Social Media for Accountants – Why Bother?

Sep 23, 2011 | Social Media

This was the topic I was asked to speak about at a Cloud Accounting conference run by Cloud Advocates (David Terrar and Richard Messik).

A couple of hours before I was due to speak I posted a tweet:

Any accountants who’d like a mention during my talk @ #clouda21 , please answer the Q: Why should accountants bother with social media?

This was retweeted a couple of times and I received far more responses than I would ever have expected. I’ve posted most of them below with, in some cases, my observations. I’m conscious that not all replies directly reference twitter and may refer to other forms of social media:

Simple 1. It wins us business, 2. It helps us keep in touch with existing clients and potential, 3. To follow our competitors

I’m not attributing this yet as I’ve asked for clarification given the tweeter has only 105 followers and has only posted 410 tweets since joining twitter last November. I’m guessing she has had her success on other social media platforms. Re “keeping in touch with existing clients” – this implies that she has clients she follows on twitter or elsewhere.

how about because it shows that we are real people and not just hidden away? clients appear to like it and can easily get us (@Theataccounts – 96 followers, 124 tweets since joining twitter on 30 March 2011)

Assume that those clients are on twitter or the other social media platforms where this accountant is active.

‘cos we often have to use a lot of tedious financial jargon: social media gives us a great chance to connect, chat & be fun !! (@EacottsTeam – 33 followers)

Fair enough. I stressed the fun side during my talk.

we should be part of the conversation on sm, from a technical and accessible point of view. Our Partners love blogging too! (@MercerHole with just 114 followers despite a twitter presence for over 2 years – July 2009)

A classic case of big firm marketing team approach. Following the crowd but not really making it work.

it keeps you in touch with your current clients and a presence for others to see you and company.. I think it …. Be a mix of business and personal, as people do business with people.  (@Cam42 – Alex Walls with 154 followers since march 2009)

Of course it only keeps you in touch with those clients who are engaged on the same social media platforms where you choose to be active.

Social media is a vital tool in marketing accountants and allowing access to millions of potential new clients. (1/2)  Cloud accounting then enables us to remove any distance problems with the click of a button. Cloud accountants @GloverStanbury (@bussdean 70 followers)

Sorry. This all sounds like wishful thinking. Whilst accountants may be happy to service clients anywhere in the country, only a TINY minority of those prospects seeking a new accountant will choose one outside of their local area. Much better to focus your efforts on social media with a LOCAL bias.

To show how witty, smart, approachable and normal we are oh and to tell the world that we’re pretty good at what we do 🙂 x (@NicolaSwalwell who works for Wright Vigar and has 362 followers, having been on twitter since Feb this year).

to prove we have personality! (@TheYowser – 67 followers)

Accountants need to talk to their clients – social media is a way of talking, it builds trust, and it’s dynamic. And if I look like a marketer, yes I am, but I’m also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. (@divariotweet with 171 followers, since joining twitter in March of this year)

Common view expressed by marketing types and based on a series of assumptions that will only be true in some cases.

as a result of engaging with a web savvy audience, they help us (helps both parties) use cloud more effectively  – and it is Twitter more than any other SM tool which really makes the difference (@proactivepaul with 1355 followers built up over the last 3 years)

Paul is very active on twitter and has been at it for some time.

Social Media allows us to communicate with a wider audience at little cost. We have advertised Seminars & gained contacts (@RobertShawMyers with 113 followers – on twitter since June 2010)

Think they’ve bought into the myth. The wider audience to which they refer is a subset of the 113 followers they have – as they won’t all be interested, and even those who are won’t see your every tweet.  Gaining contacts is good but follower numbers looks very low after more than a year on twitter.

SM = potential to reach & engage with a much wider audience, incl clients, prospects and associates/colleagues (@chapperscounts 478 followers since May 2009)

Potential indeed. Lots of things have potential.

f in forensic analysis indicates that if you want to raise your f in profile then SM is an f in fun way to do it ! – I’m the f in (forensic) accountant BTW ;o) But you knew that already (@forensicfreddie – 86 followers since Nov 2010)

Agreed. On all counts. Though you still need to consider whether the audience with whom you want to raise your profile is engaged on social media. Mine is. is yours?

My favourite reply was this one from @figurate (Louise) and I suspect there’s an element of truth in it:

because it pleasantly passes the time, whilst on hold to #HMRC 😉

The last response I received, an hour after I completed my talk, was:

We believe it provides a megaphone to promote our services. It also challenges the status quo of “old fashioned” accountants!

I’ve not attributed this one, to avoid embarrassment, as the tweeter is very new to twitter (32 tweets and 64 followers) and completely misunderstands how it works. As I said in my reply:

I’m afraid with that approach you will be sadly disappointed that no one is listening or interested in your megaphone

We continued exchanging tweets for a few minutes and he thanked me for my help – which included pointing him at the twitter page of this blog.

NB: I’ve only quoted follower numbers and joining dates above to show that many of the comments come from relatively new or inactive tweeters. There is no point in chasing follower numbers. There are plenty of tweeters who do this with the sole aim of getting large numbers of followers in the mistaken belief that this means a wider audience who are going to see every tweet they post. That’s not how twitter works. It’s only worth following people in whom you are interested. For most local accountants that should include as many local business people and tweeters as you can find using twitter search facilities.  For the record, at the time of writing I had almost 3,000 twitter followers built up slowly over a 4 year period [Edit November 2018: 8,200 followers].

I appreciate that there are many more accountants on Twitter than are quoted above. Only those who happened to be around and saw my tweeted Q or the ReTweets of it will have answered. I’d be delighted to receive further responses and feedback in comments on this post.  Feel free to reference other social media too.

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