The two things you need to do to find prospects via twitter

If you are to have any hope of securing multiple new clients and introductions through twitter you will do so fastest if you focus your attention on one of two types of other users of twitter. That is either:

  • Those in your local area; or
  • Those who are active in a niche where your services are clearly targeted.

What do I mean by ‘focus your attention’? Firstly, seeking out those twitter users who fit the right profile and then, secondly, engaging with them. If you simply try to promote your services AT them you will probably alienate them – which would defeat your primary objective.

The ‘right profile’ for you will include those tweeters whom you suspect of being prospective clients and also potential introducers, influencers and referrers.

Why then do I suggest a focus on your local area? Simply that almost anyone looking for a new accountant will look for one in their area. The most common exceptions to this are those people whose business is such that they look for an accountant with relevant specialist expertise regardless of where they are based.

The easiest way to find people with the ‘right profile’ is by using the in-built advanced twitter search facility. You can set this to find out who is posting tweets that include reference to your local area and mentioning any other keywords that make sense to you. For example: Harrow, accountant, accounts, bank, finance, business etc

You can then check out the profiles of these ‘local’ tweeters and follow them on twitter. You can also check out, via their twitter account, who they are following and who else follows them. Again you can check the twitter profiles of such people and follow those that seem to be of interest. In some cases the twitter account will be a local business name – that makes it more difficult to engage with them. The same is true the other way around if you tweet using your firm’s name rather than making clear who you are as a person (as well as being an accountant).

Some of the people you follow will follow you back but this doesn’t mean they are interested in your services as an accountant. They may simply be curious or have a policy of automatically following back anyone who follows them. Personally I see little point in this, but some people do it.

Your objective now is much the same as when you meet someone at a face to face networking group or business event. To start a conversation and then, in time to decide, along with the other person, if it might be worthwhile to meet to discuss how you might help each other. Or maybe you could just arrange a skype video chat.

If you are too pushy or desperate your invitation will be rebuffed. Do not start by posting promotional messages any more than you would start a conversation with a new networking contact this way. It’s rarely a successful tactic.

Do bear in mind too that some people are on twitter simply for fun and will have no interest in meeting a local accountant – especially one that doesn’t standout in some positive way. But that’s another subject for another day.

What success have you had finding local tweeters or those in your target niche? Do add your comments below please.

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Is there a typical twitter user?

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of twitter and use it extensively. Equally I remain cynical about it’s business value to most accountants. I am always amused to note that most of those who challenge this view tend not to remain active on twitter for more than a few months.

Having said that I have explained previously how accountants can derive business benefits from twitter, to get started, what is and what is not worthing doing here. Today I am simply going to challenge one of the most common misconceptions I hear these days. It tends to be a variation on this theme:

“I don’t know why intelligent people like me would use twitter. Only trolls, idiots, pop fans, sports fans, kids, journalists and celebrities seem to use twitter. It’s full of egotistical people with nothing better to do than tell everyone what they are doing or eating.”

In fact there is no typical twitter user. Or if there is I am clearly only following those twitter users who are NOT typical.  Anyone can use it. Just like anyone can use a postbox or send an email. The difference is that YOU can choose if you want to see what other people are posting on twitter. If you don’t want to see any trash, don’t follow the people who post it. And unfollow or block anyone who posts stuff you don’t want to see.

The media frequently report usage of twitter that gives a false impression about how most intelligent people use twitter.  Before you dismiss the idea do check out what it’s really about and how you might actually enjoy it and even get some business value from what you choose to see on twitter.  You can join twitter and follow people you think might be posting stuff that interests you. Add more people and unfollow anyone who posts rubbish.

In time you can decide whether or not to start posting anything yourself.  Typically most users do end up posting their own tweets. But who wants to be typical? 😉

I invite accountants who have been on twitter for more than a few weeks to share below their views as to what they see as typical on twitter.

See the twitter tips page on my blog for more on how to use twitter

 

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Analysing my Website stats for 2012

Having had a good look at my website stats for 2012 I rather wish I had been recording similar data for each of the last 6 years. Better late than never though.

