In today’s digitally driven world, properly utilizing social media is necessary for companies who want to remain relevant and competitive—and that includes accounting firms. With so many opportunities for growth and relationship-building, social media provides a unique platform for long-term success.

Why is social media necessary?

As we all know, social media has changed the way we receive and exchange information—and it is not a fad that will end anytime soon. It’s the new word-of-mouth marketing. It’s how your prospects and clients network.

Just as emerging technology changes your daily workflow, it also impacts the way you interact with prospective and existing clients. Your social presence, or lack thereof, can be critical to your firm’s continuity. Today’s conversations, research and buying decisions take place online. This means social media is no longer optional as a communication channel—it’s essential.

Many of your clients, future clients and recruits have grown up with digital technology and they expect you to use it. According to Forbes, 46 percent of all U.S. workers will be Millennials by 2020. By 2025, Millennials could make up 75 percent of the workforce. And it’s not only young people who demand a social media presence. Older generations have caught on to the digital wave and are embracing it, too. According to Fast Company, the fastest growing age demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 age range.

How well your brand is represented on social media will determine how you’re perceived by prospects, clients and recruits. So, will your firm be viewed as stodgy and behind the times, or advanced and up-to-date? If you yearn for the latter, consider these tips.

1. Leverage news and thought leadership.

Social media users show a distinct preference for hyper-relevant, in-the-moment content over regurgitated updates or retrospective posts. In addition, most social media newsfeed algorithms now prioritize posts based on a degree of perceived relevance, rather than based on the time of publication.

So, think about what’s happening in the world now that your followers would be interested in. Write up your own insights and post your comments when sharing news stories. Remember, the type of content you post has a direct effect on the engagement and success of your social campaign.

2. Impart emotion and inspiration.

Many accountants shy away from “personal” marketing messages because they believe it will make them appear less serious, professional or respectable. However, the opportunities for incorporating personality into your marketing (without coming across as silly) are endless and need not alter your standing as a credible, reputable firm. In fact, clients embrace personality and seek out providers who demonstrate their humanity through their communications.

There is no secret formula for showcasing personality in your marketing. Essentially, it involves bringing light, life and fun to the topic at hand. Wit, humor, light-heartedness, genuineness and relatability are all quality ingredients for a personality pie.

3. Utilize the power of video.

The rise in popularity of video has significantly impacted how we consume and deliver content. According to Cisco, traffic from online videos will constitute over 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. That’s not hard to believe, considering 78 percent of people watch online videos every week and 55 percent watch videos every day.

Here are a few tips for using video on your social media platforms:

• Keep videos under two minutes.

• Announce live videos in advance on multiple platforms to get the word out and increase viewership.

• Make sure you can be heard; get an external microphone if necessary and record your video in a quiet location.

• Don’t read your dialogue. Know what you’re going to say and say it naturally, as if in conversation with your audience.

• Be yourself. No one likes a stiff, robotic presentation.

• Add captions. According to Digiday, nine out of 10 videos are watched without sound.

4. Take advantage of recruiting power.

How your firm approaches recruiting new talent to join your team has changed dramatically with the evolution of social media. Expensive, outside recruiters are being used less and less. With the proliferation of social media recruiting tools (especially on sites like LinkedIn), it is easier than ever to attract and vet potential candidates without the need to hire outside help or place expensive advertisements.

Remember to make sure that your content appeals equally to prospects and potential associates in order to maximize your recruiting power.

5. Focus on visuals.

Visual content marketing is more successful than any other form of communication. What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are.

On a related note, how you use graphics greatly affects how you and your business are perceived. Color visuals increase willingness to read a piece of content by 80 percent and graphics increase comprehension, recollection and retention.

Readers pay attention to images that carry information and provide directions or instructions. For example, infographics are very popular on social media and get shared three times more than any other type of content. Consider sharing infographics on tax topics that are interesting and compelling.

In the end, social media should be a part of the strategy of all accounting firms. When properly leveraged, it can open doors and unlock opportunities for deeper relationships, stronger growth and ultimately enhanced profitability.

Becca Fieler

Becca Fieler

Becca Fieler is marketing manager, Checkpoint Marketing for Firms, with the Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting Business.