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Stacie Saunders
Five tips for getting started on social media today

Social media can be a scary place for CPAs, but these suggestions will have you tweeting and linking in like a pro in no time.

August 26, 2013
By Stacie Saunders

Sitting in a recent presentation on the Top Seven Issues Facing Young Professionals at the AICPA E.D.G.E. Conference, I noticed an audible gulp when the speaker got to No. 7 on his list: social media. As the audience reaction implies, social media can seem daunting and risky. But it’s also a tool that can really benefit both your career and your firm.  
 
Social media is not just for the marketing department; it’s changing the way many facets of businesses operate. In fact, research from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte shows 86% of managers believe social media will play an important role in business success within the next three years. The research was done in 2012. That means we have two years to figure this out, so here are five tips that will help you get started today.
 
1. Clear out those mental roadblocks.
 
“I don’t have the time.” “People may criticize me or my firm.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Sound familiar? There are lots of things we tell ourselves that hold us back from trying something new. Clear out your preconceived notions, and make room to consider the possibilities.
 
Will social media take some time to plan and execute? Sure it will, but tools and strategies can help you manage your time wisely.
 
Could someone say something negative in a public forum? Yes. You can’t control what other people say on social media, but the rewards far outweigh the risks. If someone says something negative about you or your firm, turn it into a great customer service opportunity to show the world you are listening and you care.
 
Will you need to invest some time in learning about social media? Anything new will take some time to learn, but there are some great resources available to you (see below) and you may just manage to have a little fun.
 
2. See what your peers are doing.
 
Are you unsure what social media can offer you? Search popular social platforms to see what other CPAs are doing.

  • You can use Google to find your peers on social networks. For example, search for “(YourPeer’sName) on LinkedIn” to find someone you know in LinkedIn.
  • Check out the AICPA, the Journal of Accountancy, and your state CPA society on Facebook.
  • Search for “CPA firm” on YouTube.
  • Research to see if your biggest competitors have a blog.
  • Bill Sheridan put together a great list of people CPAs need to follow on Twitter.
  • See what’s happening in the new AICPA Young CPA Network online community.
  • Search for your own name and/or firm’s name on each of these networks listed above.

3. Get LinkedInreally linked in.  
 
Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution, I don’t normally recommend one social platform over another. However, if you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, you should seriously consider it. LinkedIn is considered the most “professional” of the social networks and is likely the one you will get the most out of professionally. This AICPA Insights blog post has interesting insights for spicing up your profile as well as resources to help you get started.
 
For those of you who already have a LinkedIn profile…you aren’t off the hook. Are you really engaged on LinkedIn, or did you create a profile that is just collecting dust? LinkedIn has beefed up its features, and there are many ways to get more out of your profile:

  • Join a group. LinkedIn groups offer a way to connect with like-minded peers, share ideas, and ask questions.
  • Browse the LinkedIn Today section. This fairly new feature curates news stories specific to your interests and connects you with industry thought leaders.
  • Fully complete your profile. Many times when someone searches for your name on Google, your LinkedIn profile is the first thing listed. Make it count!

4. Check out resources available to you.
 
The AICPA offers member resources that can help you learn more about using social media.

  • The AICPA has developed a set of resources to help you learn more about the professional benefits that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging offer. Each user guide shares steps for getting started, as well as best practices, in an easy-to-read format.
  • Social Media Matters, developed by the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section, is a short guide describing key social media tools in detail for both the novice and the intermediate user.
  • Using Social Media, a presentation by Jina Etienne, CPA, director–Taxation at AICPA and a former tax practitioner, is nice for beginners. It gives the pros and cons of each social media outlet to help practitioners figure out what works best for them.

There’s also several Journal of Accountancy videos about social media:

5. What can social media do for you? Now that you have gotten a taste of social media and see some of the features platforms offer, it’s time to start sketching out a strategy. Your strategy doesn’t have to be a long, complicated document. Start with three simple steps: Check your company social media policy, define goals, and decide how you will measure success.
 
Policy: Check with your manager and HR to see what policy your organization has in place. For example, you may or may not be allowed to identify yourself as an employee in social media profiles.
 
Goals:  What are your goals? Perhaps you hope to create new connections, keep up on current trends, drive traffic to your website, or become a thought leader.

Metrics: How will you define your success? Whether it’s clicks, new connections or conversations, have some numbers you can track to make sure your social endeavor is heading in the right direction.
 
These are just some tactical ideas to help you dip a toe in the water. The truth is that there is no “right” way to do it. Try one or two, then make your own way.

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Stacie Saunders is a social media and member engagement strategist at the AICPA.