The 3 factors that will determine your social media success

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the game of chasing followers, likes, connections and social media klout. It may be fun to keep track of these metrics and to keep increasing them. But, in real life, they are not important by themselves.

There is little point in simply pursuing these metrics. You need to have key business focused targets instead. It may be that you want to raise your profile and to become a go-to person for media comment in your area of expertise.  Most accountants and lawyers for example, are experimenting with social media to generate additional fees.

And that is the key metric that you need to measure. How much of the additional fees you generate can be attributed to your online social media activity? There will rarely be a quick or short payback in this regard.

It is also important to note the 3 factors that will influence the speed with which you can gain a payback. These factors are all relevant whether your social media activity is focused around facebook, online forums, blogging, twitter or Linkedin.

The 3 factors are:

1 – Effective use

How effective is your use of the social media platform? How consistent and congruent are your messages, your profile and your online activity?

2 – Your website

Most accountants using social media will include links back to their website.  Your social media activity may be exemplary but your website could be a turn off. Does it reinforce the messages you have been promoting on social media? Does it engage visitors? How easy is it for them to get in touch with YOU (as distinct from a faceless ‘admin’ person)? Does your website even reference your name and profile?

3 – Offline follow up

Just like with any other form of networking, personal contact is crucial. If you are not leveraging your use of social media to meet with people face to face or at least to speak with them on the phone, you will wait longer to secure a valuable ROI.

Agree? Disagree? Are there any other factors that will determine your success of your social media activity?

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How I manage my time on social media each week

How long do you need to spend on social media to build up a decent following, contribute effectively and secure a good level of engagement?

I’m not sure much has changed over the years since I started to use social media in 2006. The answers to those questions depend on your reasons for getting involved and using each of the social media platforms.

Sure, there are some agencies and individuals to whom you can outsource much or all of your social media activity. This MAY make sense for well-known brands but in the main I doubt it’s worthwhile for many professionals.

I am often asked how I manage to spend so much time on social media and whether it’s worthwhile. It’s all a matter of perception and probably takes less of my time than you might think. I am very selective as to which platforms I use and where I engage with people online. My approach works for me. I am realistic as regards what I can achieve on each platform. Social media is not a place to promote and sell your services. It’s simply a new starting point for building relationships that will grow only through direct contact, whether by phone, skype or face to face meetings.

What follows is the fourth summary of my approach that I have posted here. The first was in 2010, the second was in April 2012 and the third was in March 2014.

It is clear to me that the time I spend on social networking sites continues to reduce over time. And the time I do spend online is more focused than ever before. Despite my enthusiasm for social media I still consider it to be over hyped as a marketing tool and widely misunderstood as a communication tool.

As ever the time I spend online each week depends on what’s happening, my work priorities and the meetings I attend. I often find that I am more active online when I am out and about as I tend to check my phone for updates while waiting for people and while commuting.

So how much time do I allocate to social media?

Business online networks

LinkedIn

I believe Linkedin is quite distinct from the social media sites identified below.

Because it is a business online network I spend more time here than on any other such platform. I use it for lead generation across all areas of my business activities. I use Linkedin to look up almost everyone I am due to meet, have met or who contacts me by email or phone. I ask to connect with people and accept connection requests from most people who approach me – once I know why they have done so.

I am not convinced there is enormous value in posting long form blog posts/articles on Linkedin. My efforts in this regard have not proved worthwhile to date. I do however check out the activity on my home page, contribute to relevant discussions in key groups, administer requests to join my groups and monitor all new connection requests and messages most days.

Total time: Around 2 hours a week.

Social Media

Facebook

I have started to use this more than before, largely because I have got to know so many members of the Professional Speaking Association. There is a popular facebook group to which many members contribute. Doing so is a way of helping each other and keeping one’s profile high.

Beyond this most of my use of facebook is related to keeping in touch with old friends I haven’t seen for a while. I still see the site as being largely for fun, family and friends rather than for business generation.

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Google+

It’s never grabbed me and recent developments vindicate my longstanding advice to ignore it.

