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TECHNOLOGY 2012 PREVIEW

Social Media

 

By Jeff Drew
November 9, 2011
Technology Preview 2012

With 2012 just around the corner, the JofA gathered the three technology keynote speakers from the AICPA’s 2011 Practitioners Symposium/TECH+ Conference to talk about tech trends heading into the new year. The nearly 90-minute conversation covered a wide range of technical issues critical to all CPAs.

Participating in the call were:

  • David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, aka Inspector Gadget, a principal with Arxis Technology.
  • Randy Johnston, executive vice president of both Network Management Group Inc. and K2 Enterprises.
  • Rick Richardson, CPA/CITP, founder and CEO of Richardson Media & Technologies.


Moderating the call were:

  • J. Carlton Collins, technology and accounting systems consultant and author of the JofA’s monthly Technology Q&A column.
  • Jeff Drew, senior editor covering technology for the JofA.


The JofA is presenting the online version of the conversation in 10 installments released over a nearly two-month span. Each part focuses on one major topic and features audio clips from the conversation. Part six delves into the do's and don'ts of social media.

The complete schedule is available at the bottom of this article and at journalofaccountancy.com/tech.


Collins: Let’s jump over to a new topic here, social media. And this is a topic that has mixed reviews from CPAs. A lot of CPAs think social media is a complete waste of time. I actually used to be a CPA that thought that way myself, but I’ve come around. I’ve figured out that who you know matters and these social media solutions really can dramatically affect who you know and who you connect with. So I’m kind of a believer in them now, and maybe a lot of CPAs are in the same boat I was in a few years ago. So a few questions here are probably warranted. Dave, why don’t we start with you? … What recommendations would you offer CPAs who are not active with social media, and what compelling reasons can you offer for giving it a try?

AudioAudio: Click here to listen to Dave Cieslak discuss the benefits of social media for CPAs and how CPAs can get started on social media sites.

David CieslakCieslak: Great question, Carlton, and I guess my answer is quite simply just two words. It’s jump in. And I think a lot of traditional and longtime CPAs kind of share the—kind of the same perspective maybe you had until not too long ago, and I think we did, and I think many of us did, and that is, you know, don’t really understand it, don’t get the point. You know, we’re in a relationship business, and we want to be able to shake hands and look people eye to eye.

But really, social media’s just one more way that we’re able to connect and to uncover opportunities. So I think it’s not a replacement, I think it’s in addition to the rest of our marketing efforts. So I really do look at social media and say it’s a key piece. And honestly, it’s the way that we’ll say the next generation is already not only comfortable with it, but that’s the way they want to do a lot of that initial discovery work, a lot of that initial awareness and information and fact gathering.

So it really—social media does a lot of things for us. It gives us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as subject matter experts. So I always tell folks, if you’re going to set up a Twitter account, then make sure you Tweet. Don’t just set it up and kind of poke at it for a little bit and then abandon it. Do it, and do it with an active strategy to Tweet regularly and distinguish yourself as someone who is a subject matter expert. People want to hear from you. And along those same lines, don’t set up an account and just regurgitate what someone else has to say. If I want to hear what someone else has to say, I’ll subscribe to their Tweets, to their Twitter account. I’m subscribing to yours because I want to hear what you have to say.

And I know I’ve picked on Twitter, but I mean LinkedIn, I think, is a key part of this. Google+ is a brand-new offering, and it looks like it’s got some real potential. So before you just dismiss social media as nothing more than Facebook and a waste of time and something you do personally, I think, again, you need to look at it in a new way and look at it as something that supports or complements your existing marketing strategy and not something that somehow or another is a waste of time.

Collins: Thank you, Dave. Rick, let me ask you a question, if you’ll allow me to pin you down. I’d like to ask which social media solutions you actually use, and can you give me one example of how it’s benefited your organization?

AudioAudio: Click here to listen as Rick Richardson and Randy Johnston discuss how they use social media and how other CPA firms can benefit from using social media sites.

Rick Richardson

Richardson: Sure can. I’ve got four. I’m on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and Google+. I’m not on Twitter, and I tell people that I just don’t like being followed, so that’s kind of the reason I’m not on Twitter. It also is such that because most of my work is either one-on-one strategic or in a large-based training mode, that I just didn’t think Twitter fit for me. I may at some point add it to the arena, but right now it’s not there.

I can tell you, I got my first engagement six months ago from LinkedIn. I think the company that hired me knew of me before that, but they actually found me using LinkedIn. So it was one of those situations where it’s not like typing somebody’s name in Google. There’s a lot more to it than that, and people that, before they even maybe make a contact, want to kind of check you out. And a lot of these services offer the ability to get opinion and comment from a lot of sources before you’re ever contacted yourself. And I was quite flattered when they did contact me, and it turned out into a nice engagement.

Collins: Hey, thank you, Rick. I’m kind of in the same boat you are. I’ve had a Twitter account for about 18 months, but I’ve only Tweeted four times, so I don’t think I’m really up and running on Twitter. Randy, let me ask you a slightly different question with social media. Do you think that a CPA firm, or a CPA in a company, for that matter, should create its own social media page for its organization, or should it just rely on the social media pages created by the individuals within the organization?

Randy Johnston

Johnston: Well, Carlton, I have a pretty strong opinion on this, having been coaching people through the process for some years. I believe it is wise for all individuals to have their own pages, and I believe it’s also wise for businesses, whether it’s a CPA firm or an industry business, to have their own page, often monitored and maintained by the marketing department. There are a number of tools that we believe should be used together, and you do need social media content on your Web page to do the best possible placement with search engine optimization. So having RSS feeds and YouTube videos, just to name two, on your Web page can make a huge difference with search results. But we’re equally as concerned about having a social media policy, so just like we want an Internet policy or a mobile phone policy or records retention policy, we’d like to have a social media policy as well.

Now, we have created a social networking cookbook on how to set up a lot of these things, very simple, and we can supply that through the AICPA to our listeners today, and I would just suggest that it does not take a lot of effort to set the social media pages up. I would go so far as to say it will probably take you less effort if you do this right than your traditional professional reading effort. So I absolutely believe you should have a firm page, and I absolutely believe you should have individual pages.

Collins: Excellent, Randy. Let me ask a follow-up question. You say that you should promote your social media pages through search engines. Are you an advocate of subscribing to these pay services, such as Google AdWords, to help drive an audience to your social media website?

Johnston: They can make a difference, but I’m not a proponent of that. I usually recommend using lower spending thresholds for that. There are some additional pieces that you can do with search engine optimization that can help you as well, and so this really is a multi-front strategy. Just like I wouldn’t recommend that you only place Yellow Pages (ads) or that you only went to the country club to make networking contacts, you need to really think about little, steady pressure in all of these areas and focus on what your market strategies are, who your target clients are, and if you really want to have location-specific data (so) that you can be found locally. Or if you’re offering more, like probably all three of us on the phone--Rick, David and I--where you’re operating nationally, you’ve got to have a little different strategy to be found nationally.

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