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The social media age – it’s time beancounters wake up

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As Twitter celebrates its tenth birthday, Shelley Stock Hutter partner Bobby Lane gives us his views on why it’s time for accountants to finally wake up and start living in the age of social media

GETTING ACCOUNTANTS to take part in the social media revolution was always going to be something of a challenge. Accountants, by their own admission, tend to be a conservative breed. So when the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn hit our computers, iPads and smartphones in the 21st Century, it’s little surprise we weren’t the first to start tweeting pictures of a great restaurant we’ve been to, selfies of us at a conference and posting our views on what the chancellor got right and wrong in his Budget speech.

However, the fact is we live in the age of social media and it isn’t going away. Even world leaders take selfies. I’m not suggesting you take daily pictures of your breakfast, lunch and dinner – we probably all remember how the chancellor’s tweet of him eating a burger backfired – but the importance of building your personal brand and one for your practice or organisation cannot be underestimated.

Many of your newer clients and certainly tomorrow’s entrepreneurs have grown up at the same time social media was taking its first steps. One of the first things they will do when searching for a new accountant, following up on a recommendation or having an initial meeting is go straight online and check out your profiles.

They may do an initial Google search and then quickly flick to LinkedIn and Twitter. For them it’s a given that you do the numbers right and that you know the latest financial regulations coming up – what they really want to see is the personality behind the name even before meeting you. In fact being the invisible accountant with no social media presence could mean that new business meeting may never happen.

What you feel comfortable posting and how you write it is, of course, up to you and your firm. However, don’t be afraid to start a debate about what is going on in the business world, how government measures are a good thing or where things could have been improved.

Likewise, be proud of your clients’ achievements and give them some good PR too. There are some accountants who are fearful of saying anything public about their clients – worried they will be snatched by a rival. However if you have a great relationship with your client and are doing things right, then this is very unlikely to be the case.

Of course, making sure you don’t contaminate your corporate brand with your life outside the office walls is vital. Clients and potential clients want to see that you have a personality but one that is appropriate so remember the privacy settings.

Finally there are many accountants who say they simply don’t have time for social media. The fact is it doesn’t take many minutes out of the day to engage and start reaping the benefits. It is the same with most things in life the more you put in, the more you will get out of it.

Bobby Lane is a partner at Shelley Stock Hutter (SSH) and recently topped the league of the top 50 most influential sources of finance news and information on social media run by the ICAEWs membership publication Economia

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