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Barry MacQuarrie

Social Networking and Your CPA Firm

Are you on Facebook? Do you tweet? Are you connected to others on LinkedIn? If not, why not?

December 3, 2009
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA.CITP

The explosion of social networking in our culture has been amazing. In less than six years, Facebook has developed a user community of over 300 million active users. If Facebook were a country, it would rival the United States as the third largest in the world.

You customers, clients, prospects, colleagues, current and future employees are all using social networks. Does your firm have a strategy to reach these important groups? Do you know what, if anything, they are saying about you and your firm?

In this article, I reveal strategies that you can use to leverage the various social-networking sites to help promote your firm, build your brand and develop your networks.

Developing a Social Networking Strategy

You signed up for Facebook and are now friends with your kids, a few colleagues and some old high school friends. You’ve joined LinkedIn and are connected to several other people in your office, your banker and your brother-in-law. You have even opened a Twitter account and have started to follow a few people.

OK, so now what?

This scenario is a very common one that I hear as I talk to CPAs from around the country. We all seem to be wondering how to use these sites to connect to others and build our businesses.

One of the first things a CPA firm should do is to develop their social-networking strategy. I can hear a managing partner somewhere saying, “This sounds easy, I’ll have my marketing person get started on Monday.” The partner pauses and then thinks, “No, wait, this is all about technology so I think we’ll have our technology team tackle this one. No, there are definitely human resource considerations, so maybe it belongs to HR.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Tom Hood, the CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs. Hood is one of the industry’s recognized leaders in the area of social networking and offers this advice, “All too often, CPAs want to give the task of developing their social-networking strategy to their marketing department. To be effective, the strategy should be set, based on the firm’s strategy and culture. Firm leaders need to be involved and set direction and then involve your marketing professionals.”

Hood went on to say that he thinks that a firm’s social-networking strategy should be developed by a task-force that includes members of all departments and all age groups. He noted the importance of seeking advice and opinions about social networking from the Matures, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials within a CPA firm.

This is a great approach. It will allow your firm to leverage those who have experience with running a business as well as those who have experience communicating using social networks.

Building Your Brand

Social-networking sites can be used in a variety of ways to promote your firm and showcase your talented employees. A company can use a Facebook Page, LinkedIn, a corporate blog or a Twitter account to connect with clients, prospects and employees.

According to Facebook’s Web site: “A Facebook Page is a public profile that enables you to share your business and products with Facebook users.” As fans interact with your Facebook Page, their friends will see your company listed on their News Feed. Don’t forget there are over 300 million active users on Facebook. A Facebook Page will expose your company to a significant number of people.

Your company should be listed on LinkedIn. A company site allows you to enter information about your firm, your specialties, your location, number of employees, links to your Web site and to employees who are also using LinkedIn. This information about your company can lead prospective customers and employees to your firm as they use the powerful search tools included in LinkedIn.

Your firm may also consider using Twitter or a blog to communicate your expertise with the world. Twitter allows you to send short “tweets” that can be used to promote events at your firm and announcements on behalf of a client. Similar to a newsletter, a blog can be used to share knowledge, showcase your expertise and direct people to other resources on the Internet.

Conclusion

Social-networking sites can be used a variety of ways to build your business. Hopefully, you can use some of these ideas to build your brand, promote your firm and develop new business relationships.

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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA.CITP, is the director of technology at KAF Financial Group. MacQuarrie has extensive experience working with CPA firm technologies and expertise in workflow, process improvement, disaster recovery planning, security and paperless office technologies.