Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Social Networking Help Build My Accounting Practice?

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter are certainly hot right now. How hot? YouTube has almost twice as many page views as Google! If you have teens and twenties around you have probably seen them utilizing one or more of these networks to do, well, whatever it is they do.

If they aren’t familiar, let’s begin with a capsule description of each.

Facebook and MySpace are designed to make it fun and easy for people to keep in touch. They are direct competitors. You have a page dedicated to you and you can create a network of people who connect with you. The idea is you interact by sending and receiving messages, blogs, music, videos, photos, etc. with one or more members of the group.

YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can view, upload and share videos. The number of videos available is in the tens of millions. If you care about almost anything, you will find it there. Music? Entering “Elvis Presley” produces 15,900 videos! Or, something less known: Don McLean’s “American Pie” has 627 videos.

Twitter is a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time. Each message is limited to 140 characters, so each “tweet” is short (and hopefully sweet).

A lot of marketing gurus are trying various approaches designed to translate the popularity of these sites into a competitive advantage for their business clients.

How can you use social media to promote your practice? The nature of what accountants do for their clients falls into two basic categories. One is financial, accounting & tax documents. The other is advice, consulting and planning. The former is a “hard” deliverable and doesn’t lend itself to social media. Of course, you could use Twitter to tell a client their tax return is ready, but why? Just pick up the phone or email them.

Advice, consulting and planning requires precise communication. To obtain this you rely upon not just words, but body language, tone of voice, etc. to ensure both parties are really achieving an accurate mutual understanding. Again, I don’t believe this activity directly lends itself to social media.

However, there is an indirect use you might consider.

To explain – it is well accepted that professional service web sites (legal, accounting, engineering services, etc.) are more effective if they have a strong personal component. For example, in your bio you might consider not just the traditional “head shot” photo, but also one of you river rafting, holding a bunch of your prize roses, attending your daughter’s graduation from college, etc. These more personal photos help both present and prospective clients get a feeling for you as a person, not only a provider of accounting services. It enhances the connection by humanizing you.

Ditto in the write up accompanying your bio. You talk about your education, professional accomplishments and the like, but you also mention your love of raising Arabian horses, trip to Sturgis with your son on your Harleys, or other personal interests and experiences.

With this “personalizing” of your practice in mind, one thing you can do is create links to and from your web site to social media.

A recent post was about “branding” your practice and the example was a CPA in California who is in the process of becoming the go-to accountant in her area for all manner of green-related tax deductions, strategies, credits, etc. She will almost certainly use social media to try and augment the buzz she hopes to create with her new branding. Links to green groups, events and activities, announcing where and when she is giving a presentation, a green-related blog she will initiate, photos and/or video of a new green building one of her clients is building, etc. are all candidates for social media.

The bottom line is I think social media is most useful as a means to communicate within a given community or interest group. Your practice really doesn’t have those characteristics. However, as seen in the prior paragraph, you can use social media to attach your practice and its web site to a community or interest group you are part of. In the example above, that would be the “green” community.

Another example might be that you are a member of a “No Value Added Tax In America” advocacy group. Your loathing of this European tax mechanism won’t directly bring business to your practice, but it will raise your profile among those with similar beliefs and social media would be a great way to stay in touch with this group. Links would connect to and from your practice’s web site, blog, etc. and no doubt some members of the group will become your clients and/or source of referrals.

If you wish to learn more about these most modern of all communication mediums, Wikipedia has several entries that are current and succinct. See en.wikipedia.org and enter Twitter, MySpace, etc. in the search box.

4 comments:

Accounting Services said...

yeah.. it really help...
i strongly believe that social networking will build you accounting services business

bookkeeping services said...

I am sure that social networking helps to build your accounting practices.
Regards,
accounting services

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Jamie Shellman said...

The bottomline: social media can connect everything and every field - including accounting. Even your personal side has some effect on your career that will impress your potential clients. It's just funny that your client might be your friend on Facebook and Twitter.