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Barry MacQuarrie
Social Networking

Why finance executives need to step up to the plate.

July 9, 2009
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA

In my January article, I asked Corporate Finance Insider readers “Is there a Social Network in Your Future?” In case you are still wondering, the answer is yes!

Social networking is this year’s hot topic. It has been the subject of numerous articles, presentations and webinars within the accounting professions. This article looks at the world of social networking and its impact on our profession.

Unprecedented Growth

The following appeared in my January 2009 article:

According to Nielsen Online, Myspace.com ranks as the top site in their “Top 10 Social Networking Site as for September 2008 (U.S., Home and Work).”

Almost as fast as Nielsen could publish their findings, they become obsolete. MySpace is no longer the number one social networking site. Nielsen later reported the following on their Web site:

“In fact, total minutes spent on Facebook increased nearly 700 percent year-over-year, growing from 1.7 billion minutes in April 2008 to 13.9 billion in April 2009, making it the No. 1 social networking site for the month.”

According to statistics on compete.com, the number of “unique visitors” on Facebook grew by 251 percent during the most recent year. LinkedIn saw similar growth during the same period. Even more impressive was the growth at Twitter whose “unique visitors” count rose by 580 percent during the same period.

Facebook’s growth can be explained by their changing demographics. Their site is no longer just for high school kids and college students. Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is those 35-year-olds and older according to the statistics on their site.
 
A Social-Networking Strategy

The world of social networking has great potential for you and your business. However, you should approach it with all of the skepticism you would bring to an audit. It can be a great waste of time or a land of opportunity. Here are some suggestions that might help you develop an effective social network strategy:

  1. Learn about each site. Take a few minutes and learn about the features available on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and Plaxo. This will help you to determine if the features available on these sites can help you and your business.
  2. Sign Up. Create accounts on the social network sites that appeal to you. As you do, be careful not to disclosure too much of your personal information. You may consider having two accounts on sites like Facebook. One account would reflect your business information while the other account would reflect more personal information. Further, you can use one account to connect with your professional contacts and the other to connect with your family and friends.
  3. Investigate the site’s security features. Spend the time necessary to learn about the security features available on each site. This will allow you to control who can find you and who can connect with you. If you don’t protect your account, you may find yourself connected to people you don’t know or don’t want to know!
  4. Find your friends and business contacts. Most social networking sites have tools that allow you to find your family, friends and business contacts. Some sites even have tools that can import your contact list from Outlook or other organizers. Using these tools will make it easier to get connected.
  5. Find new business opportunities. As social networking evolves, individuals and corporations will use them to develop business and refer their friends. Sites like LinkedIn are targeting business professionals to help them find jobs, find business opportunities and display their professional expertise. LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers can be used to connect with other professionals and develop your networks.

Embrace Change

The use of social networks will change the way we will build networks, meet people, develop business opportunities and correspond with others. Our social network profiles add another vehicle by which our customers, vendors and business contacts can reach us. During a recent presentation, I asked a room full of CPAs if they have had any clients contact them via Facebook or LinkedIn. It came as no surprise that a few people actually raised their hands. The adoption of e-mail radically changed the way we communicate with our clients and colleagues. I think social networking may do the same.

The change is happening. More and more of our colleagues are getting involved. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to create accounts on a few social networking sites and learn how these sites work.

You just might find a few ways that these sites can help you and your business become more successful!

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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, 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.