BY THEIR OWN ADMISSION, accountants are a conservative breed – particularly when it comes to sales and marketing. They, along with other professions, have often been later adopters of marketing techniques pioneered elsewhere.
Getting them to take part in the social media revolution, then, was always going to present something of a challenge. On a number of occasions, I’ve been in meetings and heard their dismissal along the lines of “Facebook is for kids, Twitter is for celebrities and LinkedIn, well that’s for others, or at least others looking for jobs.”
Well according to a range of UK statistics, the average Facebook user is more middle youth – 38. Twitter is used by an increasing number of businesses (not just Stephen Fry and Demi Moore). LinkedIn though, out of all the social media channels, is perhaps the one that accountants need to pay more attention to.
I don’t need to dwell on the bleak predictions – we all know that we can’t be complacent over the coming year. Competition for work (whatever industry you work in) is going to get tougher. Building an even greater network of contacts and referrers will be crucial for new business development in 2012. Making sure your firm is front of mind with clients and prospects should be a given.
One partner I know at a mid tier accountancy firm uses LinkedIn in a number of ways to raise the firm’s profile and support the new business drive. He posts links to all his press coverage. He responds to government announcements and details on new regulations with pithy views, he announces details on firm’s achievements if, say, they’ve been nominated for any industry awards and he responds to status updates his contacts, clients and prospects have posted. And yes, he still finds time for all his clients and bringing in new business.
Electronic business card
Other savvy LinkedIn users are following suit, regularly using their accounts as an electronic business card holder; posting details of seminars or keeping in contact with old clients and colleagues who have already proved to be great referrers. In some cases, they have used LinkedIn to get in touch with contacts they haven’t spoken to for more than ten years. Somehow a LinkedIn invitation seems more socially acceptable than a potentially intrusive ‘call out of the blue’.
This year has certainly seen more take up amongst mid-tier accountants in the UK. Kelso Consulting’s research into LinkedIn and the professions revealed there are nearly 13,000 personnel with LinkedIn accounts within the mid-tier firms in the Accountancy Age top 40. The number of people following these mid-tier firms on LinkedIn has nearly tripled since last year up from 8,000 to 23,000.
Yet one cannot ignore there are still many accountants in mid tier and smaller firms yet to subscribe. Moreover if you scratch the surface you will find plenty of agnostics with LinkedIn accounts. Firstly there are those with largely dead accounts, with little more than a name, basic details, and/or a handful of contacts and no evidence of activity for quite some time. They’ve gone through the motion of creating an account, filling in the boxes and thereafter it lies dormant.
Then there’s the next group: not quite dead but certainly half-hearted. They have a few basic details and a few dozen contacts (mostly made up of people from their firm). In short they are failing to tap into a potentially vast universe of contacts.
I am sure there will be some reading this who will stand firm with their view that LinkedIn is ‘something for others’. Some though may want to dip their toe in and experiment; set up that account, dare to send an invitation to someone you haven’t done business with for a long time or just go along to a seminar to find out more. You may just see a return on time invested.
Responses on my LinkedIn most welcome.
Sam Pepper is a senior consultant at Kelso Consulting
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