too' Budget summary worth sending to anyone?

Last year I awarded a (notional) prize for what I considered to be the  best Budget night ‘commentary’ that I saw the following day.  The winner, and runner-up to a lesser extent, stood out among the dozens of ‘me too’ pieces that were, frankly, not worth anyone’s time and effort.

Many years ago the Chancellor’s March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April. In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor’s announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.

That was then. This is now. Few tax changes take immediate effect any more, other than the closure of fancy tax loopholes. And when that happens more detailed analysis is required than will ever appear in a Budget commentary. Also long gone are the days when the Budget Night press releases contained sufficient detail to enable accountants to say something constructive. Now we have to wait for subsequent announcements that appear long after the Budget newsletter was published. And most of the next tax year’s rates and allowances were announced a few months back – as has become the way for some time now.

But still many firms produce their own summaries or buy in a commercially produced ‘overnight’ Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I’ve heard the arguments for this. “Clients expect to get one from us.” “They get one from every other accountant in the town.” “They like them” (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These standard Budget emails, newsletters and booklets are of very little value and rarely contain anything more than appears in the daily paper or in generic news (or even tax news) email updates. And they have little in the way of ongoing value.

So why the awards last year? Quite simply because the winner’s approach was distinctive and better than all of the standard stuff that I received from dozens of accountants around the UK.  Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk published ‘Not a Budget newsletter‘. It was client focused and recognised the fact that there was next to nothing of immediate impact in the Budget itself.

This year Elaine has already published her summary of the key tax data that the media will only think to announce after the Budget – despite the fact that the information was announced long ago.

I announced a runner-up award last year for informanagement as they had at least divided up the announcements:

  • Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed

So here is a challenge for readers of my musings and blogs. If you can avoid a ‘me too’ attempt and you adopt a different, client centred approach this year, please let me know. If I agree I will give you the 2012 award (which simply means you get a mention on my blog and a link through to your website).

Of course if you want to argue the case for ‘me too’ summaries I’d also love to hear form you via the comments facility below.

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Is a ‘me too’ Budget summary worth sending to anyone?

Last year I awarded a (notional) prize for what I considered to be the  best Budget night ‘commentary’ that I saw the following day.  The winner, and runner-up to a lesser extent, stood out among the dozens of ‘me too’ pieces that were, frankly, not worth anyone’s time and effort.

Many years ago the Chancellor’s March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April. In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor’s announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.

That was then. This is now. Few tax changes take immediate effect any more, other than the closure of fancy tax loopholes. And when that happens more detailed analysis is required than will ever appear in a Budget commentary. Also long gone are the days when the Budget Night press releases contained sufficient detail to enable accountants to say something constructive. Now we have to wait for subsequent announcements that appear long after the Budget newsletter was published. And most of the next tax year’s rates and allowances were announced a few months back – as has become the way for some time now.

But still many firms produce their own summaries or buy in a commercially produced ‘overnight’ Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I’ve heard the arguments for this. “Clients expect to get one from us.” “They get one from every other accountant in the town.” “They like them” (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These standard Budget emails, newsletters and booklets are of very little value and rarely contain anything more than appears in the daily paper or in generic news (or even tax news) email updates. And they have little in the way of ongoing value.

So why the awards last year? Quite simply because the winner’s approach was distinctive and better than all of the standard stuff that I received from dozens of accountants around the UK.  Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk published ‘Not a Budget newsletter‘. It was client focused and recognised the fact that there was next to nothing of immediate impact in the Budget itself.

This year Elaine has already published her summary of the key tax data that the media will only think to announce after the Budget – despite the fact that the information was announced long ago.

I announced a runner-up award last year for informanagement as they had at least divided up the announcements:

  • Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
  • Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed

So here is a challenge for readers of my musings and blogs. If you can avoid a ‘me too’ attempt and you adopt a different, client centred approach this year, please let me know. If I agree I will give you the 2012 award (which simply means you get a mention on my blog and a link through to your website).

Of course if you want to argue the case for ‘me too’ summaries I’d also love to hear form you via the comments facility below.

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Lessons for accountants from…..personal trainers

When someone decides they want to get fit they could choose the DIY route at a gym or they can engage a personal trainer.

