Jan 25th 2013
By Michael Alter
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Many accountants use social media for their business as a way to be present online where the like-minded linger. Social media can start and nurture conversations between you and clients, prospects, and other business partners. It's free, which makes it appealing, and online, therefore it's convenient and accessible. Once you begin using it for business, you'll be represented 24-7 in the social media arena.
Social media may not generate a large amount of leads or be a place for you to run advertisements, but think of it like hanging out socially, where you're present to engage in discussions that you or others instigate.
Being active in social media goes beyond Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Blogs, YouTube videos, and discussion groups work well, with the only drawback being they can take more time to manage than a Facebook or LinkedIn company page.
Once you're up and running with social media, expect to spend one to six hours every week managing it. If you're not ready to manage a blog or discussion of your own, you can begin by joining other conversations or simply reading comments to get a feel for how it works.
If you haven't started social media for your business, don't feel pressure to rush in today. Poll your existing clients to find out what social media sites they prefer and why. Armed with this information, you can be selective and design your strategy so you can reach your target audience efficiently and effectively.
How Social Media Generates Business Exposure
Wherever your clients are active socially, you need to be active too. Facebook and LinkedIn, two of the most popular social media sites, allow you to create a company page that serves as a business profile where you tell your company's story. These pages should highlight products and services and provide another way to engage with followers and develop relationships.
Beyond Facebook and LinkedIn, some accountants write blog postings, typically 300 words in length, sharing insight and expertise on a topic. Others record videos or tutorials and upload them to YouTube. Taking these initiatives will not automatically generate exposure for your business; you're going to have to work at it. Add social media icons to your website, e-mail signature, and in any outbound communication from your business (client correspondence, e-newsletters, brochures, URLs on your business card, etc.).
Social media is used by accountants to encourage conversations and nurture relationships. Much like word-of-mouth advertising, exposure will spread through customers, coworkers, friends, and family. As your social media "followers" increase, so will your business exposure.
How Social Media Is Used to Increase Traffic
In a 2012 social media survey of over 3,500 marketers conducted by the Social Media Examiner, 74 percent of the respondents found increased traffic occurred with as little as a six-hour-per-week investment in social media marketing. Based on these results, to take advantage of this traffic trend, you should aim to be present in social media and participate for six hours or more every week.
As your social media plan unfolds, you must continue to work at growing your follower base to increase visitor traffic. For example, by refreshing your profile on LinkedIn, those following you will be notified of a change, and curiosity will generate clicks from those checking on what has changed. Some refresh their company social media sites by telling a client success story or highlighting a seasonal offer, product, or service. Others work at connecting and conversing with influencers in the community to encourage their business to remain front-of-mind with those who influence others.
How Social Media Is Used to Provide Insight
There are different opportunities for you to use social media and provide insight, such as participating in discussion groups, following and commenting on other blogs or Twitter postings, creating your own videos, or writing your own blog.
Discussion groups and Twitter are most often used to share stories, offer insight, and ask others for advice. While these types of social communication platforms provide the opportunity to share ideas, monitoring these sites can be disruptive to your schedule and difficult to stay on top of because people post to these sites any day, anytime.
Videos are often produced to share "how-to" or "helpful tips" with customers. Advantages of videos include:
- Messages can be carefully scripted and well-planned.
- Links to videos can be shared easily by others.
- Videos can be posted you your website, tweeted, added to your company page, or shared via e-mail with clients and prospects.
Blogs are used to provide specific thoughts on a topic. If you're considering starting a blog, try writing your professional opinion – 200-300 words – on breaking news you feel clients would be interested in. Include a link to the news at the end of your blog posting. Writing content can be challenging for some, as it requires dedication to keeping it insightful and timely. If you're committed long term and are willing to write and post every week, then a blog may be a good outlet for you.
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