Don’t be an Accountwit on twitter

It’s been a while since I last shared my tips and advice re twitter. These are all linked on the twitter page of this blog.

I’m seeing more and more accountants and accountancy firms starting to use twitter and making classic mistakes. No wonder so many stop tweeting after a while and conclude it’s a waste of time. It is if YOU do it wrong. That’s not a fault of the concept but of the user misunderstanding what it’s all about, how it works and how to get the best from it.  See, for example, my Twenty top tips for using twitter.

I think it’s a shame when accountants reveal themselves as twitter twits – or, as I have dubbed them, Accountwits. These are accountants who tweet just like other annoying or foolish twitter twits. In other words, accountants who make themselves less likely to be followed on twitter by real people.

Here’s my top ten list of Accountwit habits:

1. They tweet continuous promotional messages about their services

2. They tweet invitations to contact them for help re accounts and tax – as if non-followers might see them. They won’t.

3. They tweet references to what they are eating at each meal time. No one is interested and it doesn’t make the accountwit seem human, just stupid.

4. They tweet anonymously. Unless they are consistently VERY entertaining no one will be interested.

5.  They haven’t replaced the ‘egg’ graphic with a photo or, at least, their logo – but photo is best. People engage better with people.  Unless the tweeter is a huge brand of course. But the accountwit isn’t.

6. They don’t check or respond to direct messages sent only to them.

7. They have set their account to issue a standard Direct Message (DM) whenever anyone new follows them.  Only naive numptys do this. It’s even worse if the accountwit tries to use this DM to send people to the accountwit’s website etc. At this point all they know is that the tweeter is a an accoountwit. It’s unlikely to motivate them.

8. In an effort to get their follower count up the accountwit follows anyone and everyone in the hope that they will follow back. And the accountwit thinks they’re rude if they don’t. They’re not. That’s not how twitter works.

9. They start following celebrities and tweet replies thinking that they read all of the accountwit’s tweets that mention them. And that makes them a friend of the celebrity. Er, NO!

10. They have protected their tweets – so that no one can see them unless they have the accountwit’s permission. These people REALLY don’t ‘get’ twitter.

Don’t be an Accountwit on twitter. Check out the simple advice and tips on the twitter page of this blog.

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Social media makes it easier for clients to publicise bad service

At 10.30 on the evening of 20 January 2010 Deb Maddock from Devon posted the following message on twitter:

“Yet again Stupid Accountant David Rice of Plymouth didn’t turn up to our appointment and didn’t let us know. Wasted trip! USELESS #fail”

A quick online search the following morning revealed two accountants with that name in that area (or maybe it’s the same guy and he’s moved).

The point though is that until recently, when a client was unhappy with their professional advisers all they had was word of mouth.  Conventional wisdom suggests that unhappy people tell ten people for every one person they tell when they are happy with the service they receive.

Social media though makes it much easier for clients to blog, post comments on forums and to tweet about their experiences. And twitter especially provides a real time facility for people to unload and SHARE their frustrations – as well as their delights.

Deb’s post may well have been seen by only a fraction of her 600 twitter followers. Or maybe they’ve all seen it. Maybe some have told their friends. Maybe it’s been circulated more widely.  Who knows.  Playing devil’s advocate, perhaps there’s a good reason for Mr Rice’s non-appearance.

Is there a lesson here for ambitious professionals – beyond the obvious one re keeping appointments?

I have written about twitter here before. Even if you choose NOT to tweet yourself, perhaps the time is coming when you need to have a twitter account to monitor what others are saying about you on twitter? It needn’t be time consuming and it would enable you to respond promptly and to nip problems in the bud. The bigger brands are slowing catching on to this idea too. The way and speed in which they are SEEN to resolve issues can have a positive impact. Indeed such actions can more than compensate for the earlier critical comments.  It’s also instructive to be aware of what people are saying about you.  I’m not aware of any of the big professional firms who do this (yet).

Another way to monitor what’s being said about you online is to use a free service like Google Alerts. It’s less easy if you have a common name like David Rice (or Mark Lee!) but it can be done.

Any other related tips?

