Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
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Is blogging good for business if you’re an accountant?

16th Aug 2011
Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
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You’ve probably seen those articles advocating how everyone in business should be blogging. How applicable is this advice to accountants in practice? asks Mark Lee.

The key question

Nikki Pilkington’s otherwise excellent article for AccountingWEB in 2010 (‘Do blogging and accountancy really mix?’) missed the key question: Is blogging a worthwhile activity for accountants in the first place?

My answer is “Yes, it ‘could’ be”. But on a case-by-case basis the answer depends on whether the blogging accountant has any clarity of purpose. Nikki’s focus was on whether accountants ‘could’ get readers to keep coming back for more. You have to start though by determining why you might want to start blogging in the first place.

Who would be the target audience for your blog? Typically this will be prospective clients and potential advocates of your services. Larger firms may have more diverse targets which may require different blogs which will appeal to different audiences.

In this context it is especially important to remember that people are far more interested in what you can do for them than in what you do. So your blog posts need to provide some valuable insights, views or advice.

Back to basics

What is a blog? For our purposes it’s a regular magazine article or comment piece that the accountant posts on a dedicated area of their website. Blogs are easily found by the web search engines and if the blog is regularly updated this makes the site more attractive than one that is static and rarely changes. This can make it easier for your website to appear higher up the search results when someone searches for a local accountant.

Dedicated blogging websites are more search engine friendly than custom-made blogs within tailor-made websites. This is one reason for the rise in interest of websites that use the popular ‘wordpress’ platform. The other very popular blogging platform is blogger.com

To find out how to use them, simply Google: How to start blogging. There are loads of step-by-step articles available online.

Getting readers

So you’ve identified your niche audience and you’ve started writing blog posts. How do you get people to read them?

When you write articles for the press (or for AccountingWEB) there is a ready-made audience. The host publication or website is seen by thousands of people already and your articles will appear as part of the content mix. But when you write your own blog there is no automatic audience.

Some people will tell you that topical pieces will be picked up by search engines and will appear in search results when people search for the subjects on which you have written. In time this may happen but don’t bank on it – especially when your blog is new.

You have to tell people about your blog and about each new blog post. Five years after starting my blog for ambitious accountants I still send out newsletters that reference the most recent blog posts.

But remembering who your target audience is, how can you let them know? It’s easy to reach clients, contacts and advocates as you can email them a link. You can also include links to your blog posts in your newsletters.

Beyond this though, how can you get your blog posts seen and read by prospective clients? I think this is FAR more challenging than most blogging advocates would have you believe. They typically encourage bloggers to promote their blog across various social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and online business forums). But this will achieve very little if you are not otherwise engaged on those media and forums. None work well as a broadcast medium for anyone whose sole aim is to drive traffic to read their latest blog posts.

Getting readers to come back

There are a number of little ‘widgets’ you can add to your blog that may encourage the casual reader to return when you add new posts. One is an ‘RSS’ feed. Standard blogging platforms have this built in automatically. Another idea is to encourage readers to subscribe for automated email notifications whenever something new is added to the blog.

Credibility

An up-to-date series of well-written blog posts can help evidence your credibility and mark you out as someone ‘better’ than the competition.

Your niche

During my talks for accountants I often stress the benefits of focusing on a niche and of highlighting a specialism. The strength of the argument for doing this sometimes comes as a shock after years of trading as accountants serving anyone and everyone.

A regular focused blog can help emphasise your niche and specialism. Again this should help make you stand out as compared with other less focused and less ‘expert’ local accountants.

Bigger firms vs smaller practices

Many larger firms have jumped on the blogging bandwagon, but are failing to secure the potential benefits. Their blogs are unfocused and impersonal. They are an extension of the regular newsletters that try to have something in them that will appeal to all clients. In my view this is all about ‘box ticking’. “We have a newsletter. We have a blog. What’s next?”

Far better to have separate blogs for each specialist area and niche, and to be clear who the target audience is for each blog. It’s easy and cost effective to publish separate online blogs that are each relevant to different client sectors.

Another useful post about blogging appeared on AccountingWEB in August 2010. Titled: ‘How to run an effective corporate blog’ - it contained some top tips which are equally applicable to everyone who is keen to start blogging. 

It works

Ray Stewart is a qualified certified practicing accountant of a similar vintage to me. His website is built around his blog which started in September 2007.

Ray claims that his blog enjoys an astonishing number of subscribers and visitors. This includes existing clients who like showing off to other business people whose accountants do not blog. It therefore helps Ray’s clients feel they belong to something special and allows prospective clients to get an insight into him and how he works before they contact him.

So Ray sees it as worthwhile and his is clearly a practicing accountant. I think this is far more telling than any view expressed by Nikki by me or by any general marketing expert. What works for other businesses MAY be applicable to local accountants but often this is not the case.

Are there any other blogging accountants who consider their efforts are worthwhile? Do tell. Please also share your views if you’ve tried blogging but not had the results you had hoped for or were promised.

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists. Visit his personal website and blog.

 

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Replies (13)

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By carnmores
16th Aug 2011 13:32

well

i am completely underwhelmed Mark

i love the the way you started.....  otherwise excellent article......missed the key point.....my answer yes it could be...

 

oh dear oh dear oh dear 

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
16th Aug 2011 13:47

I don't understand.

carnmores wrote:

oh dear oh dear oh dear 

Sorry. What do you mean?

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By memyself-eye
16th Aug 2011 14:00

I think the clue was in 'underwhelmed'

Like 'Facebook' and 'Twitter' it's all a bit sad really.

None of my clents have the time to show off a 'blog' not least from their accountant!

