How much time does it take to be active on social media?

I was asked recently how I allocate my time across all of the social media with which I am involved. I guess this might be of interest to others so thought I’d blog my response. I then found that I drafted a blog post along these lines around 18m ago. It’s interesting (to me at least) to note the differences in my replies today as distinct from back then.

I should stress that I have no daily or weekly targets and the actual time spent depends on what’s happening, my work priorities and the meetings I have in my diary.

Social Networks

Facebook

Now – rarely more than a few snatched minutes every few days (normally using my iphone). My blog posts are automatically added to my facebook wall.

18m ago – I’m not a big facebook user but know I need to check for new friend requests each day. I scan my home page and comment/like anything that grabs my attention. Until and unless I perceive that facebook is a good way to keep in touch with accountants etc I doubt I’ll spend any longer here.

Google+

I spend no time here at all. Had a good look when it was launched and created a profile there. I get the odd notification that someone has added me to their circles. If and when it becomes a key communication tool for my target business audience I will have another look. I doubt that will happen anytime soon. In the meantime I spend enough time online elsewhere on social and business media.

18m ago – n/a (Google+ didn’t exist!)

Pinterest

Again, I spend no time here. Unlikely to change – see comments re Google+ above.

YouTube channel

BookMarkLee – takes no time in a typical week (No change)

Micro-blogging

Twitter

Now – I think I am more focused than I was 18m ago but otherwise little has changed beyond an increase in the number of people who follow me to 3,800. Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

18m ago – I have written an entire piece about how I use twitter.

Business social networks

Ecademy

Now – The time I can afford to spend here has reduced as my time on other online media has increased. I still blog occasionally and add comments to blogs (normally only those posted by people I know). And I attempt to reply and assist fellow members of a few key clubs. Total time: Upto an hour a week

18m ago – I use a bookmark on my browser (both on my macbook and my iphone) to keep up with things in my favourite clubs/groups  typically while I’m out and about. I receive email prompts re messages, key notifications and search results. I sometimes drop in to offer help, support and assistance where I can – this is less frequent than it was a few years ago. Sometimes I post requests for help, support or information myself.

LinkedIn

Now – I spend more time here than on any other such platform. I use it for lead generation across almost all areas of my business activities. It’s also easy to use to get back in touch with people in a business context. I check out the activity on my home page, new discussions in key groups, requests to join my groups and all new connection requests and messages every day. My time here has increased over the last couple of years as I’ve sought to practice what I preach. It’s the most valuable of all the online networks for me from a business perspective. I now have over 2,100 first level connections but never agree to connect with strangers unless they offer a good reason for so doing. Total time: Around 2 hours a week.

18m ago – I realise I have not been spending as much time on here as I should. After all this is the only serious online business network that crosses over into big business. Memo to self: practice what you preach!

4Networking

Now – I have started popping back into the business forum in advance of attending a new group meeting in the City.  Not sure whether I will have the time to continue being active here as well as on Ecademy where I know more people. (Note: Face to face networking can drive online networking which may not succeed in isolation).

18m ago – Have replied and contributed to various discussions. Seems very similar to Ecademy in some respects but I know fewer people here. I sense I may get bored of contributing into the ether.

Accountancy and tax websites

AccountingWeb

Now – I am now engaged to write weekly articles and I always seek to engage with those who comment on these. I also check out and comment on other articles and contribute to ‘Any Answers’ every couple of days. Total time (excl paid-for writing): Upto an hour a week

18m ago – As Consultant Practice editor I check out the site every 2 or 3 days and add comments and replies to queries. I also write a couple of articles each month. Ignoring the articles I probably spend an hour or so a week on the site.

AccountancyAge.com

Now – I am a far less frequent visitor these days than I was previously. I occasionally read the stories that come through by way of email notifications or tweets and sometimes go to the website to add a comment or two. Total time: Maybe 20 mins a week in total.

18m ago – I scan many of the stories and add comments to 2 or 3 of them each week

ION sites (IT counts and Tax Faculty)

Now – As before.

18m ago – I tend to only visit by ref to email prompts and if something specifically interests me. Maybe 20 mins in total across a typical week.

Blogging

WordPress – blog for ambitious accountants

Now – My personal blog for ambitious accountants – you’re reading it now.  Total time: Probably an hour or two per week to post a couple of items and to review and reply to comments.

18m ago – This may be an indulgence as I seem to post so many articles here. Probably averages upto 3 or 4 hours a week.

Blogger – accountant jokes and fun blog

Now –  As before.

18m ago – My fun blog. I cut and paste ad-hoc items here. Probably takes around 30 mins a week.

Blogger – TaxBuzz blog

Now – I have not blogged here since December 2011. I realised it was an indulgence and was taking too much time for no obvious reward. The traffic it drove to the Tax Advice Network website was not converting into business so I have suspended my blogging activity here.

18m ago – I post tax commentary and debunk tax stories in the media 2 or 3 times a week. The idea is to drive traffic to the Tax Advice Network website and to be identified as a key tax commentator.