The trainer will ask if the client has has had a trainer before. If so, what did the client like about the exercises, the fitness regime, the advice they received and the way they were treated? The trainer will also listen to what the client wishes to achieve. T

The trainer, who is a expert, will indicate what’s realistic and what is not. They will set out the pre-requisites of success and may refuse to take on the client if they have unrealistic ambitions. If the trainer feels they can work with the client there may be occasions when they push the client beyond their comfort point in pursuit of the goal. And clients are willing to pay for this because they know that they will be fitter and healthier as a result.

I wonder if there are any lessons here for accountants and their clients? How about finding out what they liked and didn’t like about their previous accountant? What does the client want to achieve through the appointment of the new accountant? What are they like in producing all of the information necessary to complete accounts and tax returns?

I rarely hear of accountants pushing their clients to provide the necessary information in good time. Actually that’s not strictly true. The accountants tell me that they do chase up. They send emails, letters and maybe phone. But they only REALLY insist when the relevant deadlines are looming. Until then they leave the client in control. They let the client stay flabby, slow and unfit – as regards their financial/tax situation.

Not everyone wants a tough personal trainer. And I’ve no doubt that some trainers crack the whip, so to speak, less than others. But if you’re paying for a personal trainer you want them to help you get fit and healthy. It’s no good turning up at the gym a week before christmas and expecting the trainer to sort you out in time for the big party or whatever.

Anyone see an analogy here? What could accountants do to be more like personal trainers? Or do you think this analogy has been over stretched already?

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Reputation matters more than anything

I’d like to recommend a radio programme to you (details below). I suggest you try to listen again or download the podcast before it disappears from the Radio 4 website.

Evan Davis’s guests on the programme are not accountants but they are all, to some extent, selling expertise, ie: knowledge that the customer doesn’t have. The discussion attempts to address the question:

“If consumers are in a state of relative ignorance, how can they shop around? What stops them getting ripped off?”

Clearly this is commonly the state in which prospects find themselves when they look for an accountant.  The programme also asks the question:

When consumers look to buy ‘expertise’ how do they do it?

The interviewees note that it is easier to secure new clients when you’re offering a continuing relationship. Many people are concerned that they will get ripped off when they are only seeking one-off expert advice. One example they explored was the car mechanic. Who knows if they’re any good? How do people choose one? They invariably go by recommendation and effectively therefore by reference to their reputation. At such time as they feel they have been ripped off, given poor service or are unhappy in any other way, they look around for someone new.

Sounds familiar?

The best quotes from the programme include:

We have competitors but no peers

People buy people.

Our reputation in service business is key.

Reputation matters more than anything and this serves everyone’s interests.

Personal recommendations are key

Whilst accountants are not specifically mentioned during the programme, the learning points are, I hope, clear from the points highlighted above.  Do let me know if you listen to it and what lessons you draw from the discussion.

The interviews/discussion were part of the Radio 4 programme, The Bottom Line 23 Feb 2012

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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How accountants should choose their twitter handle

In my last blog post I suggested that accountants who tweet using their firm’s name are missing a trick. Twitter is a social media platform that is suited to building personal engagement. It is less effective when used as a broadcast media and this is typically what we expect of and experience with corporate twitter accounts.

Based on what I have seen on twitter over the last few years I am now convinced that most accountants who only tweet in the firm’s name are largely wasting their time. It will invariably take far longer to get value from twitter if you fail to tweet as a real person.

At the very least it is generally easier to get value from twitter if your face and name appear as the twitter user even if your twitter handle is your firm’s name. This is still not as good though as incorporating your name into your twitter handle.

Before looking at some examples, let me add a word about the length. Within reason the shorter the better. Twitter limits your twitter handle to just 15 characters. Choose them carefully. You will of course also be constrained by the length of your first and last names, the length of your firm’s name, whether the latter is ever referred to only by its initials and also by your role in the firm.

