* Social Media: What's This Got to Do with Me?

 

 


 

Social Media: What's This Got to Do with Me?

By Caitlin Q. Bailey, Assistant Editor

Everyone’s talking about social media today. But do you need it, and how do you use it? With just a little bit of effort (I promise, it can be done in less than five minutes a day), you can build a home for your loyal clients while attracting new ones.

Websites: You need one.

OK, it’s not entirely social media. But if you’re going to really get on the bandwagon, you need a website. All social media sites have a place you can insert your website link – giving potential clients an easy way to find out more about you.

It may be my (young) age or it may be my occupation showing here, but I toss those Yellow Books as soon as they hit my doorstep. Whether I’m searching for takeout, the nearest car service center, or (if I didn’t work where I do) a CPA, I head straight to Google. With that mindset, if you don’t have a website, I don’t know about you.

According to our database, only 169 firms that have employees linked to them have a website on record with us. 169. Not a lot, considering that we have more than 2,700 active firms in our database!

True, you may have a website and not tell us. But if you DO tell us, it shows up in places that may drive additional traffic to your website and gain you some new clients. If you have your URL on file with us, it’ll show up in the online member directory – and, if you’ve signed up to be listed – in the Locate a CPA search engine.

The Locate a CPA directory at www.ctcpas.org/locateacpa is the most fundamental form of social media we’ve got here. The public lands on our website, looking for a CPA; they search for a specific CPA, or they just search for someone local who’s got the expertise to fulfill a need. They find your firm, and the simple, basic information you can put on our website: name, contact information, services offered, and a brief biography. BUT let’s say you have your website URL on file. Right away, you’re giving your prospective client a window into your world and brand with that simple but oh-so-effective link.

A website can do wonderful things for your company – put it everywhere you can! If your firm isn’t in the Locate a CPA directory (participation is completely voluntary), fill out the “Update Your Listing” form at www.ctcpas.org/locateacpa.  

Facebook

What is it?

Today’s most popular networking site began as a purely social forum, although it’s been gradually gaining steam on a professional basis. The demographics have changed as well. Facebook was originally designed by Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg and his friends as a social site for Harvard; it was then rolled out to other Ivy League schools and gradually released to include all colleges.

The site grew further when it opened up to high school students and then to anyone and everyone over the age of 13. Today, facebook.com has more than 300 million users. Zuckerberg, despite some controversy with the site, was named one of Time Magazine’s “World’s Most Influential People” in 2008.

How does CSCPA use it?

We have a CSCPA fan page! If you’re a fan of the Connecticut Society of CPAs (and we hope you are!) you’ll get special deals, invites, photos from recent events, and exciting news. It’ll be just a couple of updates a week that’ll show up on your personal newsfeed.

To become a fan, log in to www.facebook.com, search for “CSCPA,” and when you see the “Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants (CSCPA)” page, click “Become a fan.”

The CSCPA Technology Committee also maintains its own Facebook group.

How can my business use it?

Facebook businesses were initially split between fan pages and groups, but the consensus seems to be swinging in favor of fan pages.

Fan pages work much like profiles – you supply the content about your brand or business, and it gets pushed out to consumers that are your “fans.” Add photos, news, events, and more – although people can start discussions and comment on your wall, you control the majority of the content.

Unlike a group, which encourages participation and discussion, fan pages require less of your consumers. All they need to do is show their support and get your updates! When someone either becomes a fan or joins a group, that status will show on his or her profile page, indicating to all of his or her friends that your company has received the stamp of approval.

There are a few more distinctions between fan pages and groups: groups are considered to be an extension of the person that started or administrates the group, while fan pages are considered separate entities. If you have a fan page, you don’t need to list yourself as an administrator – which would link those interested to your personal profile, including any unprotected photos and information.

Both open groups and fan pages are indexed by search engines. That means that if someone Googles your company name, you’ll reach a wider audience outside of the Facebook arena.

LinkedIn

What is it?

An online resume site with potential to connect with colleagues and clients, LinkedIn is the most business-oriented of the social media sites. It’s also more static; while Facebook hopes for more interactivity between friends, you can create a LinkedIn profile and not look at it for weeks or months.

How does CSCPA use it?

