But that's not all. Social networks also allow you to position your firm as a leader in your area of expertise. Being on social media makes it easier to keep up with trends and developments in your sector. And they can help you differentiate your firm from the rest.
So in this guide we'll look at which social channels are best for your firm – and how to make the most of them.
Know your networks
Different channels have different demographics. Here's a list of the most important ones from the perspective of your firm.
If you want to connect with other accounting and bookkeeping professionals and business people in general, you need to be here. LinkedIn lets professionals share their experience, skills and areas of interest. It helps them connect with each other. You can set up a profile for your business, then start making connections and joining groups.
What can you achieve in 140 characters? Quite a lot. You'd be amazed how much information can be squeezed into each tweet. In fact this is a useful skill to learn – condensing business information into brief, succinct messages. Use hashtags (#) to help people find your tweets. Diversify your messages, and try to show the human side of your firm.
The largest social network of all – used more by consumers than businesses. Most accounting firms are B2B (business-to-business) operations. But you can still gain a lot from having a Facebook presence. Use it as a content platform to share photos, videos and links back to your website. Focus on the community aspect – connect with local businesses and build relationships.
Google+ is similar to Facebook in some ways, but has a smaller membership and more of a business focus. It's linked to Google's other apps, so if any of your clients use Google Docs, they probably also use Google+. It's useful for group communication, using Hangouts.
A place for longer, more detailed and 'sticky' content – the type that will keep people coming back for months or even years to come. When done correctly, blogging can be a great tool for building your brand.
- Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest
These all have their merits, but are of secondary importance for most accounting firms. Once you have a firm grip on your strategy for the main channels, you can move onto these.
Just like your website, your firm's social media presence is an extension of your brand.
Begin with consistency
Every social network requires you to sign up for an account and create a profile. We won't go into the details here, since every social network has ‘Help’ pages to get you started.
But think carefully about your profile. It's a short description of who you are and what you do. Since this is for your firm, keep it accurate and professional. Wherever possible, be consistent across your social media channels – use your logo too.
That way people finding you on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or any of the other networks will instantly know who you are. Consistency across networks helps grow recognition of your brand. Make sure you list your social media profiles clearly on your website too.
Build a strategy
Active involvement gets you the best results. Learn how the different networks operate and build a strategy that works for your firm. For example, you might use:
- Twitter to promote special offers and breaking news
- LinkedIn to build a network of complementary businesses, clients and prospects
- Instagram to share photos of fun and interesting seminars you've hosted
- Facebook to build a less formal network that might generate new business leads
- Blogs to create an authoritative resource that builds respect for your brand.
There will always be some crossover between networks. But over time you'll work out the best channels to use for everything you want to say.
Five rules for creating great social media posts
You may already have your own personal Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, maybe Instagram and Twitter too. But what's right for personal accounts often isn't right for business ones.
Just like your website, your firm's social media presence is an extension of your brand. It's part of your firm's personality, and it helps define your firm in the eyes of your customers. If in doubt, follow these guidelines:
- Keep your social media posts interesting
Try to keep your content newsworthy, and add your firm's own perspective. Do more than just report events – explain how they will affect your clients and prospects.
- Make it relevant
You know your clients and their areas of business. So if you deal primarily with manufacturing firms, make sure you tweet about that sector. Concentrate on topics that will add value for your client base.
- Stay professional
It's easy to step over the line between professional and personal. Unfortunately, the repercussions can be severe – including lasting damage to your firm's reputation. Think carefully about what you're planning to post. If you have any doubts at all, don't post it.
- Show some personality
It’s important to keep your social posts professional, but try to infuse a little personality into them. If you show your human side, and even add a little humour into your posts you will be much more memorable to your readers than if you'd posted something bland and generic.
- Less is sometimes more
Posting on social media can be an addictive habit. It can be tempting to tweet or post about every item of news, no matter how small. But you risk driving your audience away with this approach. Make sure you only post quality information – and do it on a regular instead of sporadic basis.
Listen – and learn
The biggest benefit of social media is also its biggest challenge. It puts you in direct contact with your clients and prospects. If they like what you have to say, they'll tell you. But if they don't like what you have to say, they'll also tell you – and everyone else they know. So learn to listen to the people in your networks. Understand what they are saying and what they want from you.
Successful firms will take on board the feedback and adapt to meet the needs of customers. And nothing is more valuable to a growing business than direct feedback from its customers.