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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Trends that will matter in 2010 – for accountants

I’m not one for making predictions generally. However, for reasons I’ll explain later I’ve set out below a few ‘new’ trends that may have an impact on accountants this year. What do you think?

1 – More clients will be texting communications to their accountants. NB: how do you print off any such instructions if you want to retain an audit trail of evidence? (instant messaging using skype will also become more prevalent but you can print these off, as you can emails;

2 – Increased use of VoIP (principally Skype) in place of telephone;

3 – As many have predicted for years there will be a continuing and growing demand for by clients for more than ‘just’ accounts and tax return services from their accountants each year. Again I’ve been blogging about this for some time too.

4 – More and more accountants will start to experiment with twitter and other online ‘social networking’. Most will make the mistake of using it as a broadcast mechanism and will then stop using it when they find that their approach fails to win them new clients. If you’re tempted or simply curious, I’ve written a series of hints and tips for accountants who want to find out more or to experiment with twitter.

I promised to explain what prompted this blog post.  Quite simply I  found I’d posted, two years ago, a piece under the title: Trends that will matter in 2008 – for accountants. The first 3 trends above are exactly what I prematurely suggested in January 2008. The only new one is the reference to twitter.  On past performance maybe that’s at least 2 years premature too!

What do you think 2010 will bring for accountants?

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Twenty top tips for accountants on twitter

This is a follow up to my earlier post “Getting started on twitter” in which I explained some basic introductory points concerning twitter.

When it comes to using twitter there are no absolute rules or universally agreed twitterquette(!) but there is a heck of a lot that we can all learn from the experience of those who’ve gone before.

Based on my experience over the last year and inspired by a variety of guides to using twitter for business I’ve collated and tailored a top ten list of Do’s and Don’ts for accountants who use twitter. I hope you find them useful:

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t attempt to use the main twitter website once you’ve registered, added a photo and your bio. The main twitter website is not user friendly and will turn you off very quickly. Download tweetdeck, hootsuite or seismic to your computer and you’ll find it all gets MUCH easier.
  2. Don’t feel compelled to answer the basic twitter question “What are you doing?” – especially if the answer is something mundane. Better to imagine the invitation is to answer the question: “What is holding your attention right now?”
  3. Don’t automatically follow everyone who follows you or chase hundreds of followers. If you do this you will attract spammers, marketing ‘gurus’, social media specialists, loners and losers. None of them will be prospective clients or advocates. They probably won’t even read any of your tweets. They will simply follow you in the hope that you’ll follow back and increase their numbers. And that is a mug’s game that many twitter virgins play although it serves no useful purpose.
  4. Don’t think you need to read everything on your Twitter feed. Think of it as a river. Jump in-stream, participate, and then get out. NEVER worry about what you’ve missed – it doesn’t work that way.
  5. Don’t assume that all of your followers will see all of your tweets. They only dip in and out – just like you do.
  6. Don’t set up a standard message to auto-welcome new followers – they won’t click on your links and established twitter users don’t like to get automated ‘thank you for following me’ type messages.
  7. Despite the fact that you may be using Twitter as a marketing tool, don’t try to solicit business or make sales. It looks spammy, and will NOT secure you new clients. Bottom line: you will generate enquiries only if your followers get to know you and to like you and if they know you’re an accountant and that you like your work.
  8. Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to be quoted in the press.  Once published all your tweets are there for posterity and you don’t want any of them to come back to haunt you.
  9. It should go without saying, but don’t tweet anything about a client without explicit permission. Along the same lines, even if it’s good or exciting news about the client, don’t assume that the client has already made it public. Even if it IS public, you may still want to get permission first.
  10. Don’t expect to ‘get’ twitter straight away. Apparently 60% of people who try to use twitter give up within 3 months. I suspect many accountants will be the same.