Pinterest and Instagram

I spend no time on either platform. I doubt any of my business prospects are active here or would be likely to engage with me here.

YouTube channel

BookMarkLee – takes no time in a typical week (No change). I am planning to post more videos on line over the coming year. It is more time consuming than I would like but I note that YouTube is an important channel for professional speakers.

Micro-blogging

Twitter

I am now even more focused than I was previously. I still rely on a plugin to my main blog to post a random item every few hours. As there are over 600 posts to choose from this means no repeats for over a month. It also means that I appear active even when I am otherwise engaged. I supplement these posts with links to current blog posts and replies to and RTs of other tweets and links I think will be of interest to my followers (who number well over 6,000 – and more than 10 times the number of people I follow).

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Accountancy website

AccountingWeb

As consultant practice editor I 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

Blogging

WordPress – The STAND OUT blog and my Blog for ambitious accountants

These are the regular blogs I update every week or so – you’re reading one of them now.  Total time: Probably an hour per week to post one or two items and to review and reply to comments.

Blogger – The lighter side of accountancy and tax

My fun blog. I cut and paste ad-hoc items here. I seem to have reduced the time I spend adding posts here. Total time: No more than 10 minutes a week.

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 since 2006.

How about you?

Like this post? You can now access the ebook I wrote specifically for accountants who want to get more value from the time they spend on Social Media. Click here for full details>>>

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9 things to avoid doing on social media

Too many people play at social networking and don’t really ‘get it’. Then they assert that ‘social networking’ doesn’t work – although the fault is not so much with the medium as with the way they used it.

There are many posts on this blog that can help social media novices – and also more experienced users. This time though I have summarised nine things you would be well advised to avoid doing on social media – if you want to have a chance of using it successfully for business purposes.

  1. Don’t make it all about you. Self promoting is a turn-off and will rarely attract new people to get to know you. And if they don’t know you they won’t refer work or other people to you.
  2. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to post things. If you post too fast and without thinking you may say something online you regret. Some people see Google as a history book. Everything we have ever said or will ever post on line will be there and capable of being found for ever.
  3. Don’t keep telling us about what you’re eating. This was a mistake some users made in the past. Don’t perpetuate it
  4. Keep your messages varied. Don’t keep repeating or reposting the same messages.
  5. Keep your messages focused and specific so that you STANDOUT (in a positive way).
  6. No spam. ‘Need I say more?
  7. Don’t try to use more than the odd hashtag until you are sure you really understand how these work. Rank amateurs really standout – and for the wrong reasons!
  8. Keep your posts honest, decent and truthful.
  9. In summary – don’t be stupid. Apply common sense to all you say and all you do online.

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more insights, short-cuts, tips and advice about social media especially for accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>> 

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How long do you spend on social media each week? (3)

Every so often someone asks how I allocate my time across all of the social media with which I am involved. What follows is the current answer. It’s my third blog post on the subject. The first was in 2010 and the second was in April 2012.

I started to use social media in 2006. Now, despite my continued use of and enthusiasm for social media, I spend less time than ever before on social networking sites. And the time I do spend there is more focused than in previous years. This is in line with the advice I give to anyone who is inclined to experiment with or to become active on social media.

I should stress that I have no daily or weekly targets and the actual time I spend depends on what’s happening, my work priorities and meetings I attend. I often find that I am more active when I am out and about as I tend to check my phone for updates while waiting for people and while commuting. I no longer keep social media windows open on my desk top when in the office.

Social Networks

Facebook

Rarely more than a few snatched minutes every few days (normally using my iphone). My blog posts are automatically added to my bookmarklee facebook wall. I still feel comfortable with my decision to leave facebook to fun, family and friends rather than to try to use it for business generation.

There are two business related facebook groups to which I contribute regularly – indeed they are the main reason I am active there at all. But neither is directly related to my target audiences of accountants and other professional advisers.

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Google+

I still 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.

I am aware that activity on Google+ can have a positive impact on where you appear in google search results. Not sure mine would be much improved given my already high levels of activity online.