Blog posts each year

This is the 70th post I have added to the blog in 2012.

That is more than I posted in each of the last 3 years but somewhat fewer than I posted in 2007 and in 2008. (2011 – 56, 2010 – 59, 2009 – 59, 2008 – 109, 2007 – 93, 2006 – 52)

Visitor numbers

WordPress stats reveal that the site has averaged over 11,000 visitors a month this year. That’s over 500 each working day. (Indeed the figures have been rising all year ). Average page reads are nearer 17,000 a month.

Both figures represent significant increases on 2011 (The wordpress counter only started on 30 December 2010). The day the site had most visitors was 26 June 2012 (931 visitors). This was the day after I posted a couple of items which have proved quite popular:

Popular Blog Posts

Most recent blog posts have been read 500-900 times. Some of the earliest have been read less than 100 times. The top ten pages of the site according to wordpress, in terms of the number of times they have been viewed/read are as follows:

  1. Welcome 19,481 (This is the main landing page for my website)
  2. Three elements of communication – and the so called “7%-38%-55% Rule” 7,374  (I got lucky with this title in 2008. It transpires this is a popular search term. NB: Few of the visitors who read it have any interest in anything else I write or do)
  3. Examples of good facebook pages for accountants 7,059  (The most popular of the posts I wrote in 2012 and often found through searches for info on this topic).
  4. Twitter 4,926 (The page I promote on twitter as it contains links to my various posts on related topics)
  5. The Easter Bunny shows us how NOT to network 4,260  (Surprisingly popular – possibly due to the odd title appealing when people search for ‘How not to network’. Again though, many visitors are not my target audience. Still, I have now edited the post to include links to other key pages of the website)
  6. How do you set charge out rates? 3,138 (A popular searched for topic)
  7. Twitter is not for accountants 3,072 (Promoted by me and by others who challenge the logic of this 4 year old post. I wish I’d titled it: ‘Why accountants don’t need to bother with twitter’. It’s as true today as it was in 2008)
  8. Speaking 2,634  (one of the key pages of my website)
  9. Networking strategy – plan your follow up beforehand 2,538
  10. Working with accountants 2,026

Countries

The oddest stat is the one showing where the 206,000 readers of my blog (during 2011 and 2012) are based:

  • United States – 80,492 (It is possible that this is simply those arriving via web services hosted in the US)
  • Unknown – 35,178 (it would be nice to think these are all in the UK but even then I would still have more apparent visitors from the US than from my target UK audience)
  • United Kingdom – 31,971
  • China – 15,028
  • Germany – 4,438

The remainder come from dozens of other countries around the globe. Between them all my visitors have apparently read 321,821 items/pages of the site over the last two years.

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Ten ways to avoid being boring on twitter

Whilst I do not follow all of the UK based accountants who join twitter, I do try to add them to one of two lists I have for them (see foot of this post). And I do monitor the tweets they post. I also regularly check out their profiles. Some are more interesting than others.

When I encounter a new accountant on twitter I only need to read a few of their tweets for me to reach a conclusion as to whether or not they are like the boring majority.

Sadly many accountants have either taken no advice or are following possibly well intentioned but often unhelpful advice when they tweet. This explains why so many accountants then give up on twitter within a few weeks or months.  I have addressed the reasons for this many times on this blog.

Today I will simply focus on one factor that almost guarantees you will find twitter disappointing. This is if you come across as boring.  Here’s my list of ten ways you can avoid this:

