Why accountants should be a-Twitter
In a presentation at the recent CCH conference, Elaine Clark lifted the veil on how social networking can be applied within accountancy.
Social networking has played an important part in Cheapaccounting’s rapid growth and its success in the 2010 Progressive Practice Award run by CCH Software and AccountingWEB. So, in spite of being more familiar with her blog posts and tweets, it was natural to see Elaine Clark appear in person to discuss her social media practices at the CCH UK user conference in Hertfordshire this week.
Dispensing with PowerPoint, Clark organised her presentation around a sequence of automated tweets that appeared on the screen beside her.
“I’ll talk about some of the things I’ve done - maybe you can do them in your firm,” she said. “I’ll also ask what’s preventing accountants from entering that world.”
For a finale, Clark shared her five social networking pet hates (see box). “For reasons of time, I’ve limited them to five, otherwise we’d be here all day,” she said.
From the audience’s responses it was clear that few accountants are willing to embrace social sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn as whole-heartedly as Clark. She responded by explaining her reasons for doing it in simple, logical terms.
“For me social media is a tool that allows you to interact with people. What you’re doing is networking with people, but on a much larger scale; it gives you access to a much wider audience.
The time issue is a real concern, and it may be expedient to appoint a specific person to update your firm’s Twitter feed and monitor what people were saying about you. But make sure they are well briefed on the purpose of the activity and you want them to say on the firm’s behalf.
When one audience member suggested leaving it to the marketing department, she replied: “No! If you have a marketing person answering a question on accounts, you’d have a disaster on your hands.”
Within accountancy, Elaine Clark has used her personality and online presence to build Cheapaccounting into a fast-growing brand in a very similar fashion to Duane Jackson and his KashFlow online accounting software.
She added that patience and persistence are two of the key ingredients to her success.
Social media relies on the same principles as face to face networking, she reiterated. “When I go to a networking meeting, I go around every person in the room and take the time to understand them. I don’t tend to follow people with thousands and thousands of followers - it’s like walking into a football stadium and trying to talk to everyone in the stand.”
Taking the time to relate to other social media users was important, rather than just selling to them. “And I have a chat, because that’s what you do when you go into a room,” she added. “People like to get to know you. I try to let my personality come through.”
For the next week or so, you can see what happened at Elaine’s talk by clicking the Twitter hashtag #cch2011a.