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
16th Aug 2011 14:31

In which case I'm sorry you missed my underlying message

Blogging works for me but I'm far less convinced it's worthwhile for accountants.

But I'm willing to be persuaded to the contrary though only by accountants who find it's working for them. Not by marketing and blogging experts who claim accountants 'could' benefit from blogging.

Mark

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By Ray Stewart
16th Aug 2011 15:35

Thanks Mark and YES...

I only found out today that Mark had written this article quoting me and my website.

Firstly, thank you Mark.  

Secondly, I cannot understand why more accountants don't blog.  It is a simple and cheap way to keep an interaction going with clients all year round, gives clients a point of reference if they want to refer a friend, and shows them I still care about business, tax and people. I have had accusations (from other accountants) that I cheapen advice for all as I give the posts away for free.  However, my feeling is that I would rather give people a reliable source of information than have them trawling the entire internet, with all the mis-information we all know is out there, and taking what they find on all sites as truth for decision making.  I have never answered a specific, technical, query in a blog; I have stuck to what I regard as mainstream stuff that (I feel) clients shouldn't have to pay me for.

It is to my eternal shame that I haven't updated the blog part of the site since May 2011.  I won't bore you with the reasons why I stopped for a while but I can tell you that a review of the statistics show that the flow of interested new parties has slowed.  It could be the holidays, the recession, or any number of hundreds of reasons, but it is noticeable.

I have now built up a bank of questions that clients have raised in the last few months that I feel would make interesting reading generally so I really need to get writing again if only for that reason.  I regard blogging as a cheap exercise as I write the blogs in the evenings when the TV is on so I don't use chargeable time for it.  I am well aware that not everyone shares that view and the time cost of writing has been the main objection offered when I have asked the question of other accountants I come across - why don't you blog??

As with everything in business, before you dismiss me as a weird accountant and blogging as a waste of time, why not test it for yourself.  Write some articles and ask clients for their opinion - you may be surprised at the reaction.  I was - that is why I did/do it!

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By memyself-eye
16th Aug 2011 20:28

I understand that

The numbers of people 'interacting' (if that's the correct phrase) on social media web sites is decreasing, as folks begin to realise that talking/arguing/laughing/ face to face rather than 'facebook to facebook' is the normal human condition.

Maybe my clients are just too small to be 'boverred' with all this interweb stuff - I see enough folks in the pub (the original and best 'blogging' site) who, when in company, spend all their time glued to smartphones.

Sorry, not for me. It's not an accountant thing, I just loath the whole premise.

 

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Replying to AvilaBusinessCenter:
Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
17th Aug 2011 00:13

I wonder where you get your information

memyself-eye wrote:

I understand that the numbers of people 'interacting' (if that's the correct phrase) on social media web sites is decreasing,

Most of the data I see suggests the contrary. For example there are statistics that sugest that more people are engaged with social media than in any other activity on the web. It's more popular than gaming, shopping, porn[***][***] and gambling.

Having said that I question the validity of all such assertions as so many are determined by reference to the USA. I'm not sure it's equally true here. I understand that the level of interest in facebook may be reducing but that's only one site and not a good indicator of what's happening across social media websites.

Incidentally, commenting on AccountingWeb articles, as we are doing here, counts as 'interacting on social media websites' so it's more widespread than you seem to think. Goodness me, you even do it yourself! ;-)

And now, back to the blogging topic.....

Mark

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By razia
17th Aug 2011 11:31

Change is on the horizon

I work for an accounting body and I have to say the comments so far completely reflect the level of engagement I have seen in Social media amongst our members. On one end of the scale you have members using a number of social media sites to promote their businesses and engage their clients and on the other end you have those who still have no email address!

Saying that, I am confident, change is coming, especially as we move more and more processes online; whether that means online examinations or just moving all resources and reference material online, it should help affect a change in attitudes toward social media.

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By carnmores
17th Aug 2011 12:29

well mark

i certainly agree  with your last post :-)

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By John Snowden
18th Aug 2011 07:46

Copying blogged material?

As we are all 'here', particularly Mark, I noticed the other day that an accountant had lifted an entire post of Mark's and posted it himself on his own website blog. He did attribute it, but I then noticed another posting which looked pretty much also lifted from Mark, though maybe that was abridged a little; that one was not attributed.

I can't help wondering what the ethics and legalities are around copying electronic publications in such a way.

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By bainbridgelewis
18th Aug 2011 13:30

We write a regular blog aimed at small and start up businesses offering what we think are useful tips and advice. Generally this is centred around what is and isn't tax deductible and guides to help people starting up. We find that it attracts people to our website and from comments we get on Twitter it seems appreciated.

I think that you need to understand the businesses that you are aiming to work with and certainly in Brighton and Hove they are very much into their social media. We feel that not engaging in this way would therefore be a mistake.

Thanks for the article Mark it certainly is interesting to read others thoughts on the subject. 

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Replying to The 5-50 Coach:
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By TimGraham50
19th Aug 2011 09:39

Your blog

@ bainbridgelewis.

Yours looks a very nice website and that seems a good use of blogging. But can I ask - do you do it primarily for clients as part of the service; or is your website and blog aimed at new prospects? And if so, have you gained many clients directly from the website?

Thanks.

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By Chawlaaandco
27th Aug 2011 19:20

we use blogging & it is worthwhile.

We use blogging as a tool to spread awareness of the latest trends and changes in the field of accountancy and tax. In this way, we can keep general public informed of any important developments and information that they might need to be aware of. In addition, sometimes the readers might need further explanation or advice on specific topics, to which they can easily get answers through this platform. Aside from this, blogging is also a very useful tool for marketing purposes. You can visit our accountancy and taxation blog on our website and on other popular blogging networks.

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