The Dos

  1. Do be social and interact with your followers and those you follow. Be thought-provoking with some of your tweets and pass on tips and ideas that others may find of interest.
  2. Do ReTweet (RT) tweets written by other people that you think are worth sharing with your followers. If you want some of your tweets to be ReTweeted, keep them to nearer 110 characters rather than 140 as the RT element of the message will often be 15-25 characters long.
  3. Do recommend books and articles that you’ve read that may be of interest to your followers.
  4. Do copy behaviour you find that you like on twitter and avoid replicating behaviour that you dislike. Everyone is different of course but a ‘twitterquette’ is developing and worth following.
  5. Do tweet links to your own and your favourite blog posts elsewhere so that your followers know what you write about or like. And do ensure that you add a few words at least rather than just posting a link without any description.
  6. Do use an application like Tweetdeck on your computer to filter topics, create groups, and maximize your time on Twitter.
  7. Do use an application on your iphone or blackberry to enable you to use twitter in odd moments when you’re away from your desk/office.
  8. Do remember that your followers may have friends, followers or family who could be looking for a new accountant even if your followers seem unlikely to be in the market themselves. They may ReTweet your messages or simply talk about you if the subject comes up.
  9. Do respond when people engage you in conversation. If you want to reply publicly use the @ sign at the start of your tweet (eg: @bookmarklee). If you want to reply privately and directly use D before the other person’s user name: (eg: D bookmarklee)
  10. Do engage the people you follow or who follow you in conversation shortly after you connect. Ask them a question, or enquire about something they’ve tweeted. They’ll be more likely to follow you back.

What do you think? Is this list helpful? Do you agree or disagree or have further tips to share? Please leave a comment with your own ideas and suggestions.

If there is sufficient interest I will post a further item on twitter later in the month. In it I’ll offer some tips and ideas to help you develop your twitter strategy by explaining WHAT accountants can do with twitter and HOW some accountants are benefitting from using twitter. In the mean time if you have any questions by all means post them as comments on this blog.

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Getting started on twitter

Regular readers may be surprised to see this post here – remembering my first post about twitter: Twitter is not for accountants.  In effect that suggested that accountants can get by quite happily without using twitter. It’s also true to say that accountants do not need to try telemarketing or direct mail. But many do and some do so successfully.

I still enjoy using twitter myself but I’m not sure my view about twitter and accountants has really changed. However I am seeing an increasing (although still very small) number of ambitious accountants experimenting with twitter.  I have therefore accepted that the time has come to help accountants explore twitter.  If you’re inclined to experiment I’d like to assist you in getting maximum value and pleasure from the time and effort you devote to this.

I’ve set out below some basic steps to help you get started. A subsequent post will contain twenty tips (my top ten Do’s and Don’ts) to help you use twitter and then, if there is sufficient interest, I’ll offer some thoughts on how accountants can develop a twitter strategy.

What’s stopping you?

Last month I sought to clarify the biggest misconception about twitter.  It arises due to those in the media who still think that twitter is a ‘micro blogging website where users post inane messages telling each other the answer to a standard question: “What are you doing right now?”  Indeed plenty of people think that twitter is full of people talking about what they had for breakfast or tea. BUT I use twitter without ever seeing that rubbish. And you can too.

It’s easy. You only see the tweets of people YOU choose to follow. People you find of interest. If someone you are following posts stuff you think is ‘rubbish’, uninteresting or “pointless babble” you simply stop following them. And that’s it. You won’t see any more rubbish.  The secret is simply to choose who you follow with care and to ‘unfollow’ them (it’s really easy to do) if you’re bored by their tweets.

Conversation not advertising

To avoid disappointment let me just stress that accountants can derive business value from of twitter. However that value is often indirect in nature and depends greatly on your personal approach and twitter strategy. I set out my own twitter strategy here.

Just as with all other forms of online social media, the overt : Tax worries? Call now! messages will fall on deaf ears.  Do not bother experimenting with twitter if you are thinking of using it for overt advertising. It doesn’t work like that. You will simply waste your time.

Set up your account

You start by going to www.twitter.com and setting up an account with a username (eg: AndyPandy) and a brief biography. Identify your locality (eg: Shropshire, or North London) and your website address.

