Social media is a hot topic of discussion for businesses across the nation, and for accounting firms in particular as they look for ways to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunities it presents for communicating with clients and prospects, while at the same time making sure that it isn’t drawing employees away from their work or, worse, exposing the firm to online security and reputational risks.

He said: While social media helps us communicate and keep up with current events, it can also be a huge distraction in the workplace. Long gone are the days when the only means of distracting us from work were our office phones. Now social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat are just a few of the ways people can break away, and this list will only continue to grow. It’s certainly a problem because the behavior, if it becomes excessive, cuts into productivity. I’ve heard a lot of partners say they want to ban all use of social media completely during work hours.

She said: Social media has changed the way people communicate and do business. Our social norms in the work place are shifting. A few years ago it was considered bad form to pull out your phone during a business meeting. But today I can sit around a table and see most of my colleagues with a digital device near or in their hand. From updating a calendar, taking a picture of notes from a meeting, or posting an update on Facebook or Twitter, technology and social media in the business world is becoming an everyday practice and a proven way to grow business. Technology is only expanding and growing in the capacity of how we can use it in. To stay ahead, businesses need to stay current with social media and technology trends.

He said: But when does distraction impact the productivity and perhaps profitability of a firm? You can’t give 100 percent attention to the meeting if you are doing something on your phone, tablet or computer. And it’s also hard to remain focused on any project with the constant ding from your phone or computer about a new update or message. I realize that you can’t lock yourself away for eight to 10 hours and not have any contact with family or friends — that’snot realistic. But social media has a prominent, enticing presence, so that people are constantly getting pulled away. And while social media can be great for business growth, it is hard for firm leaders to be sure that their employees are using these platforms in an appropriate and professional way.

She said: Social media has a proven track record for helping businesses grow. Firm leaders should really consider the statistics before banning it all together. Social media is the fastest-growing tool for any customer to find information they need and fast. Statistics show that 97 percent of all consumers search for local businesses online and 82 percent of people trust what they see on social media and are more likely to recommend that service to their friends. They also trust recommendations from their friends they see on social media sites more than what they would find doing their own online research. But you and I both know that people in the workplace are not on social media sites solely to promote the business. The importance is getting your employees to see the impact social media can have on their business and how to use each platform to its full potential.

He said: Social media was originally created as a social outlet. People join various outlets as a means to communicate with family and friends. But it has grown and expanded in the way people and businesses can and should be using it. The goal now for firms is to teach their employees about these changes and try to add professional social media practices into work routines. These platforms can not only help grow a firm but also one’s personal and professional career goals. There is an educational piece that is missing in businesses today. People assume that because everyone is on social media that they know all the ways to use it, and that just isn’t true. It’s critical to educate everyone about social media outlets and how they can be used in a business context.

She said: Firms should definitely be providing training on ways to use social media — from knowing how to use it, tips and tricks within a site that are helpful for them and the business, and time management tools. These are some great training topics to start with. You can’t micro-manage the workplace, so you need to provide some guidelines on personal use of social media during the day as well.

He said: It is also important to set guidelines for the firm. Firms can be held liable for the actions of their employees. Employees must know the consequences of not following any social media guidelines.

They said: There is no doubt that social media is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a useful business tool, but can also become a huge distraction and efficiency-eater in the workplace. It’s important not to micromanage the issue, but instead train everyone in the workplace about ways they can improve their social media activities to benefit not only themselves but the firm, and to set clear guidelines for any use. 

August Aquila is a well-known consultant, retreat facilitator and author. Reach him at (952) 930-1295 or aaquilaa@aquilaadvisors.com. Angie Grissom is president of The Rainmaker Companies, which exclusively serves accounting firms. Reach her at (615) 373-9880 or angie@therainmakercompanies.com.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access