Other blogs

Now – I collate RSS feeds from dozens of blogs through to Google Reader which I only access on my iphone. This enables me to keep up with blogs I find of interest, mostly while I’m out and about. Total time: Reading during train journeys: Maybe 2 hours a week.

18m ago – I dip in and out of blog posts when I follow links from twitter or when prompted by emails.

Conclusion

It all adds up and of course my online activities are quite well honed now. I’ve been experimenting with many of the above for over 3 years.

How about you?

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8 ways to avoid wasting time when pitching for work

I offer the following from three perspectives:

1 – That of an ex-partner in two large firms of accountants where I was repsonsible for writing pitches and fronting bids;

2 – That of the deputy treasurer of a large charity where I have been on the receiving end of 10 face to face pitches by different firms of accountants over the years; and

3 – That of an independent adviser who has researched the subject in more detail in recent years since I stopped having to present formal pitches. But I do often make proposals in response to invitations to do so for potential mentoring, speaking and facilitating engegements.

Here are my top 8 tips:

1 – Remember that the written document is like a CV. Its job is to get you to the next stage. Too long or detailed and it won’t be read. (A CV should be written to secure an interview, not in attempt to secure the job itself).

2 – Try to ascertain with whom you are competing. Even if you don’t know for certain, you can guess – local competitors, bigger firms, smaller firms, a niche practice, a more general practice. Identify your relative strengths and be ready to refute any perceived weaknesses – from the prospective client’s perspective;

3 – Be consistent when you attend the formal pitch. If what you say you will do is different to what you promised in the written tender you will lose credibility;

4 – If you claim to be a team, be a team. If you’re not already a team admit it. Otherwise when it becomes apparent (and it will) you will lose credibility;

5 – Do not assume that everyone on the selection panel has read your written proposal – some of them may have just scanned it; Some may have been drafted in to add weight to the panel at the last minute. Even if you ask if they have all had a chance to read it, be aware that few people will want to publicly admit that they haven’t given it the attention you think it deserved.

6 – Beware that at least one person will challenge something in the written proposal – be prepared;

7 – Plan for the face to face meeting. Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked. Ensure the team will give consistent replies;

8 – Follow-up promptly and succinctly afterwards. Thank the panel or your main contact for their time and for seeing you. And use this opportunity to clarify anything you left open when you met.

What other tips would you share on this topic?

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Are your clients standard, super or suspect?

Your clients probably fall into one of 3 categories. Do you make the implicit assumption this supports?

1 – Standard

Those who will never want you to do anything different from what you already do each year. Or would be unprepared to pay a decent fee for any additional services and advice.

2 – Super

Those who assume that as you are their accountant you can advise them on anything and everything vaguely related to their finances, tax, accounts and business. As and when they ever need anything out of the norm, you are the first person they contact.

3 – Suspect

Those who assume that you are unable to provide ad-hoc services beyond those you provide every year. They are unaware that you could provide (or co-ordinate) the additional services they require.

Whilst you might know you have more skills and could do more to help them, they’ve never asked you to do so. And you’ve not really made them aware of your full skill-set – other than possibly some years ago when you first met them…..[Whilst you might remember doing this, is it reasonable to expect them to do so?]. Equally, whilst you may not have the skills yourself you may prefer to introduce them to a suitable specialist who either works ‘through’ you or directly with your client – who remains loyal to you in all other respects.

I suspect that many accountants assume that more of their clients fall into the second category than is actually the case. How would you know? And how exposed are you to other advisers offering their services to address your clients’ wider needs? What can you do to  ensure that clients act more like those in category two (if, indeed, you would like them to do so)?

Does this analysis resonate with you?

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Five misconceptions about twitter caused by poor media reporting

This post started life as the second part of an item intended to explain twitter to novices.  In that piece I  suggested that the first thing to note is that twitter is an information resource.

Unless you are obsessed with celebrities, politics, sports or brands, nothing in the media is likely to tempt you to find out more about twitter. My friends (see previous post) don’t care about the cult of celebrity (‘selebs’). My friends also aren’t interested in getting insights into what politicians are doing before the stories are reported by the mainstream media. And they have no interest in sports, big brands or business. Finally, as they are public sector employees they do not have their own, or indeed, any business interests to build or promote.

I am inclined to accept that it is not possible to enthuse such people about twitter. I have previously shared: Ten NON-business reasons to be on twitter. But I am also aware that poor media reporting creates its own misconceptions. Here are five. You can probably add others.

1 – Everyone on twitter sees everything that is tweeted. NOT SO

You only see what the people you have chosen to follow are tweeting. If you want to do so you can search twitter to  see what others are (or have been) saying on a specific topic or about a specific person. But if you don’t go looking for such material you won’t see it. Just like you will only see the shopping or religious channels on satellite TV if you tune in to watch them. If you’re not interested you don’t watch. It’s the same with twitter.

The vast majority of people follow less than 100 others on Twitter. And of those 60% are family, friends and other personal contacts. In other words, for many people Twitter is simply a place where people who already know each other keep in touch with one another, on a fairly infrequent basis. Beyond that they use it to source information on topics of interest.