  1. Ensure your twitter profile is interesting. Not simply a standard reference to you or your accountancy firm that could apply equally to hundreds of other accountants.
  2. Ensure you have a recognisable head shot as your profile photo – even if you insist on tweeting in your firm’s name. I explained here why it’s not a great idea to tweet in the firm’s name. What works for household name brands does not work so easily for local firms of accountants.
  3. Avoid posting promotional tweets about your services – your early followers probably already know you or are only interested in you following them back. No one is going to start following you if all they see are promotional tweets. It’s boring.
  4. Avoid posting links to generic news stories. It’s boring. Why should anyone follow you if you are not posting anything new or different to what they can see through other regular sources? The only exception to this tip is if you are able to include an interesting comment in the news tweet.
  5. Do not tweet about what you had for breakfast each day. No one cares. Twitter no longer encourages us to answer the question: “What are you doing right now?” And with good reason. It’s boring to see tweets full of the minutiae of someone’s life.
  6. ReTweet interesting items that catch your attention and add a comment to explain why.  Retweets without comments quickly become boring.
  7. Vary your tweets – some should be about business, some will include tips, some may be promotional, some fun and some simply helping others by ReTweeting their tweets and/or replying to their enquiries.
  8. Do NOT simply set up a load of automated facilities to post tweeted links on your behalf. If you do not engage with other tweeters you will fail to build a real following as your tweets will quickly become boring.
  9. Ensure that some of your tweets reveal who YOU really are, beyond your role as an accountant. People buy people. You will be perceived as more interesting and more people will follow you if you are a real person.
  10. Help your followers and those in whom you are interested by responding to their questions on twitter. By  providing genuine help you will be evidently more interesting than someone who simply posts promotional tweets.

What else would you add to this list?

If you want to see all the tweets posted by almost a thousand UK accountants and accountancy firms on twitter, follow these lists:

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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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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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Do I need to be on twitter? “I work in a big firm”

My answer to this question is always: “You don’t NEED to be on twitter but you might enjoy it”

This is the second in a series of blog posts that offer NO-HYPE answers to the question ‘Do I need to be on twitter?‘ The first one considered the position of someone who runs their own small practice.

For employed people in large firms of accoutants, lawyers, surveyors etc, a better question is why MIGHT you want to be on twitter?

And the answer then is in two parts: Personal and Professional. And you will also need to ensure that you comply with your firm’s social media strategy (if there is one).

Personal

I shared ten non-business reasons why plenty of accountants enjoy twitter on this recent blogpost. If you’re new to twitter then I strongly suggest that you start here and do not worry about generating any professional benefits until you have got used to it.

Professional

There’s a Catch-22 at play. For a while, hardly anyone will see what you tweet. And yet you will only build up (real) followers if you tweet interesting stuff. You can create the impression that you have lots of readers by chasing new followers, but if they’re not really interested they won’t be reading your tweets, so what’s the point?  The bottom line is that it takes time to build a relevant following on twitter. Even then, when you post a tweet the only people who will see it are:

  • Some of those people who follow you on twitter.  Only some of them as few regular tweeters read all the tweets posted by the people they follow. And many of your followers will be people whose sole interest is whether you will follow them back to boost their follower numbers.
  • Some of those who follow anyone who ReTweets your comment. Even if your tweets are copied to a wider audience, only some of them will be on twitter and see them.
  • Anyone who is searching for tweets with keywords in them. This is how the media pick up on who said what about key news events etc.

Evidencing your interest in key clients

You may find that some of your clients are active on twitter. (‘Active’, not merely ‘registered’ on twitter). You can follow them and how they use twitter, in the same way as you might look out for references to them in the media. You might also be using ‘Google alerts’ to inform you about when they or their business appears on the web.

Such activity may inform your conversations with clients and can evidence that you are genuinely interested in them. You don’t have to engage with them on twitter to achieve this. You can just follow them and read their tweets. You can do this openly through a twitter account in your own name, or you can do it through an anonymous account.

In general the people posting tweets for the client are unlikely to be the individuals with whom you or your colleagues liaise.

What about to generate clients?

I am doubtful that you will generate new clients for your big firm through tweeting. You MAY, over time, build up a following if your tweets are of particular interest to key business owners who are active on twitter. The thing is though that I doubt that many decision makers in organisations that would be your firm’s target clients are active on twitter. If they are and you follow them, they MAY choose to follow you back. But will your activity on twitter really be a catalyst or a clincher for them becoming clients of your big firm? I doubt it. And do keep in mind the opportunity cost of your time spent on twitter too.

