If you’ve been thinking about blogging, or you’ve been advised you should do it (or to pay someone else to do it for you) you may find this interview of interest. I was approached to share my views on the subject by a journalist who had seen my blog was highly ranked on an American website for accountants. Carla (not her real name) had approached me in the hope that I would encourage her audience to start blogging for business or career success.
If you don’t have time to read the whole interview, here are the headlines:
- Blogging has been overhyped and accountants rarely consider it to be worth the time and effort (or the money when they pay someone else to blog for them)
- Blogging is typically only worthwhile for accountants who have identified a specific target audience, know what to write about to positively influence that audience and can attract that audience to read their blog.
Now here’s the interview which includes many tips related to those two points:
Mark, you blog a lot and have done for many years. Why do you do it?
Thanks Carla. I started blogging for accountants in 2006 shortly after I left practice and became a self employed speaker, writer and mentor for accountants. My style and approach has evolved over time but I continue to write for a specific audience and they seem to appreciate my insights, commentary, tips and tricks. There are now many hundreds of items on my blog and they address many different topics. I often reference these or use them as background for my articles, my talks and when mentoring accountants in practice.
These days most of what I blog about is for accountants who want to evolve their practices, to be more successful and/or to stand out better from their competition. Beyond my blog posts I also write a weekly ‘Magic of Success‘ email which is more focused on tips and tricks and shorter items than go on the blog.
Why do I do this? I enjoy writing. I seem to be good at it and accountants clearly learn from and can take action by reference to what I write. I write for them; not for me and not in some vague hope of securing better SEO etc.
Where do you find the time to do all your blogging and writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and, these days, I can often write a blog post with little need for specific research. I collate ideas in a cloud based notebook (using Evernote) and I will often draft blog posts whilst I’m commuting. I probably have over 200 draft blog posts in the notebook at any one time. Some are part completed and some are little more than a title or a headline, inspired by something I have seen or read or a conversation I have had with an accountant.
In the past I sometimes blogged 2-3 times a week. Now I only aim to complete and post one new item every Tuesday morning. I often grab an hour or two at the weekend or early on a Monday morning.
Do you think all accountants should be blogging?
Because not all accountants have something of value to say to their audiences, not all accountants have the time and, most of all, because their reason for blogging needs to be related to their objectives, plans, hopes and dreams. Until you know these you cannot assert that someone should be blogging.
I take your point but aren’t there lots of good reasons to encourage accountants to blog? It can help build their credibility, enhance their SEO and so on.
I understand these views. They’ve been around for a while. Longer than you might think. I just checked back and found that in 2008, I wrote a piece in which I debunked 5 blogging myths for accountants. Ten years have passed but the position hasn’t really changed. Here’s what I said:
Given that I’m an enthusiastic blogger and spend a fair part of my time helping accountants to build more successful practices you might expect me to also advocate blogging by accountants. But I don’t.
Here are 5 blogging myths – ie: reasons often given to encourage people to blog regularly and why I think that accountants are different:
- Build your credibility – This only works as regards people who see and read your blogs. Most accountants in practice are not seeking to build credibility across the UK, let alone around the world. Their target audience is more local than that. Will your target audience (prospective clients, advocates and potential staff) find your blog and read it sufficiently to be influenced? There are certain tools you can use to help here but my own experience suggests that the impact will be minimal in real-life, as distinct from in theory.
- Enhance your SEO – This refers to ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. How easy is it for your target audience to find you on the web? Not the people who know your name or the name of your practice but those who don’t know you and are looking for someone just like you. Might I suggest that the best starting point here is to arrange for your website to be optimised before you start blogging – if this is your objective. I would also suggest that blog articles are typically seen as a great way to access free advice. I am doubtful as to how often anyone will contact an accountant and be willing to pay for advice received after reading their blog online. The web user is far more likely to keep searching for more free advice on the same topic.
- It’s fun – I’d agree with that. But then lots of things are fun. How many fun things can you fit into your life? It’s also time consuming. Is it enough fun to warrant the time and effort? For most accountants I would suggest the answer is ‘no’. It’s nice to think one has been helpful and that lots of people have read what you’ve written. This suits me but won’t suit most accountants I know. Unless your efforts turn into billable work or trackable referrals at some stage it is simply ‘fun’ and probably less productive than many other fun activities eg: engaging on twitter, on business forums and on Linkedin (all of which I advocate – to one degree or another).
