By Alexandra DeFelice
Are the partners and senior staff in your firm leveraging LinkedIn, or do they simply start a profile and abandon it?
By now, most accounting professionals have at least heard of LinkedIn, and I’ve noticed an increasing number popping up in my “People You May Know” list. However, many who are new to LinkedIn have done so merely to comply with the wishes ‒ or sometimes the mandates ‒ of the marketing people they work with to get them off their back.
What many CPAs likely don’t realize is that simply throwing up their name (sometimes without even listing their firm) is worse than not having a profile at all.
If a potential client is researching a firm, and firm members have only posted their names and the name of the accounting firm with no additional information, the potential client will learn absolutely nothing about the firm and its staff.
At the very least, CPAs should include a brief summary of their expertise. The marketing team, or even an administrative employee, can start populating this information by copying it from the CPAs’ bios.
While it’s encouraging that those in charge of marketing their firms are talking to their accounting staff about utilizing LinkedIn, it seems that either the marketers aren’t adequately explaining how to optimize LinkedIn or that the CPAs aren’t listening.
So what will make them listen?
Guidance. And a lot of it.
At Moore Stephens, we hosted a webinar for our marketing members earlier this month about this same topic. We learned that some of our firms are being extremely proactive about educating their CPAs on how to properly populate their profiles, join groups and contribute to conversations, or share links about firm news and thought leadership.
While not everyone is quick to hop on the bandwagon, marketing members are doing their part to highlight those CPAs who are actively participating, particularly those who are connecting with clients as a result.
That takes us to probably the best possible way to get partners and senior staff members to listen: Prove that it works.
One Moore Stephens member said his firm incorporates LinkedIn updates during sales meetings. When someone mentions a client or prospect connected with the firm, or comments on something that was written on LinkedIn, everyone’s ears perk up, he said. Then the marketers weave those success stories into a presentation for others to learn from and, hopefully, mimic.
Showcasing such success stories could be just the fuel your partners need to start participating.
However, that doesn’t eliminate the need for ongoing guidance.
Identify the people in your firm who understand the basics of LinkedIn. Make it part of their job to then identify at least a handful of partners and staff members who could truly leverage LinkedIn to benefit the practice.
Then, do whatever it takes to help them reap the benefits.
Getting the ball rolling could mean anything from sitting down with staff members for an hour and helping them populate their profiles to logging in on their behalf and showcasing their expertise.
Start small with CPAs who express interest and have something worth sharing vs. force-feeding the idea to everyone. Once you establish a few cheerleaders, more ears are bound to perk up.
- Six Things Accountants Often Don't Understand about LinkedIn 
- Results of SocialCPAs 2011 Social Media Survey 
About the author:
Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America  and a regional member of Moore Stephens International Limited , a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in almost 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .