You have probably heard plenty of people encouraging you to use social media more to promote your tax advisory practice. Speaking as someone who has been highly ranked as on online influencer of the accounting and finance profession since 2011, my views may come as a surprise.
Before we start, let me be clear. Effective use of social media can be very helpful for some accountants and tax advisers. But the two key elements of that statement are ‘effective’ and ‘some’. It is not a panacea. It is not a quick and free way to promote your services and to secure leads.
Having said that, I do promote the Tax Advice Network on twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Linkedin. But I do so largely on the back of my own personal reputation, contacts and connections (of which I have over 11,000 on Linkedin alone – despite being very choosy who I connect with!)
My biggest tip for you is to stop worrying that you’re missing out if you’re not active on social media or that you must start promoting your practice on social media. The concept has been vastly overhyped and is widely misunderstood.
You should only be thinking about becoming active on social media if you have clearly defined objectives and would be able to measure the return on investment of your time (and any money) you invest here.
By the way, the clue is in the word ‘social’. You can’t expect someone else to be successful ‘doing your social media’ for you. That would be like them ‘doing your networking’ for you. Social media is like online networking. People want to get to know you and your personality and it takes time to build real relationships.
You wouldn’t expect anyone to win work by attending a networking event and simply talking about themselves. Even less so if someone showed up and pretended to be their boss. Regardless of what you may have heard or been promised, exactly the same is pretty much true online too.
Here are some key questions to clarify whenever you hear about an accountant or tax adviser talking about how they’ve been successful using social media:
- Which platform(s) do you focus on? (This will vary but the most valuable work typically comes via Linkedin)
- For each platform, how much time do you spend on it each day/week? (You may shocked by how much time some people devote to this)
- Were you posting as an individual or using the firm’s social media handle? (Invariably the response will be as an individual)
- When did you start investing time on that platform? (In other words, how long has it taken them to start getting a good return on their activity here?)
- How many new clients has your activity generated?
- What type of work are you doing for those clients?
- How much have you so far earned in fees from those clients? And over what period?
- Do those clients share any similar characteristics? If so, what are they?
The reason I advise you to clarify these issues is the number of times I have heard about social media success which is not easily replicable.
You may be looking for a different type of new client, a different type or level of work for them (eg advisory rather than simply completing basic SA tax returns), you may charge higher fees, you may have less time available to post and engage on social media platforms, or you may have different ambitions for your firm.
And, sometimes the apparent ‘success’ we hear about is very recent and has yet to result in any significant fees being received by the accountant.
Rarely will you hear about anyone generating high value fees simply from their activity on Twitter or Instagram for example. It is also rare to hear about anyone being successful posting on social media using their firm’s name rather than as an individual.
Facebook pays off for some but plenty of accountants and tax advisers don’t like the idea of engaging on that platform and/or want to target the owners of larger businesses than are typically accessible via Facebook.
Where to start?
You won’t have the time or ability to be successful across multiple social media sites. But don’t make the mistake of starting with the easiest or cheapest.
Your starting point should be to think about who you want to influence and target through social media. This is probably the same focus as for your more marketing and your website too. The more specific you can be the easier it is to attract their attention. This is one of the reasons why we encourage you to be clear as to which areas of tax you have special expertise in on your profile here on the Tax Advice Network.
If your targets are in business then Linkedin is probably the place to start. It’s quite distinct from other social media platforms. It’s better thought of as an online business networking platform.
If your targets are small home based businesses then Facebook MAY be worth a try.
Despite all the hype, Twitter is unlikely to help you generate any material tax related business – and I say this as someone with many thousands of followers on twitter where I have been actively posting 5-20 tweets a day for years!
Most tax advisers I know do not have the time or inclination to be regularly active on any social media platform or even on Linkedin.
I frequently suggest that you just ensure your profile there works for you rather than against you. In the same way you profile on the Tax Advice Network website can work for you and once you’ve set it up and tweaked it – you don’t NEED to do anything else here. The website’s function is very much to drive relevant leads and tax enquiries to the adviser most suited to help. You don’t have to do anything to make this happen beyond ensure your profile is up to date.
This is all much simpler and less time consuming than trying to be active across multiple social media platforms and hoping that somehow, somewhere, when someone needs your expertise they will remember, find and contact you.
You can leave the social media activity to us.
I will post more specific tips and advice re the use of social media here in subsequent articles. I have been writing, speaking and advising on the subject for years and, if you can’t wait, you’re welcome to check out my previous articles, mostly written for accountants – but with many replicable points, on the blog for successful accountants at my website: bookmarklee.co.uk >>>
Mark Lee – June 2020