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

I am now even more focused than I was previously and I rely on a plugin to my main blog to post a random item every 2 hours. As there are over 500 posts to choose from this means no repeats for over a month. It also means that I appear active even when I am otherwise engaged. I supplement these posts with links to current blog posts and replies to and RTs of other tweets and links I think will be of interest to my followers (who number well over 5,000 – and more than 9 times the number of people I follow).

Total time: 15 mins a day plus snatched moments while out and about.

Business online networks

LinkedIn

I spend more time here than on any other such platform. I use it for lead generation across all areas of my business activities. I also use it to get back in touch with people in a business context and to connect up with business people I meet whether socially or otherwise. 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. I also look to post new discussions in my groups each week.

Total time: Around 2 hours a week.

Accountancy and tax websites

AccountingWeb

As consultant practice editor I 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

Blogging

WordPress – Blog for ambitious accountants

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

Blogger – The lighter side of accountancy and tax

My fun blog. I cut and paste ad-hoc items here. I seem to have reduced the time I spend adding posts here. Total time: No more than 10 minutes a week.

Blogger – TaxBuzz blog

I have not blogged here since December 2011. I realised it was an indulgence and was taking too much time for no obvious reward.

Other blogs

I collate RSS feeds from dozens of blogs through to my Feedly Reader (since Google reader stopped operating) 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.

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 since 2006.

How about you?

Like this post? You can now access the ebook I wrote specifically for accountants who want to better understand Social Media. Click here for full details>>>

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Are your social media activities focused on Volume or Value?

Has anyone told you that social media is all about collecting as many connections, friends and followers as possible? That ‘bigger is best’? It’s an issue that seems to divide the social media advocates. I can tell you now that I believe in Value over Volume.

Most online networks make announcements when they reach milestone numbers like a million or ten million. And they encourage users to build large networks. But are bigger networks better for the people in them? Is a Twitter following of ten thousand people better than a thousand?

As with all these things, it depends on what you want.  Your clients who are promoting products to sell around the world can usefully connect with anyone and everyone. They only need a small percentage of these connections to make good money. For them, big (volume) networks make sense.

However, if you’re an accountant you need to build trusted relationships – which takes time. You need to be more focused on building select relevant networks online rather than trying to connect with thousands of random people all over the world.  At best they will do nothing for your practice. At worst they will become a distraction either because you waste time on them or because they try to engage you in communication about THEIR services and products.

In my own case I have nevertheless built up thousands of followers on twitter and thousands of connections on Linkedin. But I am NOT an accountant in practice. Plus I routinely reject connection requests from strangers on Linkedin – unless they are clearly within my target market.

I do not follow thousands of people on twitter nor do I try to trick people into following me back. Thus, the fact that (at the time of writing) I have a healthy ratio of 8 times as many people following me as I follow, suggests I must be posting items of interest. I see no point in following thousands of people in the hope that they will follow me back and boost my follower numbers. The apparent ‘volume’ would be of no real value to me – or to them.

Social Media is no different from the real world. Although some of the people you know will never become clients they may recommend their friends and family to you at some stage in the future. But they can only do that if they know enough about you. If you provide a very rare or unusual service then perhaps it’s enough that they know your name. But for most accountants this will not be sufficient.

So, on social media, as in real life, you need to create and foster VALUABLE connections. Despite what some marketing and social media people may suggest, I can assure you that chasing high volumes of connections and followers will be an unrewarding distraction.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice focused specifically on accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Why am I among the top ranked accountant bloggers on twitter?

The ICAEW’s magazine, Economia, has produced a new list of:

the top 50 most influential sources of finance news and information in social media, voted for by economia readers and ordered by Leaderboarded and Klout.

The Top 20 is dominated by journalists and economists with a smattering of well known business names too. The top ranked accountant is Richard Murphy whose strident views do not exactly sit well with many in the profession. Then there’s me. I’m ranked around 20th, which is astonishing. (The precise rank moves around a bit as my klout score varies).

Obviously I’m grateful to all those who voted for me. Many thanks indeed. I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t been on the list. But equally it feels a tad odd as I didn’t think I really tweeted much about finance news and information. Seems I do.