Choose your username carefully

Be clear whether you are going to post tweets in your name or in the name of your firm.  I suggest that, in most cases it’s generally best to start using your real name as your username, the one that people know you by. Of course, if you have a common name (as I do) you may need to adopt a variation. I’m @bookmarklee). You can use underscores if that helps. Another exception is if you’ve built a brand around a name other than your own (e.g., @thetaxbuzz), then staying consistent takes priority.  In time you may choose to start a separate twitter account using your firm’s name but that’s often best saved until you’ve got the hang of twitter and decided how you want to use it for business.

Add a photo

It’s clear that more people will want to follow you if you also add a photo showing your face, rather than a logo or any other sort of photo. A face photo can also help your followers feel that they are getting to know you as it will appear alongside each of your tweets. And this is the first step towards them starting to like you and trust you – which are usually prerequisites to them becoming clients.

Tweeting

Tweets cannot be more than 140 characters in length. It’s common to provide links to interesting items on the web, websites and blogs. Most people who do this use url shorteners (eg: bit/ly) to reduce the length of their links

You may want to follow a few other accountants to see the sort of things that they tweet. There’s a list of over 130 accountants using twitter on the UK tax and accountancy listing here.

Who will read your tweets

There is no point in starting to send loads of tweets until you have people following you. They become your ‘followers’. There’s a bit of a catch-22 here as few people will follow you until you start posting tweets. So do post maybe 2 or 3 a day and think about what sort of style and approach you want to adopt. If you only post promotional messages no one of value is likely to choose to start following you so that would be a self defeating policy.

Your tweets can only be seen by people who are following you or by those who search twitter for words contained in your tweets. In time your tweets may be seen by other people if any of your followers ReTweet (RT) your tweets so that their followers can see them too.

As distinct from your followers are the people you choose to follow. There will often be some overlap but despite what some twitter ‘experts’ suggest there is no logic in following back all those people who follow you. That would be like saying you should subscribe for the email newsletters of everyone who reads yours. We all have different interests and different reasons for choosing who we follow.

Finally – in this post – let me stress that you will often find that a good proportion of people who choose to follow you are based overseas. Many of them will be in marketing, social media ‘experts’ or hoping that you will buy their products. My advice, unless it makes strategic sense for you to target or engage with such peoples, is to simply recognise that the NUMBER of followers is NOT a reflection of the number of people who are genuinely interested in reading your tweets or engaging with you – other than for their own benefit.

If you think you might continue with twitter do send me a message on twitter (@ bookmarklee) and ask me to add you to the UK tax and accountancy listing.

More to come

In the next post in this series I’ll set out twenty top tips collated and adapted from the hundreds I’ve read over the last year. I’ve created what I hope is a useful list of top Do’s and Don’ts for accountants using twitter. And then finally, if sufficient people are interested, I’ll offer some tips and ideas to help you develop your twitter strategy by explaining WHAT accountants can do with twitter and HOW some accountants are benefitting from using twitter. In the mean time if you have any questions by all means post them as comments on this blog.

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The BIGGEST misconception about Twitter

A recent study suggests that 40% of tweets are “pointless babble“. Regular readers might expect me to agree, especially if you recall an earlier post here: Twitter is not for accountants.

And whilst I appreciate the scientific nature of the study I fear it misses the point. It also panders to those in the media who know no better than to report such a statistic as evidence of twitter being an over-hyped waste of time.

So, given my own enthusiasm for twitter I think the time has come to clarify some misconceptions – especially the one that is reinforced by that study.  If I stimulate your interest then in future posts I will share some more positive tips, ideas and insights. Indeed I’m planning a short series on the subject and will list all such posts on the twitter page of this blog.

But there’s no point in explaining how to get started if you have no interest in it due to misleading media reports. So we have to start by addressing some of the misconceptions surrounding twitter.  And the biggest one is down to those in the media who still think that twitter is a ‘micro blogging website where users post inane messages telling each other the answer to a standard question: “What are you doing right now?”  Indeed plenty of people think this such that 40% of tweets are “pointless babble”. BUT I use twitter without ever seeing that babble. And you can too.

Let me offer you an analogy.  It involves thinking about another medium that is less controversial and more established – satellite TV. You’re probably aware that these days we can choose from hundreds of satellite tv stations.