How about to raise the profile of the firm?

I would say that is a question for the partners and for the marketing team. Not for an individual.

What about my profile?

Yes, you could do that if you find that you enjoy using twitter. Over time you may be able to build up a following of fellow tweeters who share similar interests to you and with whom you could build profitable relationships. These can be continued offline or kept online. Who knows where they could lead?

I am following some great people on twitter who work for larger firms. They are stuck in the Catch-22 position I mentioned above. They have very few followers and yet unless they do something beyond posting a few tweets, that will not change. But as long as they are happy (and not embarrassing their colleagues) all is well.

Have I missed anything out do you think? Please add your comments/feedback below.

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Do I need to be on twitter? “I run my own small practice”

The first blog post in this series explored ten non-business reasons for being on twitter.

Many of the hundreds of accountants I follow on twitter clearly enjoy the non-business side of it. Indeed, I’m sure that many of the accountants who find twitter useful from a business perspective first became familiar with it by virtue of the non-business uses. And that’s a key lesson. If you are thinking of twitter as a quick-fix marketing solution, take my advice and don’t bother. You will waste time and effort that could have been better spent more productively elsewhere.

So to answer the question, my simple answer is ‘NO’. Contrary to all the social media hype, you do not NEED to be on twitter. It MIGHT be beneficial though IF you:

  • Have EXISTING clients who are active on twitter; – and, even better if they will advocate you on twitter to their followers
  • Have a clear niche that is distinct from all of the other sole practitioners and smaller firms;
  • Are willing to engage with people on twitter (there’s little point in simply posting promotional messages)
  • Can RESIST the temptation to try to gain thousands of random ‘followers’ – this is time consuming displacement activity, it doesn’t generate business.
  • Can decide on a realistic strategy to build business and referrals over time through your activity on twitter
  • Are willing to learn WHAT is worthwhile and what is NOT worth doing on twitter
  • Want to have some fun – the first blog post in this series refers 😉

If you run a small practice and have found twitter useful, please share your experiences as comments below.

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New to social media? The wrong questions to ask…

I apologise to those readers of this blog who have no interest in social media. I completely understand your disinterest. You may even be right – for the moment anyway – as I have acknowledged in previous blog posts here.

BUT – I also accept that more and more professionals are expressing an interest in social media. Many ask the wrong questions though. And sadly there are plenty of self titled gurus and marketing experts who won’t tell you this. Some don’t even know what the right questions are.  Maybe I’ll blog those another day.

For now here are what I consider to be the wrong questions to ask when you’re new to social media. These are especially relevant to professional advisers and those who run professional associations and groups:

  1. How can I get ten thousand followers on twitter?
  2. How can I automate all my social media activity?
  3. How do I get my twitter feed to post updates to my LinkedIn account?
  4. Should I upgrade to a premium LinkedIn account?
  5. Should my twitter account be run by my marketing team or a PR person?
  6. What are the best type of promotional messages to tweet about?
  7. How soon will I start to get new clients?
  8. What if I want to tweet using my firm’s name?

I realise that the title of this blog post is not strictly correct as these are not really the wrong questions to ask. They are all perfectly reasonable questions to ask. Many people ask them. The issue I’m really highlighting is that you WILL be disappointed or misled by the answers. You will also be disappointed if you expect someone to be able to wave a magic wand and give you a simple checklist of things to do to achieve any of those ambitions. And anyone who promises to do this will NOT help you to achieve your objectives in any  material way.

Do you agree with the list? What other questions would you add?

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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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? http://tiny.cc/xu0w0

RT @N3W_Media: One app every Sales Prof’l will want on their #iPhone http://ow.ly/5diNj 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 http://bit.ly/ktQu2a // Thanks

RT @cheapaccounting: Have you been asked by your boss to go self employed? http://t.co/BFP67fC // Well explained Elaine. This is very good.

RT @TheTaxBuzz: Do ‘economists’ really think increasing tax rates is ‘the’ answer? http://bit.ly/mEo6ZK // Re letter from 52 ‘economists’

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

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

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