Technical
Xenia Taliotis 8 Jan 2018 03:58pm

Keeping yourself connected

Xenia Taliotis looks at how social media has become essential to all professions – including accountancy

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Caption: illustrations: Jordon Cheung

Social media has revolutionised our personal and business lives. Descartes may have staked his reputation – and his existence – on thinking, but these days it’s more a case of I blog/tweet/Instagram, therefore I am. No industry is exempt, and that includes accountancy. Every firm needs a good website and preferably a lot more besides: an active and relevant blog; engaging tweets; a strong LinkedIn profile; and even Instagram can help bring in new clients.

Kylie Fieldhouse, founder of KFH Accounting in Rayleigh, Essex, has built up 50% of her business through Facebook. “It surprises people when they learn how successful Facebook has been for me because it’s the one platform that accounting professionals are quick to dismiss. I’ve read numerous articles by industry experts discouraging using it for business, and saying it’s a waste of time. Yet for me it’s proved more successful than LinkedIn and Twitter."

It often starts with someone asking on one of her Facebook groups if they know an accountant, and someone else recommending her. Or sometimes an SME owner will post a question about tax, say, and she’ll respond. “I don’t reply to tout for business but because I’m in a position to help. However, invariably that will lead to enquiries from others who’ve seen my response and thought, ‘she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about, and she’s obviously approachable’. That’s what ignites their interest – because people buy from people: then they check out my reviews, also on Facebook, and they contact me when they need an accountant. That’s often how a client relationship starts.”

Claire Georghiades built her Teddington-based practice, Accounts Resource, largely through Twitter and is now exploring Instagram. “The way we are expected to communicate and do business has changed. Back in the day, we did a lot more entertaining. Schmoozing clients and clients of clients was key to our growth, but the past 15 or so years have seen a massive cultural shift in how we operate. Boozy lunches are out – that’s not how our clients expect us to spend the money they pay us. The internet is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal – a good website and regular communication through a blog or tweet can generate many more leads than any other form of advertising.”

Georghiades has 30,000 followers on Twitter and posts around six times per day. Her content is a mix of personal achievement highlights – such as when she ran a half marathon – news about her business, and financial or industry updates she takes direct from ICAEW’s Smarter Business Network. “It’s an incredible resource – relevant, free-to-use information that our clients love reading, and which keeps them coming back to our social media accounts. I take a lot of material from there but I’ve now reached the tipping point where keeping my various platforms current is taking up too much time, so I’m looking to hire someone on a part-time basis to help me with it.”

Outsourcing some of its social media is exactly what Moore Thompson, which has offices in Spalding, Peterborough, Market Deeping and Wisbech, has done. Managing partner Mark Hildred says that while he and the other senior managers have a good grasp of technology and are active on LinkedIn and Twitter, they felt they could achieve more by bringing in a specialist firm. “JE Consulting was already working on our marketing, so we asked them to take on some of our social media. We wanted to exploit it to its full potential yet didn’t always have the time to produce engaging material. If something is worth doing – which social media most certainly is – it’s worth doing well.”

Moore Thompson uses a range of tools, including Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Hootsuite to monitor its social media accounts to see which posts and platforms generate the most interest. “Social media is constantly changing and what may have worked well last year may not deliver results now. Sites are constantly bringing out new tools and options that firms should explore to see if there are any opportunities for them. We’re currently incorporating bespoke graphics into our posts to make them more visible when they come up on businesses’ busy feeds: it’s going well so far.”

KEYS TO SUCCESS

Your website is the first thing people see, so it should reflect your brand and your personality. Your other social media should be an extension of that and should convey that you are someone who can be trusted.

Content must be consistent, catchy and current. Accountancy is a people business, so being engaging and warm will reap rewards.

Monitor how long you spend on your social media and don’t let it encroach on your work time. If you haven’t the time or the motivation to do it properly, let the professionals do
it for you.

It’s tempting to delegate your social media to a new recruit, particularly if you are older, but be careful. A graduate may be au fait with technology, but might lack the insights into your business and how to interact with your clients.

Try different platforms and see which one works for you and the clients you’re trying to reach. Facebook may not be the obvious choice for professionals, yet it can be an excellent way of tapping into new markets and SMEs.

FIVE LIVE TIPS

  1. Keep active: Unless you remain active on social media, you won’t build up followers or benefit. There’s no point in tweeting or blogging every now and again – if anything, stale posts will work against you.

  2. It is SOCIAL media: Don’t forget to retweet, share and interact with others on social media. One of the biggest mistakes that firms can make is to think they’ve done enough just by posting. To reach potential clients you need to build relationships.

  3. Be engaging: Create content that’s interesting: think about how you can use images or graphics to enhance a post and try to write something punchy.

  4. Explore new opportunities: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have tools and options to help you increase your following. Also, keep an eye on less conventional platforms for the next big thing.

  5. Watch what you say: If a third-party is doing your social media, monitor their output. An errant post could damage your reputation. Consider introducing a social media clause into employment contracts. Let your staff know what they can post.
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