Anyone in business seeking clients should leverage the best tools for marketing and communications at their disposal, and CPAs are no different. Social media is today’s tool for building a professional brand, establishing one's expertise in their field and increasing visibility to potential clients.
Here are some guidelines for creating a presence and communicating online via social media:
- Pay attention to industry rules or regulations that could affect how you utilize social media. Check with your trade associations and professional groups for guidelines to keep you on track and in compliance.
- Identify the tools and channels you should use to reach the right people. Then, set up your accounts carefully to present yourself in the most professional light.
- Use a business-oriented but friendly photograph on each of your social media profiles to convey a professional, accessible image.
- Make sure all communication establishes you as a credible, authoritative and trustworthy professional.
- Use your posts to showcase your knowledge and experience in your field.
- Prepare an editorial calendar to plan and schedule online messaging over a regular time period. Communicate your key messages clearly and consistently.
- Present your audience with opportunities to take action. For instance, they should be able to make inquiries, offer responses and share content with others.
- Become a trusted, popular resource by posting useful content such as educational or how-to information.
Consider your overall business objectives when communicating online through social media marketing. What are your goals? Who is your audience? What actions do you want them to take? The answers to these questions should provide a framework for what you do and say across your social media outlets.
Don’t focus solely on broadcasting your content. Engage with others and pay attention to how they receive your message. Social media marketing doesn’t work without engagement, meaning you are looking to build relationships as you draw attention and gain trust, increasing your ability to better serve clients and to connect with prospects. Your followers will expect you to listen and to respond to what they are saying to you on social media sites. Listen to them.
Proceed with Caution
If someone comes to you seeking accounting advice, establish boundaries from the start. Be clear about where friendly advice ends and professional consulting begins. Don't allow gray areas. Be careful about giving individualized advice either in emails or in online public forums. Some people will not know when to stop asking for free advice, and you open yourself up to risk without a more formal agreement. Being more strategic about your social media marketing can turn a random query in a social network into a paying client.
Avoid potential legal issues by staying clear of posting or commenting publicly on anything pertaining to legal situations. Offer to consult someone in private or point to relevant, neutral information from reputable sources.
Popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful outlets for a CPA, particularly to showcase expertise. Post quality content such as useful tips that reflect your knowledge. Link to articles you find on accounting topics that demonstrate you are staying apprised of your industry. Take a look at what other accountants are doing online and look for ways you can set yourself apart.
Remember that whatever you publish online travels at lightning speed, so do not post confidential information or something that appears unprofessional. Just as social media can be a powerful reputation-builder, it also can be clearing houses for bad news and faulty information. Think twice before hitting the “post” button, even in private forums or among family, friends and colleagues.
Your social media pages can serve as a gateway to your website or blog and to you. Get into the routine of tuning in to conversations, publishing useful information and responding to messages. After that, use what you’ve learned to benefit your business.