An increasing number of sole practitioners are experimenting with twitter. Some quickly conclude or believe instinctively that twitter could be a huge waste of time. And yet some also talk about how they have used twitter to secure new clients or otherwise found it to be a useful source of knowledge and information.

What follows are eight of the most common mistakes I have noticed sole practitioners making on twitter. As a result they waste a lot of time and effort and end up disappointed and frustrated. And then they give up. I say this with confidence as I have long been monitoring how thousands of UK accountants use twitter. Huge numbers stop tweeting after a few weeks or months.

I suspect they conclude it doesn’t work. This is much the same as you might conclude that a car doesn’t work as a good means of transport after you try to drive one, but where you have never learned anything about the clutch and you also hoped it would give you a smooth drive in first gear to see your friends who live 500 miles away. This leads us nicely into the first common mistake.

1. Assuming twitter will be an immediate source of valuable and relevant leads. This is a misconception as to what twitter is and how it can work for you. My advice is always to start out by simply using twitter as a source of knowledge and information. Follow people and topics of interest. Don’t worry about tweeting yourself until you get a better feel as to how it works after experiencing it for a while.

2. There is a rarely a good reason for a sole practitioner accountant to tweet using their practice name. Far better to use your own name and simply mention the practice in your twitter bio. Be yourself and you will attract more followers, interest and interaction than if you tweet from behind the name of your practice.

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. Failing to clarify who you want to influence and ‘find’ on twitter. Sole practitioners are more likely to gain valuable leads by searching out local business people and others who operate in the business niche, in the local area or who share an interest with you.

5. Don’t assume that all of your followers will see all of your tweets. Think of it as a river. People jump in the stream, participate, and then get out. Equally, never worry about what you’ve missed – it doesn’t work that way.

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 them. It damages your credibility even before people get to know you and that’s never a good thing.

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. Think of twitter simply as a way to short cut the process of finding people with whom you can build new business relationships. The bottom line is that you will generate enquiries only if your followers get to know and like you, and also if they know you’re an accountant and that you like your work.

8. Avoid trying to outsource your use of twitter. This would be as effective as giving someone else a mask of your face and expecting them to start building relationships on your behalf at a business event or party. If you want to build relationships you have to be involved.

To see how other UK accountants are using twitter, check out the tweets on these two twitter lists:

UK accountants who tweet as themselves and UK accountancy firms on twitter


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