2 – If you ‘follow’ someone on twitter you will see all of their tweets. NOT SO

Media reports of a politicians tweeting all their 150,000 followers are misleading in the extreme. Just SOME of their followers will see their tweets. Only a handful of tweeters are able or interested enough to read every tweet posted by people they follow. This only generally happens if you choose to follow just a few people, or if you’re a journalist, pretty sad or you are obsessed with the ‘seleb’.

3 – You can quickly get thousands of followers on twitter. NOT SO

Most non ‘selebs’ have fewer than 1,000 followers on twitter. I’ve been active on twitter since July 2008 and I’m pretty well connected but I still have only around 7,000 followers (updated 2016). I could have played games and chased followers to get the number higher. But I believe that would be a waste of time. It only impresses (and confuses) twitter novices.  I currently ‘follow’ fewer than 700 tweeters (updated 2016). But I rarely see many of their tweets. Like everyone else, I just dip in and out.

There are only two ways to get tens of thousands of followers on twitter. The first is to be or become a ‘seleb’ in one sphere or another. The second is to follow tens of thousands of people and hope that they will follow you back. Their only interest is to get more followers too. So neither of you see each other’s tweets.

4 – Twitter is mainly used for trivia. NOT SO

Well, it’s not true for the people I choose to follow on twitter anyway.  It might have started as a way to tell everyone what you had for lunch but that’s changed. Although some of the media have yet to realise this. We all interpret twitter through the lens we choose to focus through. As I said earlier if you watch loads of shopping channels on satellite TV you might, mistakenly think that’s all that’s available, or that’s what everyone else does.

Different people use twitter in different ways. Teenagers can use it one way. Business people another way, sports fans another and marketing types something different again. There are as many different ways to use twitter as there are people using twitter. We are all different. We all choose to follow different people.

5 – If you go on twitter you will see lots of nasty stuff posted by ‘trolls’. NOT SO

You choose whose tweets you see on twitter. You can unfollow anyone instantly if you don’t like what they are tweeting. I do this frequently. Not because I see them posting anything nasty. It’s more often that they are not posting anything of interest to me.

Occasionally, very occasionally, if I follow a hashtag reference on twitter (eg: #bbcqt) I may see tweets by someone who seems angry about what they are watching on TV. But it’s rare. The same thing could happen with any twitter hashtag. But, as I said, it’s rare I will see anything really unpleasant. The only time that has happened has been when I’ve been reading a media report about twitter.

What other misconceptions do you think people have about twitter?

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A brave accountant admits he needs help and asks for it.

An accountant approached me last week to ask whether any of the members of my Tax Advice Network would be willing to work with his practice on a regular basis? The answer was ‘yes’.

The background to this accountant’s question was not uncommon. What I admired however was his desire to address the issue. And I was pleased he had chosen to ask for my input.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to identify the practice but the following broad summary suggests his situation is far from unuusal:

  • He is in his forties and has built up the practice over the last few years
  • He has a broad range of mostly business clients
  • His in-house (part-time) tax manager knows her stuff but is not someone to put in front of clients. And her letters and reports always need to be rewritten
  • He fears that some clients may be missing out and paying too much tax due to his reluctance to initiate conversations about anything beyond the most basic of tax planning; but he doubts many would be interested in ‘aggressive’ tax schemes
  • He has realised the practice needs higher level tax expertise but cannot afford to invest in a full-time person with appropriate level and breadth of knowledge. This also means he is unwilling to approach recruitment agencies
  • He has no idea how to go about finding someone appropriate or whether such a role would appeal to anyone good enough
  • He is concerned that he could end up with someone who is simply more expensive but otherwise similar to their existing tax lady.

Firstly I confirmed that I know there are plenty of independent tax advisers who work with accountancy firms like this one. In each case the parties agree an arrangement that suits them. This could include:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly visits
  • Flexible visiting arrangements
  • Ad-hoc telephone/skype and/or email help and support
  • Working as part of the firm or as an external consultant. Some accountants say their clients know the accountant is taking things seriously when he refers to his tax expert. (ie: Clients take the same attitude as patients do when their GP recommends a consultant).

Fee arrangements can also be flexible and may involve:

  • A weekly or monthly retainer – against regular invoices
  • PAYE for regular work as a part-time employee (with consideration of overtime arrangements if required)
  • Hourly invoiced rate for support provided by phone, email or face to face
  • Fees invoiced to the firm or to specific clients (the latter is only common for outsourced tax investigation cases or other situations involving substantial fees)
  • Or any other arrangement that suits both parties and reflects the arrangements between them. These may need to be reviewed after a few months

To proceed I suggested that the accountant use the simple search facility on the Tax Advice Network website to identify those advisers who are comfortable advising on ‘business tax’ issues. And then to add his postcode to sort the advisers and to show those located closest to him. He can then contact them by email or phone and have a chat.

Starting with our website means that the accountant is dealing with someone I have vetted as to their technical experience, is committed to undertake sufficient CPD and has a reasonable level of PI cover. Many general practitioner accountants might be less well prepared and yet it is important to check all such elements when recruiting tax support (whether to be on staff or only on a consultancy basis). Having said that every accountant needs to make their own assessment of the suitability of the tax people they engage directly whether or not they are found through the Tax Advice Network website.

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