Accounting: Best Social Media Applications for the Accounting Industry
All the popular social media tools including blogs, microblogs such as Twitter, and social networks including LinkedIn and Facebook can prove valuable for marketing oneself in an increasingly interconnected online world. LinkedIn is the professional social network of choice. Do a quick search of "accountant" on LinkedIn, and you'll see that CPAs abound on the service. Establishing your LinkedIn profile is easy. You can even create a company listing for your business. Both listings will eventually show up prominently on Google searches of your name so make sure to set them up with care.
You can enhance your LinkedIn profile with a feed from your blog if you publish one, a list of relevant books through the Amazon Reads application that plugs into your profile, embed slide presentations that you've made related to your expertise using the Slideshare application. You can even publish polls to your profile. When you publish a poll on LinkedIn, you can also share it with your contacts, or for a fee - minimum $50 - you can target your poll to other professionals on the LinkedIn network. Use polls to survey others on the network to gain some insights as to the needs and concerns of potential clients. Publishing polls on LinkedIn can also draw attention to you and people may click over to your profile to find out more about you. Polls become marketing opportunities on LinkedIn.
Also on LinkedIn is a section called LinkedIn Answers. You can ask questions of your own immediate LinkedIn contacts to get more detailed responses than a poll and to touch base with your contacts in an interesting way that isn't a solicitation to do business. You can also go the Answers section and choose to answer some questions posed by other LinkedIn users. By selecting the category Finance and Accounting, you can immediately hone in on questions in your area of expertise and drill down even further into topic areas such as auditing, budgeting, corporate taxes and risk management. Typical questions include "What is the easiest way to combine multiple 401k's?" and "Do you use particular software for your budgeting, forecasting and reporting needs?"
As you answer more questions on LinkedIn, you can gain a rating on the service that sets you apart as an authority. Take care to answer questions taking a more general and neutral stance rather than trying to solve someone's financial woes.
You can manage your social media communications on the more popular social networks including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic Desktop, which have a Web interface, desktop software you can download to your computer and mobile versions for access and monitoring on the go.
One social network that is more industry-specific to network with peers is Hubstreet, a social network for lawyers, accountants and lenders. You can create a profile, engage in topic-specific conversations within affinity groups, upload videos, and post updates similar to Facebook or Twitter. There is also the ARNE community, which stands for Accountant's Resource Network, geared toward tax and accounting professionals and hosted by Thomson Reuters, the tax software company.
Other social networks where you may want to set up a presence are social networks geared toward your typical client. If you work mostly with small business owners and your practice is also a small business, look at networks such as Sprouter for startups or BizNik for independent consultants. These are more intimate settings than Facebook and Twitter where you can publish information, interact more directly with others, and build a profile with a more highly targeted audience.
No matter where you decide to establish a presence in social media channels, commit to maintaining them appropriately and regularly to put forward a professional image and showcase your know-how. Consistency and good content helps to build trust.