I have a lot of clients, associates, and friends who think I’m a social media whiz. They regularly call or write asking for what they think is sage advice on how to make more of an impact on Facebook, Twitter,LinkedIn, Pinterest, and several other social media applications.
My response? I consider myself fortunate that I’m thought of as a go-to guy on all-things social media, but the unvarnished truth is that I only know what I need to know. I also learned from scratch the same way as nationally known social media mavens who get paid an incredible amount of money to do the same thing they learned how to do themselves simply by reading, lurking, and participating in social media.
If this sounds overly simplistic, it is, but the real differentiator for the accounting professional using social media or any other practice management tool is this: You want to learn how to do it in only five minutes, and you want instant gratification in the form of more referrals for prospects, retaining clients, and running your practice more efficiently.
If you’re nodding your head agreeing with me, then it’s time for what I refer to as my five secrets to social media success for accountants. Again, I’m not the world-renowned expert, but I do know the accounting audience and understand how to use social media to enhance your business. These techniques have worked for me and they can work for you, too.
Social Media Success Tips
Secret 1: Don’t spend any money
While I do believe in spending money on various aspects of marketing, public relations, and communications, social media is one of those tools that can cost money, but it really doesn’t have to, especially when you’re faced with a limited budget devoted to your marketing activities.
You may get calls or emails from marketing gurus who want you to sign on with them so they can handle your social media. I don’t want to bash those folks, but what I’ve found in the professional services arena is that no one can do social media as well as you can do it yourself.
In the past, I’ve certainly offered this service, but I spent more time trying to get the information out of the client than actually posting it on Facebook or Twitter. Since we all have quite a bit of intellectual capital swimming around in our heads, it makes more sense to me that the person who possesses the knowledge should be the one posting. Sure, I can give advice on the types of messages to put out there and I can make the messages sound better, but when was the last time you read anything on social media where you scratched your head and said to yourself, “Gosh, I think that person must have meant to say something else.”
Since you’re the expert, spend the time you need to post on social media yourself. I guarantee you’ll be much happier with any result you get – good or bad – because you took the initiative to do it on your own.
Secret 2: Keep it simple
Messaging on any social media application is coming at us from such a fast speed that none of us has the time to think about anything lengthy. The bottom line is that you’re tweeting and posting so that you can enhance your reputation by positioning yourself as an expert in a certain area.
Personally, I can’t stand reading any post that’s more than three to four lines. If it can’t be said more succinctly, then it’s not worth posting. When I teach social media, I use Twitter as a guideline. If you can’t say it in 140 characters, then you need to rewrite what you want to say. That’s an exaggeration, of course; most postings are longer than 140 characters, but the secret is to keep any post simple and to the point.
Secret 3: Connect to others
Again, to those who know and understand social media, this is a huge “duh.” The bottom line for social media is to create conversations, but you can’t do this if you don’t spend the time with others who share the same passions you do.
The best advice I can give pertains to LinkedIn. I suggest you spend ten minutes a day on LinkedIn, preferably first thing in the morning when you’re setting up your day. Spend that time networking on LinkedIn by reaching out to your connections, but also seeing who your “1st Connections” are linked to so you can double or even triple your network in a very short time.
One question I’m asked time and again is how to connect to someone you don’t know. Do you go through the joint connection for an introduction or reach out directly? My advice is to connect directly and mention that you have the connection in common. Another way to connect is to pick up the phone and call the person. While this might seem as if it’s an obtrusion, you do have a reason for connecting, and chances are, if the recipient is a networker, he or she will gladly respond.
Secret 4: Spend the most time on LinkedIn
You’ll no doubt want to prioritize the number of social media applications you’re using; no one has the time or even wants to take the time to be on all of them.
I still advocate LinkedIn as the social media outlet of choice – and I know many accountants will agree with me on this. Facebook and Twitter can be very effective, but the most “professional” application by far is LinkedIn, and I really don’t see this changing any time soon.
Think of the ten-minute rule I already mentioned. That’s all it takes.
Secret 5: Track what you’re doing
Most professionals who participate in social media probably haven’t thought about any concrete ways to measure what they’re doing. When it comes to “engagement,” it can be difficult to figure out whether someone else you “touch” through social media is actually engaged.
Here are three ways to track what you’re doing:
- Set a goal of the number of connections you want to make in any given week or month on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
- Any time you get a referral, spend a few minutes determining where that referral came from. Nine times out of ten, it may have come from good-old-fashioned face-to-face networking, but you can’t always assume that’s the case. If it came from social media, you’ve just made your case!
- Include social media buttons to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and any other application on your website andkeep count of how many clicks you’re getting on these. While this doesn’t show true engagement, you’ll at least get a sense of where you are with regard to visibility.
Bottom Line: Be Yourself
The end results of any social media effort are different for all of us, but who you are as a person is not. The bottom line is to be authentic, genuine, and above all, true to yourself. No one wants to see you hide behind a persona that isn’t you and doesn’t reflect your knowledge or expertise.
If you like humor, than keep it light. If you’re more serious, then go for the facts. Regardless, you will succeed in social media if you invest your time and talents to making it work.