There are many discussions going on about the use of social media among accountants. Surely there are folks who don’t understand the value of these mediums, mostly due to inexperience in using them. “Why should I go on twitter and tell someone what I’m doing? Who is going to care?”
To those people I would suggest turning that question around to ask, “When I have just heard a piece of important and timely information that would benefit some of my colleagues, how can I tell them all at once – easily and quickly?” Now that’s the question to be asking.
Social media is simply a new way for people to communicate and connect with others. Further, social media offers various venues in order to more effectively reach certain people in ways that they prefer – or make sense to them – because of their lifestyle. Historically, there has always been an inherent quest for humankind to connect in order to share information and work together for the greater good. Think about the increase in knowledge that the average Internet user has vs. his counterpart just twenty years ago. It’s quite astonishing. Yet, there has been much confusion – and distrust – about using these new methods of communicating.
In fact, much of the same hoopla went on when another “new” medium for communicating was first introduced a relatively short time ago. The telephone didn’t become widespread in business use until the early 1940s (maybe you’ve seen movies featuring roller skating switchboard operators?). The average business owner in those days was hesitant about bringing telephones into the workplace. “My employees will start to use the phone for personal use!” they feared. Yes, they would – but they would also have the power to reach people within seconds – just by picking up the phone and dialing a number. Sure there were crank calls and a little bit of abuse on the part of some employees. But they were handled on a case-by-case basis. Then came Caller ID which was very helpful. Networks expanded, costs decreased, and people “reached out and touched someone” – all day long.
Consider e-mail. (The Internet was invented in the 50s but it took awhile to become mainstream.) Business owners continued to be suspicious. Yes, there were a few rough spots, with computer spam and viruses, but then came anti-virus software and people became educated about spam. Knowledge was shared and the benefits clearly outweighed the cons and, eventually, everyone used e-mail freely (and instant chat, and cell phones with texting capabilities and…). Get it?
So when you ask the question, “How do you calculate your return on investment with the use of social media?” you might as well be asking a question like, “How do you measure the value of using e-mail in your business?” This gets tricky. The tangible vs. the intangible. As a marketing professional, for me it’s all about the tracking of the efforts that I ask my clients to put forth. Tracking is actually easier in this age of electronic marketing however, it is important that we not get caught up in just the numbers when it comes to social media.
As a firm, you need to connect with as many potential clients and referral sources as possible so that when that person needs an accountant, they think of you. You most likely have identified your ideal client/target audience (if not, that’s another article). The objective is to figure out which social medium they are using and then start communicating with them via that medium. This is why they use the term “Friend” on Facebook, the word “Connect” on LinkedIn… and “Follower” on Twitter. They all imply how you will be able to connect with others who share mutual interests – and that is what social media is about: connections with others.
The question you SHOULD BE asking your prospective clients, your potential employees and your referral sources is “Where did you hear about me (or our firm?)”
It is unlikely that a company will retain your firm to conduct their $30,000 audit based solely on your LinkedIn page or a post on a blog. Most likely, your professional will have been recommended by someone – and will then use the Internet to further investigate this professional; that is when they see the post on the blog or the LinkedIn page. And what they read there should reinforce their impression that you are a top-notch professional firm, that you are an expert in your field, and that you have the specific expertise they are in need of. The fact that you have used social media to clearly communicate the value of the services you provide and that you have been recommended by another will help the visitor deem you as hire-able.
There are a variety of ways in which we can communicate our value as a professional services provider in today’s marketplace – pick up the phone, write on a blog, ask a question or start a discussion on LinkedIn, record your thoughts on something you are passionate about on video and post it on a website, share your experiences about something important to you…it’s all about connections.
SIDEBAR: For better or worse, it has become apparent to me that many professionals no longer value turning off their computers, driving somewhere in their car, and shutting off their cell phones in order to connect with others (i.e. seminars, networking events, meetings with prospective clients). They are finding this counter-productive as it is becoming quite apparent that, through social media platforms, introductions can be made, referrals given and business done – and this, without disconnecting at all or emitting fumes into our environment (think webinars, LinkedIn conversations and Skype). Social media offers professionals a broader reach to the best professionals and most ideal opportunities – sans geographic restriction.