Get over Social Media Misconceptions for CPA Firms

At least from my perspective, I’ve seen quite a few social media presentations focused on CPA firms. It is the buzzword du jour that just won’t go away - everyone is talking about it – face to face and, no pun intended, via social media.

It is just like cloud computing – you keep hearing about it for a reason. If you have not embraced it yet it is time to get on board. Last week I made a presentation to a group of managing partners from small firms talking nothing but technology and the related impact to them and their staff. A big chunk of the presentation was devoted to social media and some tools that I’ve used successfully. This seemed to be the hottest topic of the day – not that they did not enjoy talking megabytes and mega sized monitors.
The presentation was described using the title of this post. People are probably getting tired of hearing about social media and just want some pros and cons, cost benefit and basic how to’s to get started. Therefore, I started with some common misconceptions:
1)      Twitter is for celebrities to tell their fans they just ate a cheeseburger with extra pickles and they are headed off on some exotic trip. Yes, but mostly no. Try it before you judge.   I felt this way about 6 months ago before I started using it. I’m a believer that it is a great way to send and receive info without clogging email inboxes.
2)      There are too many social media avenues; it will suck up my time. There are many tools to bring your social media activity under one roof. They are called aggregators. The one I like is a tool called Hootsuite. A great dashboard with all my stuff under one login – not a bunch of different places to go – which will definitely eat up your day.
3)      Twitter is one way communication. On the outside looking in, it can be perceived that way. However, there are things such as Direct Messages to respond back and Mentions to help get your information out to the masses.
4)      There is a bunch of junk out there on social media. I could not agree more. About 98% of all email traffic is SPAM too, but I still use email and get great value for the communication factor. It won’t hinder me from using. If I’m following someone that posts stuff in social media every 5 minutes that I don’t care about, un-follow is one click away. Social media allows you to get the info you want and bypass the stuff you don’t.
5)      It is just a fad. It is well beyond that. Social media sites are building profit models so they can stay in business.  LinkedIn just had a wildly successfully IPO. Facebook can do some dramatic focused marketing (at the expense of privacy). There are some big players out there that I have devoted my time to: LinkedIn and Twitter, not as much Facebook for me since I don’t think it is business focused for our industry – yet. Some I have not joined because I see them as repetitive – Plaxo for example vs. LinkedIn or picking between MySpace and Facebook – think we all know the winner there. Jay Leno recently took a poke at MySpace when he said the logo’s 3 avatar figures represented the remaining membership.

The misconception I have saved for last is this: You don’t have to tweet to be on Twitter. Or, you don’t have to actively post to reap the benefits – at least when you first begin. Start off by being a sponge. Observe, learn and take it in slowly. See what others in the industry are doing and start to follow your interests – both business and personal and you will start to see how information comes to your doorstep vs. having to spend all that time going out to find it. 
It will be time well spent. So, if you like to save money on technology at your CPA firm, follow me on Twitter!    www.twitter.com/Jim_Fahey

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Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.  He is also in charge of talent management and retention at his firm.  A background of IT and Human Resources helps Jim bridge the gap of technology complexities with end users who just want their computer to work so they can be chargeable.  Being a very cheap (frugal sounds better) person himself, he is always looking for ways to save dollars at his firm.  He is Director of Education for the Association for Accounting Administration and past Technology Committee member of the Ohio Society of CPA's.  He often leads industry CPE events on the topics of Information Technology, CPA firm practice management and human resources/recruiting. Find out more about Jim on LinkedIn.

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