[IMGCAP(1)]One of the questions I get asked a lot by other practitioners is, “How can I start radicalizing my firm?” My answer is always the same: Take small steps.

Otherwise, believe me, the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. But one small change can lead to a string of others.

 

SOCIAL BUSINESS 101

You are likely well aware of the social movement and the cadre of “crazy” practitioners who are celebrating a new way of doing business. This group of professionals is calling for others to redefine their firms (and lives) by moving away from the traditional business model and incorporating elements like social media into firm processes.

No matter the media format — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram —these communication tools are being applied within the “New Firm” culture. Progressive firms are using these tools to collaborate with clients and communicate with the community in general. It is also how clients are providing their information to firms in real-time. Overall, it is how these firms are staying relevant and keeping the outside world consistently informed and educated about what goes on within their four walls.

 

TAKE ACTION, GET SOCIAL

Becoming a social firm can be accomplished in a variety of ways. First rule of thumb: Don’t tackle all the social media channels at one time. That can be simply overwhelming. Consider how certain platforms could work for you: Do you gravitate toward one more than the other? Where is the audience you want to reach? Here are a few examples of how a firm might use social media channels:

1. Facebook

  • Consistently send out marketing campaigns.
  • Attract new clients.

2. YouTube

  • Send proposals to prospects. (Yes, you read that right!)

3. Facebook and LinkedIn

  • Attract new, qualified talent.
  • Become a thought leader by posting articles (use LinkedIn for this).

4. Twitter

  • Announce key dates, like quarterly estimated payments due (this instantly makes you look like an expert).

5. Any social media channel

  • Foster regular, positive internal staff communications.

The list could go on and on.
Social media outlets can be used alone or in any combination. The key takeaway here is that social technologies hold the power to fundamentally change the way your firm broadly communicates, and how you and your staff interact with one another, clients and prospects.

 

THE BENEFITS OF BEING SOCIAL

CPAs are always trying to get me to quantify what I get from using social media as an engagement tool, aside from just sales. Some don’t understand its inherent value; others think I am just wasting my time.  

They are wrong.

My Twitter presence and ongoing social media banter has paid off. People contact me all the time for my opinion, including editors of large national publications. This past tax season, for example, I was quoted in USA Today. The editor reached out to me directly. She wanted a quote. I did not call her and I don’t have an expensive public relations team trying to get me in national publications. I just have a big mouth, an opinion, and social media presence.

Even if my phone doesn’t ring with a new customer, that’s OK. They saw my article, my name, and the name of my firm, and that all came from my social media presence. That quote directly affects the development of my brand.  And my brand sets me apart from every other firm out there. The ability to close an e-mail with a link that says, “Did you see my quote in USA Today?” is priceless for a sales asset.

 

GET PERSONAL

I have to admit, this type of success feels pretty great. But none of this can happen if you are afraid to open up about yourself.

Just think about how much easier it would be to talk to a prospect if they already knew a little about you — and I mean you, not just the generic newsletter-type information most firms approve for firm team members to post publicly.

They actually get to know you. Yes, this means your likes, your personality, your “selfies.” Each one of us is unique and it’s that uniqueness that makes others “like” you. People do business with people. They always have. Consumers today want to know you at a “friend” level. By watching an individual’s social stream, the followers are able to pick up that you are a nice and friendly guy — and can make smart comments about business. Followers quickly become “friends.”

 

THINGS GET REAL

When I say this, I mean that your life is about to get way more transparent.

But that isn’t a bad thing.

It’s important to note that for some accounting firms, there is the fear of being too transparent. It is true that a lot of what you are doing is available online when you actively use social media.

You have to make sure you are OK with this, but you also have to understand that it’s not so much a business-to-business world anymore. We are living in a business-to-individual world, where more companies are putting it all out there and sharing information with clients and prospects to appeal to them on a “friend” level. This helps to build rapport, trust and loyalty. Consumers want to get to know those they are doing business with; it just feels good. In other words, it’s okay to get personal.

I believe the ability to get personal is what makes social media so powerful. It’s a matter of ensuring that communications are appropriate and contain the right message in order to draw individuals closer to you. If you do this, something magical happens: You draw clients who share similar values.

It won’t happen overnight, but I guarantee if you give social a chance, you will see similar events unfolding for you as well.

 

YOU GOT THIS!

Based on all that’s been discussed here, have you noticed that social media isn’t so much about marketing as it is about the pace of information-sharing and the deeper level of communication? This is what has rocked the boat and disrupted the old firm model, because old ways of doing business simply don’t meet today’s customers’ needs. Consumers are social — they research products and services via social media channels. Consumers are hungry for information and they find it within the social space.

Social media and how to apply it in today’s new firms is one of my favorite topics for discussions because I know it is where the new generation of clients “live.”

Social media is a powerful tool; firms just need to invest the time in figuring out how to use social networking so that it is a good, positive fit within their firm operations. Follow me to learn more about social media and the power it offers today’s fast-moving firms.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is CEO and principal at New Vision CPA Group and author of The Radical CPA. Follw her at @jodypadarcpa.

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