I certainly blog and write a lot for accountants each week, and I tweet between 15 and 25 times on a typical day.  Accountants are indeed the main focus of most of these tweets. I endeavour to share useful information. And, I realise, much of this is finance and tax related.  I also frequently find myself ReTweeting other finance and accountancy related tweeters and the material to which they refer/link. So, on reflection I shouldn’t be surprised and it seems I do deserve my ranking.

I am also widely connected with well over 5,000 followers (at the time of writing) although this figure in isolation can be misleading. It’s higher than most accountants but obviously lower than most celebrities, journalists and politicians.

Whenever you are looking at the number of followers someone has on twitter I suggest you always look at the number of people they  are following too as this provides some context.

One reason why klout, the ranking system referenced by economia, is valuable in the context of twitter influence is that follower numbers alone do not tell the full story.

It is relatively easy to generate a high number of followers simply by following loads of people and hoping they will reciprocate and follow you back. That boosts your numbers but few of them are really interested in what you tweet so you probably don’t really have much ‘influence’.  Almost 9 times as many people follow me on twitter as I follow and hundreds of them have included me on their twitter lists which suggests that my follower numbers are genuine. I run two lists of UK accountants on twitter and keep tabs on what they are posting by monitoring their posts via these lists.

Until recently my twitter bio has always included reference to accountants. It still notes that I am an FCA but I tweaked the bio at the start of the year. I tend to revisit it every few months depending on my precise focus.

Anyway, my congratulations to Economia for refining the way they created the list this year.  I have been critical in the past – not simply because I was excluded one year – but because of the apparent randomness of who was included. No system is perfect but klout scores are becoming the defacto determinant of twitter influence. This seems to be the case even though klout factors in activity on other forms of social media too.

Asking readers and twitter followers to nominate favourite tweeters helps give the economia listing credibility – even if anyone finds it odd to see me included as the top ranked blogger for accountants by virtue of my twitter activity and ‘influence’.

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What do accountants do on twitter?

Over the last few years I have attempted to track all UK based accountants who have started to use twitter. I used to follow all of them but now I simply add them to one of my lists of UK accountants on twitter. These now number over 1200 in total and continue to grow. *See links below

Sadly though, in the vast majority of cases it seems accountants tend to give up after less than 3 months on twitter – or they simply continue to tweet an automated series of self-promotional messages. The minority who get value and benefit from remaining active are typically relatively new into business as an accountant and picking up new small business clients who are themselves new into business. Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule. There always are.

Those accountants who remain active on twitter after 3 months are generally getting some value from the information, ideas and insights they pick up through their twitter feeds. They may even occasionally get some valuable business leads. But it takes more time than most busy accountants are prepared to devote to the experiment.

Most struggle to get more than a few hundred followers and have no idea whether these are random people or prospective clients. The number in isolation is almost irrelevant.

When I speak on the subject I demystify twitter and other social media. I explain what’s really involved. I highlight what you can do and how you can benefit. I also explain what twitter is not. It’s not a fast route to new client generation. That’s the pot of gold that most accountants seek. That’s why I say they don’t NEED to use twitter. It won’t provide what they are looking for. But it can be a great resource to access key information and connections.

I have explained previously that those accountants who tweet via a personal account tend to get more engagement and interest than those who tweet in the firm’s name. Marketing types who run their firm’s twitter account and chase followers by following random people in the hope of follow backs are wasting their time and kidding themselves.

If you want to see what other accountants are doing on twitter follow these two lists and you will see evidence of much of what I write and speak about on the subject:

  • Accountancy firms – UK – UK accounting, tax and bookkeeping firms that tweet in the firm’s name vs a real person’s name
  • Accountants and tax bods – Tweeting UK accountants and tax advisers. (Tweeting firms are listed separately)

And if you think you should appear on one of the lists please get in touch. I’d be happy to add you.

Related posts:

A wider selection of my blog posts on the subject are available from the twitter advice page on my website>>>. This includes advice on how to get started, how to understand what the fuss is really about and how to avoid getting caught by the hype (for and against).

 

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