- Emphasise your niche – If you have one. During my talks for accountants I often stress the benefits of focusing on a niche and of highlighting a specialism. The strength of the argument for doing this sometimes comes as a shock after years of trading as accountants to anyone and everyone. But if you do have a niche then the same points still apply as set out in the 3 paras above.
- Distinguish yourself from the others – I’m a great advocate of the idea that it’s more important to be different than to be better. But those features that distinguish you need to be evidently of benefit to your target clients. Being 7 foot tall and always carrying a bright green briefcase will make you memorable but do those differences benefit anyone? In the same way, will anyone feel that they are getting more value for money or a better service simply because you are a regular blogger? I think not.
What I also said in 2008 was that I was aware of a relatively small number of accountants in practice who seem to enjoy blogging. Even back then I knew of far more who gave it a try and then gave up. The benefits didn’t live up to the hype. This remains true today. I don’t think that’s a reflection on the accountants. I think it’s more to do with the hype.
Sadly, I don’t think things have changed much. If you start by clarifying your business or career objectives you can then look at the best ways to pursue these. Blogging MIGHT contribute positively or it could be largely a waste of time.
A good proportion of accountants’ websites I see contain a blog. BUT the vast majority of these blogs have either been abandoned or they contain generic content obviously supplied by a third party. I very much doubt they are helping attract and engage prospective clients.
What about students and those accountants who want to evidence their knowledge to prospective employers? Couldn’t blogging help them?
Don’t get me wrong. Blogging COULD be useful for lots of accountants IF they have a clear target audience, know what to write about to positively influence that audience and can attract that audience to read their blog. However, there is little point in writing a regular blog and simply hoping that the right people will find it and read it.
What is likely to positively influence prospective employers for example? Relevant work experience or time spent writing a regular blog?
If you think that blogging could help (and it might) you have to start with who is your target audience and what would they want to see?
In real life I suspect that most student bloggers would need to tell interviewers about their blogs themselves. The topics, content and style may then reveal the student’s writing ability, commercial sense and, hopefully, their client focused approach. Will a prospective employer be interested in an academic essay about esoteric accounting principles? Rarely I would suggest.
I’m not a big fan of the copycat approach to blogging. If everyone else is writing about a topical issue you need to have something different to say. And it needs to be helpful to your target audience.
If accountants still want to blog where would you suggest they do this?
One thing that has changed a lot over the last ten years has been the rise in popularity of Linkedin. What was once seen as a recruitment tool and repository for CVs is now a popular online business networking platform.
For those accountants keen to engage with and influence prospective business clients (or employers) this is where I would focus. You are more likely to be able to secure a good relevant audience for your posts and articles on Linkedin than if you simply post things on your own website or a dedicated blogging site. You can publish articles (blogs) on Linkedin and post shorter items that may be seen on the home page stream of your connections.
If an accountant has specific expertise or an interest in a niche business or sector, they may be able to blog on dedicated websites that are read by decision makers in that sector. Again, this probably makes more sense than simply blogging on your own website/blog. You might want to include a copy on your own website but again, don’t simply hope people will see it there if you are new to blogging. They won’t.
My one big tip re Linkedin here would be to ensure that your profile works for you rather than against you. There is no point in having well written blog posts here if your profile lets you down. Indeed, this is a key point wherever you blog. When someone Googles you they will invariably find your Linkedin profile before they find your blog posts or website. So make sure you create the best first impression you can.
In this context, Carla, your readers are welcome to access my Linkedin profile tips for accountants (no charge) through my website here >>>>
Many thanks Mark that’s very kind.
Thank you for contributing to my blog today. How can my readers find out more about you?
My pleasure Carla. Thank you for the invitation. I’m quite easy to find online but, as I share my name with thousands of others including a Malaysian rap artist, a Singaporean comedian and an astronaut, I’m online as bookmarklee. So on twitter that’s @bookmarklee – the same on Linkedin and my website is www.bookmarklee.co.uk