LinkedIn is the society’s only social media that’s entirely driven by the members. Kudos to Nat D’Agostino for taking the initiative to set up a group for our members in 2008!

Since our group is member-driven, it’s up to you to decide how you use it. Members post events, relevant news stories, and even jobs, opening up topics for discussion.

To get linked in, visit www.linkedin.com and set up your profile. Once you’re ready, search for the “CSCPA (Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants)” group and click “Join this group.” D’Agostino will accept you into the group.

How can my business use it?

Keep in mind that LinkedIn is more of an individual social media tool. The information posted for your profile is about you: your educational background, past work experience, interests, etc. Essentially, it’s an online resume – that happens to come up fairly high in Google search results and can be viewed by clients, companies, and friends and colleagues past and present.
If you find yourself between opportunities, get on LinkedIn. It’s a place where you can get yourself and your qualifications out there in a truly professional way, without needing to worry about embarrassing or unflattering photos, inappropriate comments from friends, and the other issues that could arise from personal/professional hybrid sites like Facebook.

Although the site is primarily individual, if you create personal credibility, you create credibility for your company – which, of course, you’re linked to.

Let’s say Joe Smith, CPA works for ABC Accounting. He fills out the profile – and then does some searching to link to past classmates, coworkers … and clients. Voila – before you know it, Joe’s got hundreds of “connections.” People can write recommendations about him that all of those connections can see. And they can see what he’s doing.

Join some groups that are related to your niches – and participate! Post articles, contribute to discussions, answer questions. You’ll come across as someone who knows what he or she’s talking about and cares enough to help others solve problems. That assumption will bode well for you and for your company.

Getting Linked In with Nat D’Agostino

A Q&A with CSCPA member Nat D’Agostino, who established and maintains the CSCPA LinkedIn group.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

[I’m a] senior tax analyst at United Technologies Corporation. I assist tax management at each of the aerospace companies (i.e. Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, and Sikorsky) with various tax planning initiatives and M&A support. I’m also a member of the tax department’s Education & Training Committee.

What do you like about social media?

What I like most about social media is the ease in which you can reconnect with long-lost friends, old college buddies, and former coworkers. In addition to finding past acquaintances, social media offers you the ability to network with a multitude of people who share your interests, whether personally or professionally, without being bound by geographic limitations.

What social media sites do you use, either personally or professionally?

Personally, Facebook; professionally, LinkedIn.

What led you to start the CSCPA group on LinkedIn?

Other state CPA societies were represented on LinkedIn, so I felt the CSCPA deserved to have its own group too.

What’s your goal for the group – what do you hope it accomplishes?

My original intention for starting the group was to simply have it serve as a bulletin board of sorts to highlight upcoming CSCPA events for all membership levels (i.e. registered Connecticut CPAs, Pledges, affiliates, and staff). Over time the group has evolved into a forum where members share ideas and discuss current events impacting the accounting profession and the financial industry as a whole.

The group’s purpose has expanded further by offering an effective job posting tool. This new functionality is timely and invaluable given the current state of the economy. All members can post accounting or finance positions on the job posting page. I have even granted access to a limited number of professional recruiters so CSCPA members can take advantage of every resource available to secure employment in this tough job market. I actually had one CPA from North Carolina contact me expressing an interest to relocate to Connecticut. I was able to connect her with a couple recruiters in the area with minimal effort.

What would you tell people who are leery of social networking sites?

Like many people new to social networking sites, I was skeptical at first. After trying a couple, however, I realized that they really do provide value. If you’re concerned about privacy or confidentiality issues, then don’t divulge anything that could haunt you later (e.g. provocative political opinions, pictures of your 21st birthday, etc.); common sense goes a long way! Like anything, social media is what you make of it. Your level of involvement is strictly up to you. I recommend perusing a couple sites at your leisure, then joining one that appeals to you. If you still aren’t satisfied, you can opt out anytime free-of-charge.

Twitter

What is it?

Your thoughts on life – in 140 characters or less. Others sign up to “follow” you and read your posts, and you can also sign up to follow others.

How does CSCPA use it?

