Can CPAs be Friends?
Particularly in the field of financial services, nothing seems more risky and, quite frankly, “unprofessional” than Social Media. The idea of exchanging hip, casual quips with your clients seems at odds with the image of the conservative safe guarder of financial accounts. But people buy from firms they trust – and like – and Social Media is being adopted by more and more accounting firms. As of this writing there are 6,097 accounting related accounts on Twitter and 2,900 accounting groups on Facebook.
These accounting firms see several advantages in using Social Media as an effective, efficient tool for business development and client communication:
- Search Rankings. Mentions by your firm in Social Media sites create conversations and independent “endorsements” – both of which help SEO results.
- Client interaction and support. Very simply, Social Media allows you to easily monitor what is happening within your clients’ organizations. You can be the first to hear about staffing changes, new business ventures and product launches, all of which provide you an opportunity to respond and lend your services.
- Prospecting and business development. Once you are clear on your focus and goals (see below) you can more efficiently filter and establish new connections than is possible at most face-to-face networking venues.
Your Next Best Three Steps (for Accounting and other Professional Services firms):
Decide on your firm’s focus. What distinguishes your firm? What is your focus or scope? Decide on a few keywords such as geography (if you target only local clients), industry (if you specialize in certain industry sectors), specific skills or expertise. It is better to be specific and narrow at first so you do not waste time and dilute your efforts. These keywords, then, should be the focus of your blog posts, your LinkedIn description and your Twitter activity. This important first larger decision will make subsequent micro decisions (who to follow, what discussion groups to join, etc.) much easier.
Set clear timely goals. Set objectives and goals on a quarterly basis (anything longer than that is unrealistic in this fast changing area). Think of goals in three stages. First, simply listen to understand who is participating and what they are saying (this will help even further refine your focus and message). Second focus on “awareness” measures like number of followers, friends, visits, etc. In subsequent quarters you can focus on more direct business metrics such as search rankings, number of inquiries and client inquiry response time.
- Have a Social Media Policy. Honestly, many accounting firms have a greater challenge in getting their employees to communicate more rather than less. But in order to create comfort for all, it is best to set clear guidelines as to what is encouraged and what is off limits.
And for great information and best practices, I highly recommend the blog run by the Maryland Association of CPAs.
As an accounting or professional services firm, do you use Social Media? Why or why not? What has been the impact on your practice? Share in the Comments section below.
Blogger’s Note: One of the most common (and justifiable) arguments I hear from owners on ignoring Social Media is “my customers are not using it”. Honestly, this new communications medium is so quickly evolving that I find the “rules” of market segmentation are changing all the time. So for the next few weeks I would like to explore the use of Social Media by groups that many of us may have thought unlikely to be “friending” or “tweeting”. I’d love to hear what you think.