Twitter has taken the Internet by storm. Like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter hosts a growing community of CPAs and financial professionals, but unlike its social-networking peers, the microblogging Web site limits users’ messages, questions and conversations to 140 characters (including spaces). To put this limit into perspective, this paragraph has 425 characters—more than three times Twitter’s character limit for posts.
Despite Twitter’s requirement to “keep it brief,” CPA firms, practitioners and state societies are using Twitter to market their organizations and reach potential clients and members. Here, CPA practitioners and state CPA societies share why and how they’re using Twitter and what benefits they’re reaping from their social media investment.
Donna Bordeaux, CPA/PFS
Bordeaux & Bordeaux CPAs PA, Lake Wylie, S.C.
“We utilize Twitter to keep current on the pulse of what is going on locally and in our industry. It is a fun and easy way to meet new people who could someday be your clients and may not know you exist. We have obtained two new clients by their awareness of us in Twitter and have received a few mentions in blogs based on our social media presence.
“ Our Tweets are a combination of business and personal comments. If you always post about business, you seem like you are always wearing the ‘selling’ hat. Twitter and other forms of social media are really for awareness-building rather than direct sales. To be authentic, you really have to show all facets of yourself.
“ I always suggest that my clients get involved slowly into the social media formats. We suggest LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter—in that order. Just like you would at a large meeting, listen and learn a bit before diving in. Start following some interesting local people and people in your industry. Pick up some interesting tidbits and then add in hashtags, direct messaging and re-Tweets.”
“Through Twitter, I’m more informed about today’s news and issues than ever. I am able to follow the people whose opinions I respect and no longer need to hunt for the information I want. It’s delivered right to me. It’s also a way for me to be in front of the people that potentially could be clients or referral sources without being too disruptive. I can build trust even before I have ever worked with them.
“Twitter is different than the other social networks. Others like LinkedIn and Facebook usually require a prior relationship before you connect. Twitter doesn’t require that prior relationship, and it allows for trust and respect to be earned with colleagues that you have no prior connection with. Personally, I have expanded my network exponentially with very little effort and, hopefully, provide some value to those I am now connected with.”
Heather L. Fitzpatrick, CPA
“As a CPA who works as a consultant serving CPA firms, I have found Twitter to be quite useful for my practice. I have found references to articles and other resources that are of interest to clients, and the endorsement of a Twitter peer saves me time reviewing for quality. I have also connected with others focused on managing professional service firms through Twitter, and have seen some interesting ideas surface in those 140 characters. Finally, it’s been helpful to my volunteer roles within organizations, which also helps me from a business perspective.”
“I’ve had a surge in inquiries from CPA firms asking how to incorporate Twitter into their marketing initiatives. We have been working with some of those organizations to integrate Twitter into their media relations efforts, in particular. While they haven’t necessarily seen a financial return on their efforts yet, they are starting to understand the connection between Twitter and the traditional press.
Crystal Knight, CPA
Vestal & Wiler CPAs, Orlando, Fla.
“I joined Twitter because it’s a powerful information tool where I can scan the latest headlines, not just the accounting industry but the industries our firm services. In addition, Twitter is a great tool to expand my professional network and make existing professional relationships stronger. If I’m ever stumped on something, I have a whole network of CPAs I can Tweet a question to who can give me an immediate response.”
STATE CPA SOCIETIES
“[On Twitter,] news is shared faster than before. Our members and staff are reading business and accounting headlines as they are happening and commenting on how that news impacts their firms, companies and clients. [What] we Tweet about should add value to the community of users and facilitate greater conversation between CPAs and the people who can benefit from their expertise—media, business leaders and the general public.
“OSCPA membership is very diverse, and members like receiving their news in different ways. We continue to reach out to them through traditional, one-way communiqués—print and e-mail. But we’ve also found that integrating our messages through social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn helps us engage more members in two-way conversations. It is a valuable way to get direct feedback from individual members about their needs and interests.”
“We decided to join the Twittersphere shortly after activating our Facebook account because it is another way of engaging our members and nonmembers and providing information we think CPAs would want to know. Not only do we Tweet and re-Tweet news items about or related to the profession, but we inform our followers about upcoming society events and CPE courses and post follow-up items about society events. If we get nonmembers to become interested in the society because they saw us on Twitter, all the better.
“In the spring, we held our annual Strategic Leadership Forum for our core volunteer leaders, and I was able to Tweet about the speakers we were listening to—including AICPA Chairman Ernie Almonte—right from my phone.”
“Twitter helps us develop relationships with members, peers and media. We’ve pitched stories using Twitter, reporters have contacted us through Twitter, and we’ve even had some publicity on local radio stations because of our Tweets. Plus, through some discussion Tweets, we’ve found new vendors that can provide services to meet our needs.
“We have been able to use the social networks as recruitment tools for student and associate (CPA Examination candidate) members. We have a renewed emphasis on recruiting and retaining younger members. We feel that in order to keep those members engaged with us, we also need to be socially engaged with them on some levels. More than anything, though, we need to be where they are and communicate in their language, using their tools.”
“By using Twitter, the Society has been able to listen to and monitor what is being said about the organization and the profession. It allows us to stay connected in real time with other professional organizations and state CPA societies and use them as a network of resources and collaboration. By creating brand awareness through Twitter and other social media, it helps us to build relationships with the public. It’s an excellent way to engage members, network, share information, move people to action, and most of all, listen to and learn what their needs are and how you can meet them.”
The Indiana CPA Society’s public relations and social media manager, Jenifer Groth, also Tweets at twitter.com/jlgroth.
“Twitter is another way to communicate with our members both young and old about accounting information and FICPA events. We’ve set up an interview with an FICPA past president as a result of Twitter. We also connected with an accounting student in South Florida who asked a question about the FICPA. We were able to respond and created a better relationship with a future CPA."
@Reply: A public message sent in response to a Tweet.
Direct Message: A private message sent to a Twitterer.
DM : Short for direct message.
Feed : Your posts on Twitter are commonly referred to as your “feed.” To view users’ feeds, visit the Twitter profile page by typing the username after “twitter.com/.” For example, the JofA’s feed is at twitter.com/AICPA_JofA.
Follower: A Twitter user who follows your Twitter feed. When someone is following you, your Tweets appear on their Twitter home page.
Hashtags : User-generated tags that denote groupings on Twitter of popular, commonly referenced items such as #tax, #CPA or #jobs. Because of Twitter’s character limit, hashtags are often used to reference events that users are Tweeting from or about. For example, Tweets posted by attendees of the AICPA’s Tech+ Conference in June included the hashtag #techplus as an alternative to writing out the name of the conference. You can follow these tags in real time at hashtags.org .
Re-Tweet: Reposting a Tweet word-for-word while giving credit to the original Twitterer. A re-Tweet usually appears as “RT @username:” followed by the original Tweet. For example, if the JofA re-Tweets a post from The Tax Adviser, it would appear as “RT @TheTaxAdviser: IRS releases draft 2009 Form 1040 on its website.”
An exception to this is when the post you’re re-Tweeting is close to the 140-character limit and adding an attribution to the original Twitterer would push it over 140 characters. In this case, it is necessary to edit the original post by abbreviating words, dates, locations, etc. Twitter will not let you post re-Tweets with more than 140 characters. Because re-Tweeting is popular, it’s wise to write Tweets that are less than 120 characters to allow for easy re-Tweeting by your followers.
Tweet (noun): A post or message sent on Twitter.
Tweet (verb): The act of posting to Twitter.