From the Nov. 2009 Issue
Once upon a time, there once lived an accountant who, by his very nature, preferred the solitude of crunching numbers and calculating tax returns to the boisterous roar of his firm’s social events, area networking functions, and even business lunches with prospects and clients.
Is this a fairy tale or something much more real? Do accountants really have this kind of reputation or are they secretly social beasts waiting to stampede run out of the starting gate?
The best attribute about social media is that it forces us to become “social” and share information. The worst thing about social media is that it allows us to become “social” and share information.
A contradiction? Yes! So far, social media, which experts agree is still in its infancy, explodes with possibilities for an accounting firm because it enables the firm to project itself in ways that were never this easy or more fun. Yet, many firms remain skeptical as to the advantages of participating in social media.
Based on the current environment, and visits with a firm and an accounting information provider, here are several areas of discussion a firm wants to explore before deciding whether it should stick its toe in the water.
The Big 3: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
Most everyone uses social media without really knowing it — while these tasks may seem basic, sending and receiving e-mails and visiting websites are examples of social media. However, what we now think of as today’s social media really didn’t exist until LinkedIn came into the picture in 2003. Many firms still consider LinkedIn their sole source of social media because the site helps form relationships that often result in more business and turn into referral sources.
“We can’t point to dollars brought in the door yet, but we feel our profile has been raised due to our participation in all of these social media,” says Steve Hake, CPA, president and chief operating officer of Stambaugh Ness, PC (http://stambaugh-ness.com), a regional firm with offices in York and Hanover, Penn.
“Our staff benefits by getting involved and learning to understand the mechanics of social networking. It’s important to be there if someone is searching for us and the services we provide. We’re a very tech-savvy organization, but if we don’t carry that through in the public’s perception of us, it’s a pretty big omission.”
If accounting has the Big 4, then social media has the Big 3: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Stambuagh Ness uses all three to publicize its software, tax and payroll seminars. Will anyone attend because of the firm’s presence on all three? Hake says that’s one of the firm’s goals; but on a more specific level, LinkedIn helps the firm understand the relationships among its own people and those in other organizations.
“It (LinkedIn) also keeps us (and them) updated on what issues everyone is dealing with and working on. That’s pretty important given all of the fast changes we are going through in our business environment. The strategies for the next phase of leveraging LinkedIn are currently being studied and developed.”
The firm first used Facebook as part of its recruitment strategy, asking interns some two years ago to set up a Facebook Group to appeal to college students. To date, the firm hasn’t recruited anyone specifically because of Facebook, but Hake feels the page gives the firm a presence and proof that it is in sync with the new ways of staying in touch.
“Since then, we expanded our reach to join other groups, including a group for Deltek Vision software, which we resell to architectural and engineering clients,” says Hake. “When a partnership prospect searched on the term Deltek and extended a plea for someone to get in touch with him, we immediately answered his post and were on the phone right away. That illustrates the immediacy of these networks. There is urgency to these communications, and we’d better be willing to step up if we want to be competitive.”