When I present to groups on how accountants can leverage social media to build business, I’m often asked a very basic question – “How effective is Twitter and why should I be on it?”
I used to say that I didn't think Twitter was going to last, but an IPO is in the works for Twitter, so perhaps I’m wrong.
Should accountants use Twitter? Yes.
In the process of using Twitter and other social media, I’ve learned one very important thing about technology and public relations. If others are using Twitter, you must use it as well. We must employ whatever tools are available to promote our businesses, especially those tools that are low cost with high value.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Twitter zealot. Quite the contrary, actually. I really don’t like Twitter because it doesn’t enable a two-way conversation. I also don’t think Twitter is going to last for the long term; there will always be something else, just as the evolution of LinkedIn led to Facebook.
Obviously, I’m a big believer in communications. In fact, my favorite tool is the telephone. Nevertheless, I’m using Twitter because my clients are using it – and I’m working to help them to use Twitter more effectively.
Most people consider themselves experts in social media because applications are easy to learn and simple to use. However, there’s a big difference between a typical Twitter user and someone who is using Twitter as a strategy.
If you’re reading this and a bit confused, Twitter is what’s called a “Micro-Blog,” where you only have 140 characters to express yourself through what’s known as a “tweet.” There are personal tweets from individuals and corporate tweets that represent an actual company. An accounting firm, for example, will want to establish a corporate account that is the face of the firm – not an individual in the firm. The same theory holds true for companies; if you’re a CPA in industry, your company should have a corporate account.
Twitter has gotten a bad reputation because many tweets are just downright silly, especially when they focus on what’s for dinner or where a person is going.
Instead, Twitter can be used very effectively to build communities and enhance a company’s reputation – two qualities to look for in strategic public relations.So, the most effective use of Twitter as a public relations tool for CPAs and accountants is to tweet about your expertise. Sure, it seems self promoting, but there are ways to come across as non-commercial. Here are a few real-life examples, with the Twitter handle or user name following each example. To find these online, use the string, www.twitter.com/username:
- Don't forget to claim the ARRA $400 Making Work Pay credit on Schedule M (@TaxTweeter).
- OK, I'm weird. I get a total high out of talking with QuickBooks users for an hour about their questions! Had 7 people at my QB L&L today! (@RebeccaTervoCPA).
- Qualified for Research Tax Credits? Find out at freedmaxick.com http://bit.ly/ab5VNL (@FreedMaxickCPAs).
I think you get the idea – and the more creative you can tweet, the more exposure you’ll get.
Now to the other most often-asked question. How do I get found or how do followers “find” me?” What these questions focus on is “community.” Tweeting is great, but if no one notices your tweets, then you’re just spinning the wheels.
That’s why it’s just as important to follow others as be followed. This builds this “community,” which is a very important component of public relations. Work on your Twitter profile to ensure coverage. In addition, part of the Twitter system is the “search” capability. So, for example, if you wanted to build a community of attorneys, you would search for “attorneys in (your city)” and begin following those tweets. Once you begin following others on Twitter, they’ll begin following you. That’s courtesy in the Twitter world – unless someone undesirable (e.g., spam) is following you. If that happens, block them.
What you put into your Twitter handle is also important because it helps gain followers. Recently, I began volunteering for a nonprofit. Their handle was an acronym of the organization and they had just a handful of followers. I suggested they rename their handle or spell out their name in the handle. Once they did this, they began gaining more followers.
Just as you would put keywords into your Web site to be found through Google or Bing searches, you also put keywords into your tweets. I didn’t start out following just anyone; I systematically searched for any keywords pertaining to my own client base: accounting, CPA and many other words.
While I don’t have thousands of followers, that’s OK with me; what I’ve put together is quality over quantity – a community I can rely on to retweet or republish my tweets, while also feeding me information through their tweets. Pretty effective!
There are many nuances to each kind of social media in today’s marketplace – and each one has its own set of capabilities. The key is finding the application that is right for you and your company. And, although there isn’t any cost to Twitter, you will find yourself spending time working on community and content. Nevertheless, if you’re an active participant, chances are your efforts will lead to increased exposure and, ultimately, increased profits.
P.S. Follow me! @scytron