Head of Accounting & Sales Development Practice Ignition
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How to act like a real human on LinkedIn

21st Mar 2017
Head of Accounting & Sales Development Practice Ignition
Columnist
Share this content
LinkedIn
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LinkedIn if you didn't know is one of the largest professional social networking platforms in the world. But as Trent McLaren explains, this “de facto tool for professional networking” is often misused by accountants.

Although LinkedIn currently boasts 467m accounts, the surprising thing here is that just 106m of these accounts are considered active. Only 22% of all users on LinkedIn actively engage with one another. This comes to no surprise for me, as most people I speak to have a LinkedIn account, but using that account is next to non-existent.

In my travels around the world, the one thing I notice the most is that an accountants and bookkeepers are not utilising the social tools available to them to further develop and grow their business.

Personally I can account for at least £300k in new business sales or opportunities that have generated new business. I've been given opportunities to speak all over the world and importantly for me, I've been able to meet and connect with some of the brightest people in the accounting industry from all over the world. All this has been made possible by creating and maintaining a presence on LinkedIn and acting like a real human.

Five secrets to growing your firm through LinkedIn

Today I want to give you my five greatest secrets to creating a true genuine presence online that will allow you to connect with opportunities that you never knew existed and give you endless possibilities to grow your business.

You need a good looking profile: LinkedIn actually make this easy for you. When you create your profile, you'll find little tips and reminders on your page trying to help you improve the look, feel and information shared.

You need a professional head shot (don't be scared to smile) because this is your human element, your first impression. Secondly, outline a great introduction about yourself. Don't list facts, tell a good story. Who are you? What do you believe in? What are you passionate about? Why should people connect with you? What are you an expert on?

Make sure you fill in all of your qualifications, previous job history, and remember, don’t list facts in bullet points; tell the story of what you were responsible for. Finally, get recommendations. People love social proof and want to hear how good you are from other people. So find your best contacts and get them to write great things about you.

Connect with your network: Find people you know (past or present) and engage with them. If you find someone you want to connect with, be sure to add a note and explain why you want to connect. Don't Spam or pitch them, just be engaging. Be human. Be authentic.

When you meet people at networking events, a worthwhile trick to expand your network is to ask them for their business card and ask them if they are on LinkedIn. Add your LinkedIn URL to your business card. Be available online.

Post great and relevant content: You only get eight seconds to capture someone's attention. That's less than a goldfish. That’s why it’s important that you share articles that are relevant to you, your interests and industry. This may force you to read more read more and to share articles that challenge the way you think, but sharing great content establishes your value amongst your network.

When you share challenging articles, remember to write your two cents and explain why you’re sharing the article. This is how you start open conversations.

Write a blog: Why restrict yourself to just adding comments to shared articles. Blogs are not only a good way to showcase your expertise but also a way to put yourself out there for everyone to see. Whether your network wants to judge, review, agree or disagree, putting your thoughts online shows that you’re not afraid to have a go.

Once you’ve started a conversation it’s important that you respond to comments and keep engaging.  But more importantly, write more blogs. If you just aim for writing a blog between 500-800 words once a month, you’ll be a pro before the end of the year.  

Measure your activity and results: Always measure what you are doing. Or else, why do it? This is where all businesses fail. They fail to plan and they fail to measure. But remember: what gets tracked gets measured, what gets measured will be achieved.

All of your measurements will raise data, insights, and trends you can use to further tweak all of your activity. You'll find some things resonate, some things don't. Be sure to keep hitting on what resonates.

You can benchmark against other people in your industry, and through this, assess what topics stand out and which ones don't.

More importantly, be consistent, be real, and be human. Don't spam or pretend. Remember you're dealing with real people with real opinions and lives. Respect them like you would want to be respected.  

Replies (8)

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ChrisJReeve
By Reeveaq
21st Mar 2017 20:38

Excellent piece Trent. After all the marketing tips I have received over the years, it is refreshing to now be told "be yourself" - the key is clearly to then engage with people.

Chris

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By johnjenkins
27th Mar 2017 10:09

"be yourself" is probably why a lot of Accountants don't use the "tools" that are available to them.
Trent have you heard the phrase "too many cooks spoil the broth". Well too much marketing turns people off, especially Accountants.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Trent McLaren
By Trent McLaren
07th Apr 2017 09:50

Totally understood JJ, Accountants don't like the idea of marketing. And the firms that experience that manage to overcome this are the ones that a thriving. This isn't isolated to the UK. Firms all over the world, generally don't like the idea of marketing because it's foreign for them and it's something they've never had to do before. With the new challenges ahead for the industry, firms need to overcome the fear. There's always a case of some will, some won't. Some will do it well, some will not. If anything this piece is designed to give accountants the starting block. They don't have to be experts, but it's better to be available to the world and the opportunity it presents themselves, then not. Again, every accountant will be in a different state, some want to grow, some don't. This article is directed specifically at those that want to grow. Thanks for your comments though. I hear you!

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Replying to Trent McLaren:
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By johnjenkins
07th Apr 2017 11:18

You may well "hear" me, Trent but it's not a question of Accountants not liking marketing, it's a question of, there is no place in the Accountancy world for marketing.
Accountancy is based on professional work and advice based on training and experience.
Once marketing creeps in then say good by to professionalism. You only have to look at the banking scenario and how much it cost them. No doubt they were sold PPI as an "added value.
Look at MTD. That was probably sold to HMRC as all singing, all dancing.
Accountants don't sell, they offer their experience and professional know how. If they need marketing to do that, then in my book they're in the wrong profession.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Trent McLaren
By Trent McLaren
07th Apr 2017 11:32

Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Technology is changing how firms can find new clients. Geographical barriers are lowered. Firms can realistically service well beyond their physical base of operations and firms are doing that already now. They can't do that by hoping their referrals and news of their professionalism travels distances greater then where their existing client base lies. Marketing plays a part in all industries and accounting is no different. Agree to disagree.

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Replying to Trent McLaren:
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By johnjenkins
07th Apr 2017 13:27

I fully understand where you're coming from, Trent, however marketing means sales. Marketing has to be paid for and that can only come from sales. Once you start going down the route of sales minded then you lose focus of what you are there to do. The banking scenario is a classic example of this. Yes marketing when you are selling something is very necessary, but Accountants aren't selling anything. Firms have always serviced clients some distance away so marketing is not needed. Up until not too long ago Accountants weren't even allowed to advertise.
Dentists doing botox etc. etc.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Trent McLaren
By Trent McLaren
07th Apr 2017 23:41

Yes I agree here. Marketing is enabling you to make more sales. But it's not impossible to switch to a customer centric marketing approach. By which the goal is to tell your message about how you help service people in front of as many people as possible. Your paying money to help tell your firms story. Even new service offerings these days are based on customer centricity. The art of innovation, great read, is a fantastic example of how firms can build new successful new services, that customers will love. For me this all ties together. Firms want to speak with more potential leads, not all firms but most. In order to do that they need to be able to get in front of more people to tell their tale about what they do, how they do it and why they believe they are the best for it.
I don't believe there's a right or wrong answer here. Just different strategies and views for firms in the future.

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By johnjenkins
10th Apr 2017 09:29

"build new services that customers will love". Says it all, Trent. You really haven't got a clue what Accountancy is all about. Having said that there certainly is a need for the gap to adapt to new cloud software to be bridged. Or should we just not bother and stick to what really works?

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