Stop Calling It Social Media!
People often ask me: What makes a radical “New Firm?” There are four fundamental tenets. Although adopted differently within each firm, these four tenets comprise a new set of values that most of the “movement” firms embrace.
Ready? Here they are:
3. Pricing/value; and,
Today, let’s talk about social business. After all, you don’t do social media. You become a social business. Once you get started and it becomes part of your DNA, it will be less about strategy and more about culture.
For those of you who may not be aware, social media is no longer just a marketing tool. It’s a communication tool, a learning tool, and a customer service tool, all in one.
The most important thing to know about a social business is that relationships are being developed in real time, all the time, in the virtual world, whether they happen on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or an internal social network such as Yammer or Slack. Your business relationships are no longer just in person — they cross over into the virtual world as well.
In order to take advantage of these new opportunities, you need to understand the current social media tools and be able to use them well. What’s especially critical to understand, though, is that the social business requires a new acceptance of transparency and openness that most CPAs find uncomfortable. For many professionals, the crossover to a “friend” relationship is difficult. Add in the use of cloud technologies and it’s Practice Management 3.0.
The social business is disruptive to most CPA firms’ core management and cultural philosophies. It disrupts how we communicate in frequency and creates vulnerability. It completely changes how we interact with our teams and our customers. It is authenticity and transparency at its finest — which is terrifying to a traditional CPA firm because firm management loses a sense of control.
Note that I said “sense.”
Employees and customers have always had the option of giving good or bad feedback, but never before would its amplification potentially be exponential.
As you dive in deeper, you’ll be surprised as to what our customers are buying from us, compared with what we’re selling. Most customers are buying a relationship with additional insight into their financial business underwear drawer. They want a trusted business advisor. The relationships have been traditionally built on the golf course, at the club or other “out of the office” type outings, but not anymore.
Today, relationships are built online instead of or along with face-to-face meetings. You can get intimate (in a business sense) much quicker than in the past. The deal can be really sealed on Facebook and signed in the boardroom. Do you want to miss out on that deal, because you didn’t want to “friend” your customer?
Customers buy feelings. They have no idea about your technical skill. They know you have a CPA designation and that’s all they care about. What they want to know and what they are trying to figure out is: Do you treat your customers well? Are you listening? Do you apologize? Are you transparent? What specialized services can you offer them? Whatever you can do to enhance those people-to-people connections using social media is going to give you social business. Figure out a way to have everyone in your firm connecting with the people in their networks. The more tools and the more information you can put out to your team to do social, the better off you are going to be.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP
That said, you should not just insert social business without rethinking and retooling all of your customer communications and processes. If you do, you are wasting the core benefit of social business and what it will bring to your firm’s new core transformation.
Accountants are used to working in the past, and being somewhat slow. But the disruption comes from the real-time possibilities that the social business creates from a business development and customer service perspective. I haven’t even mentioned all the actual learning that takes place on social media from technical content consumption and collaboration with peers.
However, it’s not about a particular social media tool. It’s about the communication and sharing now in real-time, and how you’re going to respond. Your clients’ expectations now have changed. How are you going to deliver the service and make sure they’re happy? What are the expectations you’re going to have to set? What are the new expectations for your team and their workflows and the communication surrounding them? How will you manage these new communications? How will you document and collect them as they become part of your firm documentation? It’s not just that they can communicate anytime or anywhere — their work product will need to account for these communications, internal and external. No longer can you just “save the e-mail.” It now means you will have to develop processes and spaces for all these communications so the knowledge is not lost.
That’s what makes the social business a disrupter to a firm’s old-style communication — yet that is also what makes it awesome for the firm’s team members. They have the ability to learn and grow as professionals so much faster in real time, but only if the firm’s management understands the ability for learning and growth. This doesn’t happen in firms that ban social media — and yes, some firms still do. That’s a hiring issue, not a social media issue.
The social business will no doubt restructure your firm’s communication and workflow. Be prepared, because the first few months are going to be bumpy as you transition. But remember, the bottom line is: The specific technology you use doesn’t matter. It’s how you use the technology to run your firm more efficiently and more effectively to serve your customers and your employees better.
Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is CEO and principal at New Vision CPA Group and author of The Radical CPA.