In this Generational Viewpoints article, we asked members of Casey Peterson & associates ltd. (www.caseypeterson.com), a rapid City, s.d.-based accounting firm with two offices and approximately 50 employees, to share their perspectives regarding social media. Generation X senior-incharge Kayce Gerlach, born in 1979, and Baby Boomer president Casey Peterson, born in 1953, replied to the following question:
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"How important is social media as it relates to marketing your firm?"
GERLACH'S GEN X VIEWPOINT
Social media is a great way to build a brand, and it's not uncommon to get consumed by the instantaneous communication of reaching so many more people at one time than we ever could before with our marketing.
As CPAs, we need to explore these new media, but also remember that it's one piece in a larger picture of the firm's marketing plan. It's easy to get wrapped up in the novelty of technology and forget that its utilization should come with a well-crafted strategy. Traditionally, firms encourage referral development through mixers and lunches. These are the face-to-face interactions that have helped make our firms successful. We should not abandon these methods, but instead enhance them through a dedicated effort in social media.
If a firm encourages its professionals to have a LinkedIn profile, each professional should commit to using this medium to the best of its abilities. This is analogous to working out. If you want to get in shape, you need to exercise and make a commitment to going to the gym a certain number of times each week - no excuses. Maintaining a profile and maximizing its use requires scheduled "workouts." Each time will be a little easier, and eventually you will find your stride.
Society seems to be changing to e-mail, text and Internet communication in lieu of the in-person meeting or picking up the phone. I don't believe that it's possible to build our business without face-to-face interaction. Social media builds touch points, but a marketing plan should entail building both online and live relationships, too. I currently struggle to keep this balance in check. Face-to-face interaction is easier for me, and I know this goes against what is expected for my age. I just prefer to interact live. I also find blogging to be much more preferable than LinkedIn because you can be strategic with each posting, and it allows for more interactivity, which is a better fit for me.
I will continue to strive for balance in my live and social media relationships. This balance may look different for me than it does for others. We need to focus on what's providing results for each of us as a professional. Our goal is to never lose sight of the big picture for our firm's brand and make sure that all of our interactions add value for others.
PETERSON'S BOOMER VIEWPOINT
The trend today is quickly moving from traditional to social media. Our class of future leaders will take this trend to the next level.
We encourage team members to participate in professional social media sites like LinkedIn. We also have a company Facebook page for college recruiting. Roughly half of our staff is currently on LinkedIn. The objective is for our professionals to continue to build their referral network and have a forum for showcasing their skills - a natural extension of their current face-to-face networking. Time spent on this activity is included in each of their marketing plans, and our marketing director provides learning lunches and individual training.
I visit LinkedIn once a day to read my network's updates, and try to post articles about taxes, tax tips, and the economy on a weekly basis. I peruse the "People You May Know" feature as a way to add contacts. LinkedIn is a great tool to stay on top of the accounting trends, as well as other professions and industries. I have realized tangible results for growth by using LinkedIn. For example, I recently received a call from a prospect because of one of my postings.
I plan to implement a blog based on an ethics column I wrote for our newsletter, and our health care initiative team will start a blog as well. We are also planning to implement a company Twitter page, to which I will be a contributor. Our goal is to have all of our staff fully engaged in social media by 2015. This will expand our contacts, followers and fans. In fact, my LinkedIn network has grown exponentially to include almost 10,000 potential contacts! If we project that growth to over 50 employees, it's easy to see the type of logarithmic web of contacts we could see - from leads to referral sources, clients, and general business contacts. Although face-to-face contact is critical to our success, a simple posting on LinkedIn helps me reach all of my contacts within seconds. This adds a new dimension to our firm's marketing.
Over three years ago, we shifted our entire marketing focus from general awareness advertising to specific targets in the areas we serve. The shotgun media approach is dead. Although we're not at the edge of this movement, we are beginning to develop our "brand" on social media - one contact at a time.
This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Gen X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that helps CPA firms achieve success. To have your firm's viewpoints considered for a future column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.