Mark Lee, chairman of the Tax Advice Network and consultant practice editor for sister site AccountingWEB.co.uk., recently spoke with LinkedIn advocate and trainer Mark Perl about how accountants can benefit from the online networking community.
Many people who advocate online networking do so in a generic way that can be a turn-off. They may argue that the same principles apply regardless of our business or professional activities. However it's long been my experience that accountants are special and need to be addressed differently.
Despite my views about some other online social media, I actively encourage accountants to register on LinkedIn - even if they intend doing nothing else there. In my view it's the only online networking site where you can benefit from simply having a decent profile online.
Generally, online networking can only work if you are active and netWORK. This is also true of LinkedIn but, unlike the other sites it is the only one that people use as a directory to search for someone like you.
This passive approach to LinkedIn may not produce as good results for those who make more active use of its facilities. But for most accountants, it's better than nothing.
I recently caught up with Mark Perl, one of the UK's leading LinkedIn advocates and trainers. He also understands accountants and promotes the site as the one place where we should all manage our professional reputations, online.
As a bare minimum, Perl thinks all practitioners should complete a LinkedIn profile to help them be found and to optimise their search engine visibility. At its best, the site enables individuals to showcase their specific expertise to attract clients. Perl goes further and claims it is also the most effective business development and client retention resource currently available. Mark Perl and I each have detailed profiles on LinkedIn as do an increasing number of accountants in practice.
Perl comments, "When you know how to use LinkedIn well, you'll save yourself a ton of time. You'll walk through open doors instead of making cold calls, you'll enhance your personal reputation, and the profile of your practice, you'll access outstanding information and opportunities that you would previously have missed and, ultimately, you'll increase your revenue."
I've previously identified five ways that accountants can benefit simply from establishing their profile properly on LinkedIn. There are numerous other ways in which you can benefit further if you are proactive on the site. For example, Perl encourages accountants to use their LinkedIn profile and the answers section to set out their specific areas of expertise. He points out that this offers an opportunity to differentiate your firm's particular values and virtues.
LinkedIn now has over 75 million business people as members and during March this year UK membership rose above 4 million.
For accountants who are keen to grow their practices this is a veritable goldmine of prospects. "The Advanced Search capability within LinkedIn can uncover all the business leads you'll ever need, within your geographic location, within the specific sectors that are of interest to you, within companies of the size you prefer to approach and with the very name and job title of the decision maker you wish to engage with," says Mark Perl.
I think he's also right that LinkedIn is "unsurpassed" for business development. If used properly, it can be far more effective at generating leads than spammy old direct mail/email campaigns and cold-call telesales drives.