By Alexandra DeFelice
No one can deny that social media is on everyone's mind. It may not be at the forefront of everyone's mind, but it's there.
Instead of looking at what everyone else is doing, let's look at what other accounting firms are doing – or at least thinking about doing.
SocialCPAs, which helps accountants and their firms learn how to use social media to increase brand awareness and generate revenue, has conducted a social media survey for three years, asking firms of various sizes throughout the United States and seventeen other countries to share their social media status with their counterparts.
The survey, released at the end of December 2012, shows results from roughly 800 respondents.
At more than 90 percent, LinkedIn remained the No. 1 social media site used by survey respondents and has "clearly established itself as the most popular site for business professionals", according to survey author Barry MacQuarrie.
Google+ and Pinterest were added for the first time this year, with about 30 percent of respondents using Google+ and 15 percent using Pinterest. Pinterest is a content-sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos, and other objects to their "pinboard."
Stand out from the crowd
One of the easiest ways accountants can boost their visibility is to make sure their LinkedIn profile is complete, according to MacQuarrie. A new question in this year's survey was "How complete is your LinkedIn profile?" Only about a quarter of respondents said 100 percent complete.
"Completing your profile is an easy way to set yourself apart from the competition", MacQuarrie noted. Go beyond the basics by having a picture, great headline, work history, powerful summary, recommendations, and endorsements. LinkedIn offers tips on how to do this and notes on its website that "users with complete profiles are "forty times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn."
What makes your profile complete? According to LinkedIn:
- Your industry and location
- An up-to-date current position (with a description)
- Two past positions
- Your education
- Your skills (minimum of three)
- A profile photo
- At least fifty connections
Another differentiator is status updates. More than 60 percent of survey respondents said they "almost never" update their LinkedIn status – and that's up slightly from last year. Yet MacQuarrie pointed to other surveys that listed "checking others' status updates" as among respondents' favorite activities, so those who do post updates will be top of mind. Most people hesitate because they aren't sure what to share or what they're allowed to share without seeming as though they're claiming others' work as their own. The trick is to stay tuned in to places that feed you information and then let others know about it, he said.
Social media is also a great place to monitor what people are saying about you and your firm. There was little improvement in this category in 2012, with less than 40 percent of respondents doing any monitoring.
"Consumers often rely on peer recommendations when making a purchasing decision", MacQuarrie noted. "Do you know if anyone has written a review of your company on a site like Yelp or Google? People may be sharing their opinions about your company and/or your services. You need a process to monitor your name and reputation."
On an annual basis, how much training has your company provided with regard to social media? If the answer is "none", you're not alone. That remained the most popular answer, though it has decreased from more than 70 percent in 2010 to roughly 55 percent today. There are many training programs offered through the AICPA and other organizations, including MacQuarrie's firm, KAF Financial Group.
The number of respondents with written social media policies continues to rise, while the number of companies that restrict access to Facebook continues to fall.
Regardless of the trends, most respondents still spend one to five hours per week on "traditional network activities", which MacQuarrie emphasizes not losing sight of when trying to navigate through the ever-expanding world of social media.
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 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at [email protected].