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Barry MacQuarrie
Barry MacQuarrie

Want to Be the Fly on Your Competitor's Wall?

Three steps show you how.

May 2, 2011
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA

TechBytes

When you live in New England, you learn to appreciate spring. It means that the snow is finally gone, the Sox are playing at Fenway, the daffodils are blooming and the local ice cream stand is about to end their winter hiatus.

A few weeks ago I had a craving for ice cream and I drove by the local ice cream stand to see if they were open yet. They weren't and I was out of luck. Not a problem, I thought, I will just have to return once they are open. Now, it was time to find out when they would reopen. There was no sign telling me about opening day and when I called their phone number, there was no answer. This was not what I would classify as good customer service!

My only option was to keep driving by and checking for some sign of life. It seemed rather old school considering all of the technologies available to alert your customer of important events! If only they had a blog ...

Instant Updates

Did you know that you can use blogs to receive instant updates about important event like opening day at the ice cream stand?

Are any of your clients blogging? If so, do you know what they are talking about? Would you know if they posted anything that might give you an indication that they were looking for a new CPA firm?

The process of finding blogs and listening to their authors is fairly simple. In this article, I will divulge this process.

Step 1. Find a Blog

The first step is to decide to whom you want to listen. Is it a client, a prospect, a referral source or maybe even a competitor? Next, you need to perform an Internet search to see if they have a blog. Here are a few tools that you can use for your search:

  • Google Blogs is a Google search site that can be used to search exclusively for blog content. Once you reach the site, try clicking the Advanced Blog Search hyperlink to reach their powerful advanced search window. Here's one example of how you might use this tool:

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Once you have found your client's blog, don't forget to come back to Google's Advanced Blog Search site and use it to search for certain key words, author's names or specific dates.

  • SocialMention is another search tool that can be used for finding blogs. This site provides you with "Real-time social media search and analysis." Simply enter your client's name, select Blogs from the drop down list and click search. Here's what their site looks like:

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The SocialMention search results include links to relevant blogs, as well as, their rankings for strength, sentiment, passion and reach. Check out the SocialMention FAQs for more information about these terms. You can also use SocialMention to create social media alerts similar to the Google Alerts that I wrote about in my last article.

Step 2. Set Up Alerts

The second step is to set up alerts to tell you when new content has been posted to your selected blogs. Typically, a blog will offer one or more methods to subscribe to their content.

One method is to use e-mail to receive alerts. My blog, SocialCPAs, includes a widget that allows a reader to enter their e-mail and subscribe to my blog. The widget looks like this:

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The second way to subscribe to a blog is by using a RSS feed. There are several definitions for RSS and one of the most common is Really Simple Syndication. The service allows websites to distribute content to subscribers. A RSS feed is often represented by this symbol:

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Once you click it, you will see the site's RSS feed. Simply copy and paste the feed's URL into your RSS reader and you will start receiving updates. In an upcoming issue, I will reveal additional details about the various applications that can be used to aggregate your RSS feeds.

Step 3. Relax and Enjoy

Ready to get started? Simply identify a client, search for their blog and subscribe! Without lifting a finger, you will receive alerts every time they post new content. You won't have to keep opening their site to see if there are any updates.

If only, the ice cream stand had a blog and published information about opening day, I could have saved enough money in gas to buy a very large sundae!

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