Social media offers low-cost way to crank up your marketing program

By Francesca Zelasko

In a tough economy, marketing is often the first to go. But that can mean missed opportunities. So, more accounting firms are using social media to boost their marketing efforts without busting their budgets.
 
Social media – social networking sites, blogs, and video/photo-sharing sites – is increasingly used for marketing purposes for three reasons:
  1. Social media sites are where people go to search for information on the Web. In March, Facebook became the most-visited site by U.S. users, beating out Google, according to analytics firm Hitwise. And Facebook hits increased 185 percent over the previous year; Google hits increased only 9 percent.
  2. A post might be forwarded or shared many times – think viral marketing. This can result in new LinkedIn connections, Facebook fans, or Twitter followers, building visibility and facilitating referrals and requests for service.
  3. The cost is low. Developing a social media presence takes time away from other activities, but hard costs are minimal. For example, you generally can join a social network or post a video for free.
 
Top 7 social media tips
Listen first, communicate second.
Deliver valuable, relevant, and timely content.
Integrate your social media efforts.
Research, test, and adjust your strategy.
Know what’s being said about you in the marketplace.
Develop strategies and policies that support your culture.
Protect your firm, your employees, and your clients.
The key to social media marketing success is to develop strategies that fit your firm’s needs and strengths. But you can start small:
  1. Get active on LinkedIn. Although Facebook use for business is increasing, LinkedIn – with more than 60 million registered users – is still the go-to social media site for professionals. It’s where accountants should start building their social media presence. Be sure partners fill out complete profiles, including summaries that detail their experience and expertise. Also provide training on how they can build up and utilize their networks.  
  2. Host a blog.This is a great way for practice leaders to demonstrate their expertise. For your first blog, choose a partner who has the passion and commitment needed to write a compelling blog, regularly update it, and respond to comments. Once other partners see the blog’s success, their interest in blogging themselves likely will increase.
 
A tasteless post by a partner or a complaint by a disgruntled employee can travel all over the Web (even if your firm doesn’t actively maintain a social media presence). So all firms must establish SM policies that address:
  • Who is permitted to represent your firm in various social media
  • How to represent the firm in a way that is consistent with your brand
  • Why social media can’t be used to share confidential information
  • How to use privacy settings on various social media sites
 
Whether your policy should be looser or more rigid depends on your firm’s culture.
 
Social media will play an increasingly important role in accounting firm marketing in the years to come. Start looking into how your firm can make the most of this client-building tool.
 
About the author:
Francesca Zelasko is director of accountant partner programs and partner marketing. Zelasko has more than 10 years of progressive marketing experience within the technology industry including SaaS, software, hardware and middleware products and services. She currently oversees the overall Accountant Channel for SurePayroll which includes Referral and Reseller partners and customized products.
 
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