Facebook Strategies for CPAs

How social media marketing strategies can level the playing field for small firms and career-minded professionals. But will it work for you? Send your comments to Rick Telberg here.

December 6, 2010
by Rick Telberg

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are ushering in a new age of opportunity for tax, accounting and finance professionals, but only if they are savvy and progressive enough to seize the advantages, according to one of the profession’s most seasoned and visible advisers.

The technologies and tactics of new social media marketing can provide CPAs with never-before-seen avenues for connecting with clients and colleagues, competitors and peers, says Michelle Golden, the author of the AICPA PCPS Social Media Toolkit, and now the new book “Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms,” with an introduction by Bruce W. Marcus, a marketing legend in his own right. Golden, by the way, is also featured in the AICPA webcast, “What Every CPA Needs to Know about Social Media.”

Golden is a pioneer of new media in professional services, probably responsible for the first 12 blogs erected by CPA firms. And yet, her enduring message is that, despite the wonders of the internet, the basics of marketing and delivering professional services remain unchanged. From Facebook to blogs, YouTube to podcasts, email promotions to digital data-mining it’s all electronic all the time. And, in professional services, it’s all social.

For instance, worries that web sites like Facebook will undermine personal or staff productivity or threaten privacy and security are overblown. They probably said the same thing when the first telephones started appearing in accounting offices. “But,” Golden notes, “you don’t lock down the telephone. You manage it, like everything else.”

In the same vein, the advent of social media shouldn’t change your fundamental business or marketing strategy. “Social media,” she says, “is no more a strategy than the Chamber of Commerce is a strategy. It’s just a tool.”

But, like many early-stage technologies, the social media phenomenon is helping to level the playing field, giving the smallest businesses and professional practices the same tools, power and reach that have traditionally been deployed by only the largest companies and firms.

“You can compete with the big guys,” she says. But making the most of social media is not just about networking; it’s about leverage using messaging in one medium to reinforce messaging in another.

For example:

  • Freed Maxick Battaglia in Buffalo, N.Y. blends old and new media into a multi-channel strategy. In one case, the firm rented a digital billboard to display the firm’s Tweets, directing motorists to tune in to a live radio show featuring partner Dave Barrett speaking about estate taxes.
  • Mark Bailey & Co., Reno, Nev., offers Gray Matters, a blog delivering “resources for public company CFOs and controllers.” In the blog’s first days, a visitor left a comment a prospect, which the firm converted into a client. Even the most skeptical partner in the firm exclaimed, “I am a convert!”
  • McKonly & Asbury, Camp Hill, Pa., offers a blog master-minded by partner Scott A. Heintzelman, CPA, CMA, CFE The Exuberant Accountant who systematically profiles local family-owned businesses and their issues. Some are clients, some aren’t. Among those that aren’t, many are prospects. And some of those are becoming clients.

The key, most agree, is to practice a philosophy of generosity and abundance, sharing what you know and a little bit about who you are and how you think. Some call it “give to get.”

It’s really not much different than in the offline world, where you might be mixing at an open bar and explaining the latest tax changes to a new acquaintance. But with social media marketing, you can extend your services exponentially. And many CPAs already are. How about you?

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  AICPA Social Media Toolkit

CAN SOCIAL MEDIA REALLY WORK FOR CPAs? Or is it all hype? How are you planning to use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for business? Send your comments to Rick Telberg here.

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Rick Telberg is president and chief executive of Bay Street Group LLC, advisors in marketing, management and strategy.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.