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Digital stormcloud

Social media storm breaks on accounting software


Last weekend a social media hurricane made landfall in the accounting software world, whipping finance professionals into a frenzy. But was all the sound and fury worth it?

25th Jan 2024
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In his cautionary tale for the internet age So you’ve been publicly shamed, Jon Ronson states that while social media has in some ways democratised justice and given the “silent majority” a voice, these developments have had serious, but perhaps not unexpected, side-effects.

“What are we doing with our voice?” he asks. “We are mercilessly finding people’s faults… Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane.”

Last Saturday, one particular storm made landfall in the accounting software world. 

In a rare oasis of child-free calm, I settled down with my book. Suddenly, I felt a disturbance in the accounting-verse, as if a thousand finance professionals all cried out in unison: “But what about CIPFA?”

Then my phone began buzzing like a particularly peeved wasp trapped in a jar. I gave in, cast my novel dramatically down and opened up my emails.

What could possibly be wrong?! Has IRIS bought VT? Is Will Good back on AccountingWEB? Have Steve Hare and Sasan Goodarzi arranged a Musk-Zuckerberg cage fight with the title of ultimate accounting software supremo at stake?  Dear reader, none of these things have happened – yet.

Part 1: The article

The cause of the written-word rumpus was an article posted by QuickBooks Online. The ill-fated “thought leadership” piece was written for small businesses, and proffered advice on how to choose an accountant, including this nugget below:

QuickBooks blog
Intuit QuickBooks

Oh deary me. As the ancient accounting proverb goes: “Person who sticks head into qualification crocodile’s mouth unlikely to come out with full set of whiskers”. And missing out CIMA, ICAS, AAT and others was the icing on this particular cake of contention.

With the fuse lit, let’s retire to a safe distance and wait for the fireworks…

Part 2: The post

As is the way in this interconnected world, the article was quickly spotted and posted on LinkedIn (the social media choice of the discerning professional). Within minutes the social media hurricane was in full effect.

I believe this was the first LinkedIn post about it, but you’re here for the highlights so let’s dive headfirst into some of those responses:

  • “absolutely abhorrent behaviour”
  • “written by a numpty”
  • “unbelievable and dangerous statements to make”.

Part 3: The apology

A senior QuickBooks executive was quickly on the scene with a fire extinguisher in the form of a fulsome apology and a promise that the article would be amended. At the time of writing, it seems to have been taken down altogether.

Many involved in the social media scrum seemed to accept this as a genuine error and the majority moved on with their lives.

While the speed and comprehensiveness of the apology, coupled with the seniority of the apologiser, was a textbook example of how to diffuse such situations, in the social media age it’s not the full stop it would have been in previous eras. 

Part 4: The fallout

In the days following the original social post, I saw plenty of other posts spring up about the article from social media users just stumbling across the “news”.

Whether it’s wanting to have their say on the issue or jumping on the bandwagon for a bit of extra exposure, the accusations and conspiracy theories seemed to become wilder and wilder as time went on. 

Finally, by the end of the week, the storm petered out and the narrative moved on to making accounting memes with an image of Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s brother without his shirt on.

To err is human

So what on earth to make of all this? Was all the sound and fury devoted to the article worth it? 

I’m not using this column to criticise the author of the article. They’re not the first person to flounder in the alphabet soup of accounting and they certainly won’t be the last. During my time working with ICAEW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales), yours truly became convinced that you didn’t pronounce the “E” and so went around for weeks confidently proclaiming it was actually “ICAW” (before being put back in my box).

Nor am I calling out the accountant who put the post online. Whatever your qualification route, it’s incredibly hard work to establish yourself in the accounting world, to build up your knowledge, skills and client roster, and anything that detracts from that must be mind-meltingly frustrating. Add to that the stress of self assessment season and it’s a tinderbox waiting to go up.

If anything, I found the whole episode a microcosm of where we are now; a case study of reaction, counter-reaction and over-reaction.

The human urge to publicly shame companies or people who step beyond the boundaries of acceptability has always been there. What seems to have changed is the speed and ferocity of that reaction, even when coming from accounting professionals not necessarily known for their bloodthirsty natures. 

I won’t end this with a Jerry Springer-style final thought to be nicer to each other online – that would be a little trite.

Have lessons been learned? To bastardise Alexander Pope – to err is human, to forgive divine, to check your content before it goes out seems the most sensible one. And it’s also worth remembering that institutes (even those that aren’t ICAEW or ACCA) can see social media posts as well, so if you can’t be nice, be careful.

Replies (14)

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By Open all hours
26th Jan 2024 09:15

Just further proof that the software companies simply don’t understand the profession.

Thanks (4)
Samantha Mitcham
By Samantha Mitcham
26th Jan 2024 11:44

Great write up. I agree with many statements here and also, fantastic sarcasm and bants!

Please note my ‘everyone makes mistakes’ post the day after and also to be very clear; the social media manager and the director of product at said software have both reached out to me, not to criticise what I did with this post but actually to ask for my help in avoiding future errors in blogs etc. My point being I have a good relationship with this, and other, software giants. If I had posted not knowing the director of product, I feel that would have been more of a social media war inducing move but the fact is, I know the vendor and this is the world we live in now. Mistakes get exposed. Exposure creates attention, attention creates exposure. And so on, and so on!

