Can accountants really use social media to win more business?

May 30, 2023 | Linkedin, Social Media, Sole practitioners

Seven years is a long time, isn’t it? Back in March 2016, a research student was asking accountants how much of their business comes from social media.

She asked me too as I was already known for being more active than most, I was already highly ranked online for accountants but also cynical about the hype (even back then) surrounding the use of social media by accountants.

In today’s blog post I have reiterated my initial reply to the student and my comments re each social media platform. I have also provided 2023 updates where appropriate.

If that’s of limited interest to you, simply scroll down to the end of this post. That’s where I share my key advice and conclusions related to how YOU interpret reports of how much business other accountants win through their social media activity.

Back in 2016 my reply to the student started as follows (and what I said remains true to this day):

“As regards how much of my business comes from social media, forgive me but the question is too simplistic. Social media is never the sole source of new business for me. BUT it does help people to find me, helps them to start engaging with me and may help them to realise I can do something for them of which they weren’t previously aware. But NO ONE gets in touch to book me or engage me solely because of what they see on social media (at least not yet).”

I was intending to stop there but then provided a more comprehensive reply:

“I often make the point that it can be misleading to lump all social media sites together. So let me answer you by reference to each of the sites where I am active”.

Online Business Networking

LinkedIn

I believe Linkedin is quite distinct from the social media sites identified below. My profile here, my extensive connections (now over 13,000), the dozens of recommendations (now over 100) of my services and the hundreds of endorsements of my skills, hopefully evidence my credibility. Yes, this does sometimes lead to me being approached to speak at conferences and at in-house events in professional firms.

More often though my Linkedin profile and activity are simply contributory factors that result in me being booked as a speaker at events for professional advisers. Other factors include my website, the ease with which I can be found online and word of mouth referrals and recommendations.

I always try to ascertain what prompted someone to approach me to speak. No one has yet said ‘Linkedin’. But I do not dismiss it – for the reasons noted above. I am confident that it contributes to confirming my credibility and abilities to people who don’t know me. It also reminds those who already know me of what I could do for them.

2023: My regular posts and my comments on others’ posts here, plus Direct Messaging on the platform also now help grow my Sole Practice Club, registration numbers for my webinars and conversations about 1-2-1 mentoring services. Back in 2016 I probably posted about 80-100 times a year. These days I typically post fresh content at 3-4 times a week and I comment on others’ posts daily (which helps boost how many of my connections get shown my posts by the algorithm).

Social Media

Facebook

Although I have a facebook business page I do not consider it a source of business, any more than my facebook account generally. I still see the site as being largely for fun, family and friends rather than for engaging with accountants or for business generation.

Having said that I am an active and helpful member of a popular facebook group to which many members of the Professional Speaking Association contribute. My activity here is a way of helping my peers and of keeping my profile high within the speaking community. Occasionally others will recommend me for speaking gigs; I suspect this would be less likely if I wasn’t so helpful and high profile.

2023: We now have an active facebook group for members of the Sole Practice Club. But only a minority of members are active here.

Google+

It’s never grabbed me and recent developments vindicate my longstanding advice to ignore it. Whilst I note that other users seem to continually add me to circles and to ‘follow’ me on this site, I don’t anticipate it ever being a source of work – even indirectly.

2023: My cynicism was well founded and Google+ was shut down in April 2019. I adopted a similar stance re ClubHouse in March 2020 when that launched before largely disappearing after a year or so.

Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram

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

2023: I occasionally remember to upload pictures of me on stage to my instagram feed but that’s it.

YouTube channel

My YouTube channel BookMarkLee doesn’t have enough high quality video to offer much in the way of a positive impact on my business development activities. I continue to win work despite the absence of a speaker showreel type video. I like to think this is due to my longevity, extensive connections and a positive reputation generally. Equally I may be missing out big time and it could transform the impact of YouTube on my speaking business.

Again, no one has referenced seeing my YouTube channel as a catalyst for booking me to speak. Conversely, I do sometimes create promo videos to help attract audiences when I am speaking at open/public events, I hope they are helpful in this regard but have never asked an audience how many saw the video or booked as a result.

2023: Pre pandemic some bookers did indicate that they had watched videos of me speaking on my website (which links to my youtube account). As a speaker, especially, I should have more content on Youtube and on my website. Later this year I intend to start sharing more video content re business development and the sort of topics I write and speak about for accountants.

Micro-blogging

Twitter

2023: The biggest change in my social media activity over the last 7 years is related to this platform.

I have long pointed out that (even more than on other platforms) a twitter feed is like a fast flowing river. We hope that our followers will dip their toes in just after we post so that they see our posts. This was never likely to be a good strategy for me (or for many accountants).

In recent years I reduced the time I spent scrolling through my feed and direct messaging people. Instead I started using a scheduling tool to share multiple (different) tweets about each of my weekly blog posts.

After the change of ownership of the platform my favourite twitter apps and scheduling tool no longer have access. As a result my interest and activity here have waned even further.

TikTok

2023: This fun and largely video based platform launched in 2017. I haven’t spent much time here – partly as I know it can be addictive. But primarily because I doubt that my activity here would ever help me generate new speaking gigs or mentoring engagements. I doubt that enough of my target audiences are active or would notice me here.

So I apply my longstanding practice of only spending time on platforms where I can reasonably expect to get a good return for the time invested.

MY ADVICE

At the start of this blog post I promised you a key piece of advice related to how YOU interpret and judge reports of how much business other accountants win through their social media activity.

Quite simply: You need to know:

1 – What sort of business they are winning and if the nature of their clients, work and fees would satisfy your business ambitions?

2 – What level of social media activity (and on WHICH PLATFORMS) are they crediting with the business they have won? For example, do they simply post a load of content and hope their target audience sees it and gets in touch (RARELY in my experience). Or are they PERSONALLY active on the platform developing connections and relationships? (MUCH MORE COMMON)

3 – How refined are their business conversational and selling skills such that they can convert the enquiries they want from those they receive as a result of their social media activity?

Please resist the temptation to think you need to be active or seen to be posting content across a range of social media platforms. Doing so MAY help your business generational efforts but it’s a lot easier to succeed here once you are clear which platforms are likely to enable you to reach your target audience; And if you are prepared to engage with people. It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason.

CONCLUSION

If you are not active on social media but you are generating as much of the business you want anyway, don’t worry about it.

If, however, you are keen to attract and win more business from people willing to pay the fees you deserve, do not automatically assume that posting content on social media platforms will help you get the results you want. There’s almost ALWAYS more to it than that.

Over the years I have helped many accountants to rationalise and plan their social media activity where appropriate; and have helped them to adopt more focused activities to generate more of the business they want away from social media too.

NB: You may want to consider how you could use social media for other purposes of course: Such as to attract the right type of staff, potential collaborators and introducers, but that’s quite different, although again, I can help here too.

Effective use of social media always starts by clarifying your objectives, your target audience and your primary messages. Which platforms and what activity on those platforms are best for you, ALWAYS depends on your replies to those first three points.

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