Generic tips:

  • You will seem more professional if you have an intelligible handle, rather than what may seem to be random letters or a name followed by random numbers or your year of birth.
  • Use upper and lower case to make it easier to read. The mix has no impact on twitter. Thus you’ll get my twitter account whether you type: BookMarkLee, bookmarklee or any variation thereon
  • Underscores are best avoided whenever possible as they can cause issues for anyone who accesses twitter on an iphone – and possibly via other devices too. NB: Twitter does not allow hyphens or other punctuation in twitter handles.
  • Choose a handle as close to your name as possible as this is your online brand. Every time you tweet, you promote brand awareness for your name and reinforce the connection between your name and profile photo. This makes it so much easier to connect in real life. I am frequently approached at events by people who have recognised me from my twitter profile photo.

Effective approaches to choosing a twitter handle:

  • Your name or a professionally appropriate variation thereon eg: @JohnPeterSmith
  • A combination of your name and your firm’s name or initials eg: @BDO_JohnSmith
  • A combination of your name and your profession eg: @JohnS_Accounts or @JohnTaxSmith
  • A combination of your name and location eg: @JohnSmithBelfast

Less effective approaches:

  • A combination of your initials and your firm’s name  eg: @JS4BakerTilly
  • A combination of your firm’s name and your initials eg: @BakerTilly_JS
  • A combination of letters that only makes sense once someone has worked it out eg: @jsaccsol (John Smith Accounting Solutions)
  • A self -proclaimed title eg @TheTaxGuruGuy or @GreatBookkeeping

Do share your views and let me know whether you agree or disagree with my advice on this topic. And please share any clever or different styles of twitter handles that could work for accountants too.

PS: The good news is that Twitter allows you to change an existing handle without this impacting your follower numbers. You simply go to the ‘edit profile’ page on your twitter account, click the link for ‘account’, enter your new username/handle and click ‘save’..

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Why accountants should not tweet in their firm’s name

During my last social media seminar for accountants we reviewed the different ways that accountants have chosen to identify themselves on twitter. An objective comparison was quite revealing.

As always let me start by saying that if what you’re doing is working for you, please continue without changing anything. If however you have yet to experiment with twitter or you’re not getting many followers or much engagement, please read on.

One of the key issues that contributes to the way other tweeters react to you and engage with you is your twitter handle (name). Mine is BookMarkLee, which is not perfect, but it’s the same as my website and includes my full name. If I was the only Mark Lee on twitter I would just have used my real name of course.

Many accountants tweet using their firm’s name and with a logo for the avatar/photo. I have concluded that this makes life difficult for them. It almost certainly reduces the level of engagement they secure on twitter. And without engagement and a decent following of genuinely interested people, you are probably wasting your time on twitter.

Attendees at my seminar confirmed my strong belief that fewer people will react positively to or engage with a firm as distinct from with a person on twitter. And don’t get me started on people who forget they are tweeting in the firm’s name and express personal sentiments. That just grates with me. It’s also confusing. It’s like trying to have a conversation with someone who is inside a sack. You don’t even know if they are male or female. If you’re a person, be a person.  My previous blog posts about what works and what tends not to work so well on twitter have addressed related points.

Some accountants adopt a half way house. They tweet using their firm’s name but they have a decent headshot photo for their avatar. This is far better than using a logo in my view.  Other tweeters can see the account is run by a real person whose name is usually clear in their user profile.  This is not as good as having their name in the handle but it’s definitely preferable to a business name and logo for the avatar.

I have been looking at the twitter profiles and tweets of over 800 British accountants – through two of the twitter lists I have built up  over the last few years. Only a handful have more than a couple of hundred followers. I did spot one firm with around 2,300 followers but also noted that they are following almost 2,500 on twitter. This suggests that they are chasing followers who automatically follow them back. I doubt that many of the 2,300 are interested in the firm’s tweets. If I’m right the figure of 2,300 then becomes irrelevant.

The vast majority of accountants with many hundreds or thousands of followers tweet using their own name. NOT their firm’s name. Those who use their firm’s name tend to be more successful on twitter if they at least have a personal photo/head shot. This shows who the real person is behind the firm’s tweets.

In my next blog post I will address the related point of how to choose or change to a twitter handle that incorporates your name and that of your firm. In the mean time please let me know your views on this issue.

 

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