And me? Did I post this to gain exposure and attention for myself…………..?

Too right I did.........I aim to share the journey of being an accountant, a small practice owner, a business woman in the modern day world and LinkedIn is where my peeps are at!

Until next time..................

Sam x

Thanks (4)
Replying to Samantha Mitcham:
Tom Herbert
By Tom Herbert
26th Jan 2024 13:42

Thanks Sam :-) It was my turn for the column and I couldn't think what to write about until all this kicked off!

Post duly noted. For completists out there, here it is:

And for all those on LinkedIn, Sam is definitely worth a follow but I can't guarantee social media thunder every week.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Samantha Mitcham:
By FactChecker
26th Jan 2024 18:08

Sorry, but to borrow from the P Eye stylebook ... (who she, Ed?)
Unless I missed it, Samantha Mitcham isn't mentioned anywhere in the article ... so the relevance is ..?

But I was previously blissfully unaware of the supposed 'storm' - and will happily return to that state after a decent cuppa coffee shortly.

[I do find the tendency towards an 'I, me, mine' focus somewhat wearying, and fear for the stability of those that hitch their sense of identity to it, but each to her or his own - so long as it doesn't get too loud to ignore.]

Thanks (4)
Replying to FactChecker:
Samantha Mitcham
By Samantha Mitcham
28th Jan 2024 10:56

Aw thank you for your comment Hugo (I think)......................

You 'fear for the stability of those that hitch their sense of identity to an I, me, mine focus'?

Are you suggesting the 'stability' of a supposedly anonymous keyboard warrior is much better than that of a social media attention grabbing.............!?

Have a fantastic day and enjoy that coffee of yours :-)

Thanks (2)
Replying to Samantha Mitcham:
By FactChecker
28th Jan 2024 15:15

Thanks. Everyone's days are predominantly what they make of them - and mine are indeed generally fantastic, as I hope are yours.

But you've missed my point.
By removing any element of the personal then, by definition, anonymity is the antithesis of the 'I, me, mine' need of those who apparently seek validation via others' opinions of them.
It's too easy for people to get sucked in to lazy categorising (definitely one of the downsides of the soundbite approach across most social media) ... and I neither regard myself as a 'keyboard warrior' nor described you as 'attention grabbing'.

Speaking for myself, my purpose in writing is a mix (as the opportunity and/or mood takes me) of entertaining myself / offering help to others / occasional snippets of (potentially badly judged) humour.
Aweb (and other unrelated sites) became the recipient of these 'offerings' during lockdown, when most of my usual channels (govt quangos and business groups, local people who failed to avoid me and far-flung family) were suddenly out of bounds - although remaining preferable to the digital world.

Finally, my 'fear' is that an increasing number of people (amongst whom I'm sure you're not numbered) appear to have a poor grasp of innate self (belief, worth and ability to contribute) ... and that pandering to measurement by social media will only make that worse not better.
But, as I said before, each to her or his own - thank goodness we're not all the same!

Thanks (3)
Replying to FactChecker:
Samantha Mitcham
By Samantha Mitcham
28th Jan 2024 19:35

Hey Hey :-)

I'll be honest, I had no idea whether I had got, or missed, your point. I just felt like responding in the moment to see if I was missing the mark or not........

My aim on social is to share the journey and story of running a small practice. Nothing more and nothing less.

Sometimes I show myself in the best of lights, other times the brutal realities mean I post about the dark times (so to speak).

My aim is to help others. It can be a lonely road.

I don't really think you are a keyboard warrior; it was sarcasm to match me being somewhat referred to (or maybe not) as attention grabbing..........

My days are generally fantastic too although far too many TR's to complete prior to 31st Jan so best scoot..........see ya...until next time!

Thanks (1)
By JamesDS
26th Jan 2024 14:16

Dammit, another bandwagon passed me by...

Thanks (2)
Replying to JamesDS:
By FactChecker
26th Jan 2024 17:56

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Move 'em on, head 'em up
Don't try to understand them
Just rope, throw and brand 'em

Thanks (5)
Replying to FactChecker:
By richard thomas
26th Jan 2024 21:51

Keep them dogies movin’!

Thanks (1)
By Silver Birch Accts
26th Jan 2024 18:26

I am just as concerned to see that 'Fun-time' Frank Lampard is apparently so hard up he has had to sink to a new low, in his career, by performing TV advertising for Intuit.What next for Klopp , Xero the beautiful software by a man from the beautiful game. I seem to remember Harry Redknap doing a gig for SAGE.

Thanks (4)
By Emmamay106
31st Jan 2024 13:41

Red flags to look out for when choosing a bookkeeping software provider.....

- Spends more on marketing than product development
- Initial low prices that ramp up significantly
- Hidden costs for add-on services
- Slow loading times
- Over complicating bank reconciliations and basic tasks such as credit notes and invoice matching
- Makes it appear simple to the end user "just click and taxes are done"

Thanks (4)
Replying to Emmamay106:
By Southwestbeancounter
01st Feb 2024 14:02

Yes especially, the last one!

That really annoys me watching some celebrity, who knows nothing about accounts, stating that strapline on TV!

Thanks (1)
By agknight
01st Feb 2024 10:17

What expertise does QB have in deciding how to select an accountant?

What expertise does QB have in accounting software for that matter?!

Thanks (3)