Social media policies for accountancy firms (part two)

Feb 15, 2012 | Linkedin, Social Media

This is the second of a 2 part blog series in which I set out some practical, commercial and informed thoughts re social media policy making for accountancy firms. Part one is here.

Let’s start here with a couple of bizarre practices I have heard that some ill-informed firms have attempted to implement as regards Linkedin.

“We don’t want you to connect with clients” – This is normally due to the fallacious fear that such connections would reveal the firm’s client base to other firms of accountants who could seek to poach them. This fear is based on a misunderstanding of Linkedin and a lack of confidence in the strength of client relationships. Such a policy makes a nonsense of being on Linkedin. How will a competitor know who are clients and who are simply contacts and prospects? And what does the firm want to be done when a Linkedin contact becomes a client or joins a client business? Or what if a client contact tries to connect with a staff member/partner? how are they to explain their reluctance to accept the connection?

“When you leave the firm you must disconnect yourself from the firm’s clients” – Whilst I understand the desire I can’t see this as practical or enforceable. Better to ensure that the firm encourages more than one person to maintain a relationship with each client. When someone leaves it is upto the client whether they want to retain a relationship with the ex-member of staff/partner. Yes, Linkedin does make it easier to breach no poaching covenants. But equally it makes it easier to obtain evidence of a deliberate campaign to do do this. So it’s not all one-way.

What happens when someone leaves if they have loads of connections with key clients? I’m afraid that you need to face reality. It’s what you do before people leave that will be key. You can no more dictate to clients who they should and should not connect with on Linkedin than could King Canute hold back the tide. If you have no policy you have no rules and you have no cause for complaint.

I suggest that firms need to run regular (at least annual) in-house sessions to remind everyone re personal and corporate branding issues, effective and ineffective use of social media and how to protect themselves and their future career prospects by what they post on facebook and other social networking sites. Reviewing and setting their privacy settings appropriately is key. Another is to be careful what they post. Is it something they would be happy for their grandmother to read? The firm is interested in the well-being of its staff and partners. And also in their reputation as facebook profiles often mention where people work.

Remind everyone that it’s best to avoid saying anything that might be termed or interpreted as ‘inappropriate’. That includes political comments, coarse language, and especially any comments that could be construed as advice. Equally wrong would be any posting that could be interpreted as the disclosure of confidential information, bullying or harassment.

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