The SEC Twitters, Why CPAs Must Too

Follow the action online with Facebook and LinkedIn. Learn what CPAs are doing online: Join the survey; get the answers.

February 19, 2009
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

While many CPAs are still getting used to the idea of blogs and instant messaging, many others are rushing to deploy the very newest, bleeding-edge technologies for operational productivity and client service.

CPAs and CPA firms are increasingly turning up in such venues as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Plaxo. More and more firms are blogging, podcasting and even YouTube-ing for fresh recruits and for new clients. Individual professionals are expanding their career-management and client-referral networks at leaps and bounds. And now we’re seeing a rush to Twitter, the “micro-blogging” platform.

But what is social media? How do you use it? And why should CPAs care?


Join the survey. Get the answers.

(Free. Confidential.)

For the answers, we went to Tom Hood, chief executive of the Maryland Association of CPAs and a pioneer in the new connectivity technologies.

“CPAs should care about social media for two important reasons,” he says. “One, it significantly increases the ability to connect to more people, manage relationships and deal with the ever-increasing volume of information in our lives and, two, it can be a terrific tool for recruitment and retention of the millennial generation.”

Hood thinks about social media as a tool to speed up the ability to build and maintain relationships. “In all of the generational work we have done with students, young professionals and our core membership,” Hood says, “this area is probably the largest gap between the generations. It is the digital divide you often hear about.”

In this generation gap, the young have a clear advantage and a huge potential. “The average college student has close to 1,000 relationships in their “network,’” Hood notes. “Compare that to the relationships we had as college students and it was maybe two dozen.”

Here's Hood’s guide to the new world of social media for CPAs:

  • LinkedIn is a professional's version of Facebook, a social-networking site for business professionals and groups. Hood calls it a great place to start as CPAs. It works on the "six degrees of separation" concept. Hood’s network has 229 "trusted connections," 25,000 second-level connections (friends of friends) and 2,057,400 third-degree connections.
  • Plaxo is another business and professional network much like LinkedIn. It’s a great way of keeping up with changes in people’s contact information and current activities. Both Plaxo and LinkedIn also provide a method for CPAs to exchange referrals and recommendations, which Hood calls “a very useful application.”
  • Facebook, long the preeminent application for college students, is fast going mainstream. “I am seeing many CPA firms and employers using Facebook to reach the college-student community,” Hood says. “There are also business groups and several other ‘social’ uses of Facebook for many areas of special interest.”
  • MySpace has evolved into mainly a high school and music social-networking site. Hood sees less use for CPAs on this site than any of the others.
  • Twitter, the micro-blogging site, asks "what are you working on?" and your answer has to be in 140 characters or less. Hood says, “I have made more valuable connections on this tool than any other. I have also found a vibrant community of CPAs, CFOs, regulatory watchers and others who provide amazing insights and information about a lot of important accounting topics. Did you know the SEC is on Twitter? That certainly got my attention.”

Then there are blogs, podcasts and wikis, which are “incredible communication and productivity tools,” according to Hood.

The millennial generation, often referred to as "digital natives," have grown up with the internet and social media. “From Instant Messages (IMs), to texting, to Facebook, MySpace and other social networks they maintain these huge social connections,” Hood says.

“They have learned to use these networks as filters for information, sources for questions, referrals and getting things done. Talk to any of them and they will tell you that it is how they survive and deal with information overload.”

“I think,” Hood says, “that we could learn a lot from the younger generation about these tools if we took on a fresh and open perspective.”

Hundreds of thousands of accountants, tax professionals, finance executives, accounting students and CPAs are already blogging and podcasting, texting and IMing, Twittering and Linking In. If you’re still getting around to getting on board, don’t be embarrassed; Facebook didn’t even exist until about five years ago.

But now the pace will only quicken with a tough economy driving wrenching change. What are you doing about it?

What are CPAs doing online? Join the survey; get the answers.

Contact Rick Telberg by e-mail.

Copyright © 2005-2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.