There’s no question that social media is a great networking and recruitment tool. But how can busy accountants use it to market their firm and win clients?
Only a third of Australian businesses have adopted a social media presence, but Sensis recently reported that 79% of Australians now use social media. That means many business opportunities are being missed. Even businesses that use it selectively often don’t really engage with followers.
This lack of engagement is the key reason many accountants aren’t getting the results they would like from social media, says Peter Chaly, Managing Director of SmartINK, a boutique marketing agency that runs the Marketing for Accountants brand.
“A few years ago many accountants jumped onto Facebook and set up a business page without knowing what to do next. It didn’t cost anything other than time and they figured that with all the attention social media was getting they needed to be on there,” Chaly says.
Most thought they would be able to use it as just another one-way advertising tool.
“The businesses typically had no engagement strategy and no understanding of how to use the pages. People don’t want to log-in to Facebook just to see that every post from your business is promotional. We are bombarded with advertising messages from every corner these days and people turn off from that type of activity on social media very quickly.
“You need to take a step back and remember that these are ‘social’ networks. They provide huge opportunity to interact with clients and potential clients in a way that’s hard to achieve without face-to-face contact.”
So, which of the many social media platforms offer the best results for accountants? And do they need to maintain a presence on all of them?
Making a connection
“A small firm just won’t have the resources to devote to a wide range of social media. Having said that, every accountant should at least have a LinkedIn profile. And now that it is also being used as a search engine, it’s important to optimise your LinkedIn profile for search.
“For example, if you’re in Sydney, how well do you rank in the LinkedIn search results for the term ‘Sydney accountant’? People are looking for service providers on social media, so you might as well make sure you can be found.”
YouTube is another option that many accountants overlook, says Chaly. “It offers an incredibly powerful way to connect with people. For example, you can upload a quick five-minute video with presentation slides, and then embed it on the firm’s website and share it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and elsewhere.”
The key to success is to provide useful information rather than advertisements, and to maintain a keen focus on your target audience. “As an example, how about creating a quick clip on an update to tax law that affects small businesses? As the owner of a small business, that’s something I would watch. If it helped save us time and money, I would share it with our clients, and there’s a chance they would share it also.”
There are many ways in which accounting firms can attract clients through social media, says Chaly, ranging from simple referrals on Twitter or Facebook, all the way to enquiries via LinkedIn and YouTube.
“Some smart firms are doing things like Q&A sessions on Twitter, running competitions on Facebook, and establishing groups on LinkedIn for specific industries they specialise in as a way to grow their reputation and get clients.
Another argument for creating a strong social media presence? Young people are social media-savvy, and firms that attract the best young talent need to present themselves to clients and potential employees as modern, 21st Century organizations.
Enjoying the honeymoon
“You don’t need a big budget to be successful on social media. Used strategically, it can be an extremely powerful client acquisition tool. In fact, smaller firms can often gain an advantage over larger firms simply by being more agile and responsive, and presenting more of a ‘human’ face to the world.”