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How to Leverage Social Networking

The Maryland Association of CPAs has harnessed social networking to reach CPAs in new ways. Here's how.

August 2009
by Journal of Accountancy Staff

When the IRS announced in June that it would launch a review of tax return preparers, the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) spread the word to its members with a news item on the association Web site. But it didn't stop there. The association posted the IRS news on its Facebook page and blog. The story made it into the MACPA feed on Twitter, the micro-blogging site. Visitors to the association's LinkedIn page found the information there as well.

MACPA could be considered an early adopter of most things social networking, having explored everything from MySpace to Second Life. Tom Hood, the association's CEO, sees establishing a social media presence as a valuable tool for building business relationships. In an interview with the JofA, Hood recently made the case for social media as a strategy accelerator, discussed what has worked for MACPA, what might rise to become the next big thing and how CPAs can get started. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

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JofA: Talk about how the association is using new media and social networking and what the objectives are.

Tom Hood: Social networking and social media tools, for us, actually have become a strategy accelerator. The interesting thing about the social media stuff is that it allows you to connect to people, make more relationships and do things faster than we've ever been able to do things before. So for us it starts with our association strategy, right? Our association is there to enable our CPAs to survive and thrive in rapidly changing times. That's essentially our purpose. And we think about that in three major themes. Connect, detect and achieve. So the social media tools have actually lowered the cost of participation, so that we can actually connect to more members faster and cheaper than ever before.

We've used Facebook and Twitter and MySpace and LinkedIn and Second Life, blogs, podcasts, wikis, you name it. And some people would say, "Well, why are you doing all that?" And the answer is, we're trying to meet the members where they are. So instead of making them come to us, which is the old association model, now we can go to them.

It started with us trying to connect with the new generation. So we read all the research about the new generation using social media, so that's what pushed us to say we've got to be relevant to them. Once we got into it, we started finding all of our members in all these different spaces.

This article has been excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. View the full article here.