Let’s imagine however that when satellite tv started you simply had a choice of numerous pop music and shopping channels. Assume again that neither subject was of interest to you. So you didn’t get a satellite tv.  Moving forwards a few years and now of course the choice of channels is much wider although there are still plenty of music and shopping channels.  If someone told you today not to get a satellite tv because it’s full of music and shopping channels you’d question their sanity. Simply stated satellite tv allows you to choose which channels to watch. You only watch those of interest.

It’s EXACTLY the same with twitter. You need only follow people you find of interest. If someone you are following posts stuff you think is ‘rubbish’, uninteresting or “pointless babble” you simply stop following them. This is even better than changing channels as if you stop following someone you need never see any of their rubbish ever again.

So, with that out of the way I hope I’ve resolved any concern you might have had about the content you can find on twitter. Yes, there are plenty of shopping and music channels. However I never watch them and you don’t need to do so either.

I’ll explain a simple way in which you can start up on twitter very shortly.

Plenty of other misconceptions surround twitter so I’ll also be posting more on this subject. In the meantime please add your own comments below re twitter misconceptions of which you’re aware.

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Why accountants don’t NEED to bother with twitter

A friend suggested I should write a piece about Twitter for accountants as I’m increasingly active on Twitter. Surely then I’m well placed to explain what Twitter is and how accountants can benefit from it.

Instead let me explain why I think that Accountants really don’t need to bother with Twitter.  This is much the same approach as I adopted recently when I wrote about Blogging myths for accountants.

Let’s be clear I am NOT against any of these new communication techniques. Far from it. I love blogging (this is one of three that I write regularly – see links in right hand column of this page). I’m enjoying Twitter and have benefited in a number of intangible ways as a result thereof. I’ve explained how I use it on a separate page of this blog.  I know dozens of people who tweet regularly and I have over 300 followers on Twitter (at the time of writing). [Edit May 2017: Now over 7,000]

But I also understand the accountancy profession.

Accountants

Whilst other commentators may seek to encourage accountants to try new technology, to experiment and to explore new forms of communication I adopt a different approach. I accept that the vast majority of accountants do not aspire to try out these new ideas. They don’t think many (any?) of their clients or target clients are using such tools. They don’t have the time to experiment and to test new ways of doing things.  They don’t perceive the need to do these things.

And actually – I think they’re right. There is no pressing need for them to do so.

Yes, there are ways that accountants COULD use and benefit from Twitter .  Yes, they MAY find ways to use Twitter to help them build their practice and Yes, to do so would put them ahead of the field.

But, will being on Twitter help them avoid client losses? No.

Will it help them to provide pro-active advice to clients? Unlikely

Will it help them to secure more profitable clients of the type they seek?  No faster than any other marketing activity and it’s even less area specific than blogging.

Will it help them to make more money or to increase their profits? No.

Will it help them solve their succession issues? No

The bottom line is that Twitter will not do any of the things that accountants are most concerned about at the moment. As such I cannot advocate the idea that they should explore Twitter as a business tool.

What is Twitter?

I should explain that Twitter is a free online social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as ‘tweets’). Each post or ‘tweet’ is limited to 140 characters in length.

Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them by ‘following’ people in who they are interested.  Users can also send and receive tweets through third party web based applications, iphones and Blackberry devices.  Many tweets contain links to web pages and blog posts.

Anyone with access to Twitter (and one of the third party applications that make it easier to use and understand) can follow the flow of messages and comments, contribute, reply or simply keep up to date.

Regular readers will recall that i recently posted an item: If you’re not on Facebook you need to be on LinkedIn. It’s worth noting that, unlike the Facebook status updates, tweets can be directed at specific twitter users, people tweet much more often than they update their Facebook status, and it is much more acceptable to follow people you have never met on Twitter than it is on Facebook.

I have a number of ideas as to who does and can gain most benefit from Twitter but none of them are remotely connected with accountants in a business capacity so I won’t post them here.

If you are an accountant and you’re experimenting with Twitter do please get in touch, equally if (despite the tenor of this piece) if you decide to try it out. And of course if you disagree with my perspective please add your views as comments to this piece.

[Edit May 2012: For my more uptodate views on twitter please check out the twitter page of this site]

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