[IMGCAP(1)] I’ve personally never been to an event at my local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. I’ve not even been to a BNI (Business Networking International) meeting. And, honestly, I have no desire to attend any of them. My life is already crazy busy, so I choose not to add more to my calendar. Besides, how many chicken dinners can one person consume?!

There’s also the cost of membership and the time commuting to events that I find hard to swallow. That said, I am a big proponent of networking, and as a partner, it’s up to me to “make it rain.” I simply choose to use networking tools that provide me with far more reach into a focused prospect pool.

I know where the future of my practice lies—and it’s with the Gen X and Gen Y’ers. So the big question is, how do I network to capture this market? The answer is (yep, you guessed it): social media. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are simple, convenient, and there is absolutely no risk of getting chicken grease on your pants! More importantly, cyberspace is where my Gen X and Gen Y prospects live, putting them within easy reach.

I find it very interesting that so many firms today want to limit their staff and managers on the use of social media. I think they simply don’t understand that Twitter and Facebook are today’s version of the Chamber of Commerce or Happy Hour at the popular local bar…just on steroids.

Think about it…social media makes everything so easy. You are not limited to prospects within your geographic area or a once-a-month meeting or event, but instead you have unlimited reach into a large pool of prospects. And with a little fine-tuning, you can attract those within the niches you desire.

I’ve talked to partners in many firms about social media, and I always hear the same reasons for resisting the use of new media applications. Partners are worried that staff will misrepresent the firm, or they don’t see any ROI. Here are my responses to these all too familiar arguments:

1.    If you are afraid your staff will misrepresent the firm via social media, what makes you think they won’t misrepresent you at onsite events? It’s really more a matter of hiring the right employees, not where they socialize.

2.    You want ROI? Okay, but only if you can tell me the ROI of the last COC Chicken Dinner you attended.

With “client retention” as the number one concern of most firms, it’s time partners started thinking differently about how they attract new business. My firm has tripled in size over the past four years, and this during a recession. Why? Because I accept the shifts that are occurring and adjust my firm to take advantage of new trends.

First, the distribution of wealth is progressively shifting to Gen X and Y’ers—representing a profitable pool of prospects. I aggressively go after this market demographic.

Second, I realize where these prospects live—on the Internet—so I’ve also implemented social media into my broad marketing strategy. I’ve made Facebook and Twitter a standard part of my workweek. I’ve also opened use of social media tools to my staff, giving them incentive to be a part of the firm’s growth.

I suggest that you do the same in your firm…allowing staff to use tools that they are familiar with like Twitter and Facebook. Maybe even take it a step further by offering incentives to “sell” business. You might be surprised at the number of rainmakers you have in your firm. Trust your staff to represent your firm through social media. With a little time and patience you will experience ROI, and all without having to consume a single chicken leg.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. Reach her at jody@matousekconsulting.com.