We’re relatively new on Twitter, but we try and have some fun! On Twitter, we’re not selling you anything (most of the time) and we’re not always giving you the latest IRS news release. We’re giving you photos of our latest (fun!) events, like our UConn football tailgate and our loft fundraiser. We’re giving you fun member perks like a 15-percent-off Macy’s coupon and discounted tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We’re giving you news that relates to you as a CPA and to you as a Connecticut resident – like the fact that Connecticut switched to 10-digit dialing as of November 14. We’re recognizing members who volunteer to speak at schools, win awards, etc.

We’re giving you a different side of CSCPA – in 140 characters or less.

I tweet under the name “ConnecticutCPAs.” Visit www.twitter.com/ConnecticutCPAs, create an account (if you’re not already on Twitter), and click “Follow.”

How can my business use it?

To be honest, I’m not sold on Twitter being tremendously helpful from a business perspective; the reviews are mixed and some statistics eye-opening (see sidebar). But it’s low-commitment, fast, and free – and just another way you can show your clients a) how technologically-savvy you are, b) a little bit about you as a person, and/or c) how much you know – however you choose to use it. It’s an easy way to make your presence permeate more of the web.

Keep it professional with news articles, deadlines for clients, and thoughts on your accounting software, or mix it up and have some fun by touting a great steak at a local restaurant or that movie you caught last weekend. Your audience will most likely be broad (we have nutmeghockey and DoctorsNewswire following us), so decide if you want your 140-characters-at-a-time tidbits to be focused directly at the clients you can get to follow you or if you want to talk to anyone who’ll follow.

In the March/April 2009 issues of Connecticut CPA, CSCPA member and technology guru Wayne Schulz of Glastonbury’s Schulz Consulting, LLC wrote an article entitled “Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging: Time Wasters or Money Makers?” Schulz, an avid online presence, is an active tweeter – and listener.

Thanks to online programs like www.twhirl.org or www.tweetbeep.com, you can set up searches on topics that interest you. The program alerts you if anyone tweets on those topics!

“Using [www.twhirl.org], I’ve set up my searches so that anytime someone mentions MAS90 or Sage Software (my specialties), I’m able to see them right away. Often, I will provide free answers to a question about these products,” Schulz wrote. “While it might seem foolish to provide a free answer, the long-term hope is that your company builds a relationship with the user and, potentially, future customer.”

Let’s say you’re a personal financial planner with a special interest in planning for college and navigating financial aid. You set up a search with some relevant keywords and before you know it, the alerts roll in. Someone in Illinois just tweeted a story from the Chicago Tribune: “Federal government takeover of college loan pool in works.” Maybe you have a kindred spirit you can follow for news stories about financial aid.

Or, maybe, you get an alert from a single parent who’s stressed about sending a child to college or even how to fill out the FAFSA. And maybe, like Schulz hopes, you just found yourself a new client!

Helpful hint: there are ways to link your Twitter status updates to your Facebook, saving you time and maximizing the outreach of your social media efforts.

Just How Big is Social Media?

Wrap your mind around these statistics if you’re wondering if it’s really much ado about nothing when it comes to social media.

Facebook

(released by Facebook.com):

  • Facebook has more than 300 million active users.
  • 50 percent of active users log on to Facebook in any given day.
  • The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older.
  • More than 8 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide).
  • More than 10 million users become fans of pages each day.
  • More than 2 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month.
  • More than 14 million videos are uploaded each month.
  • More than 3 million events are created each month.
  • More than 45 million active user groups exist on the site.
  • More than 70 translations are available on the site.
  • About 70 percent of Facebook users are outside the United States.
  • There are more than 65 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.

LinkedIn

(released by LinkedIn.com):

  • LinkedIn has more than 50 million members in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
  • A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of the members are outside the United States.
  • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.

Twitter

Twitter does not release statistics, but a 2009 survey from social media analytics provider Sysomos had some eyebrow-raising statistics for Twitter skeptics.

  • 21 percent of users have never posted a Tweet.
  • 93.6 percent of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4 percent follow less than 100 people.
  • 5 percent of Twitter users account for 75 percent of all activity.

Caitlin Q. Bailey joined the Connecticut Society of CPAs in February 2007 as Electronic Communications Coordinator. Today, she maintains the CSCPA’s website, social media efforts, and email marketing and serves as assistant editor for Connecticut CPA.