Mark Lee offers his annual update as regards how accountants are using and can benefit from their use of twitter.
Once a year I find myself returning to the topic of twitter even though I know many AccountingWEB members have dismissed it and have no time for it.
I'm not here to try to persuade you otherwise even though some views are simply a function of misleading media reports, historical misconceptions or wholly unrealistic expectations.
My aim, as ever, is to debunk the hype and help accountants get maximum value from twitter. Saying that, for accountants who would like to get involved in Twitter, there a few key things to remember.
My 15 Twitter tips
- When you start out on twitter simply use it as a source of knowledge and information on topics of interest. For example you could follow @accoungtingwebuk and some of the accounts on this list: UK accounting and tax bodies or you may prefer to focus on more general news, sporting, political or cultural twitter accounts.
- Use the twitter search facility to find the accounts of people, brands or businesses you think might post items of interest. Follow them and give it a couple of days before you unfollow anyone who routinely posts stuff you find of no interest.
- When you start to post your own tweets remember that few people will see them. Even when you have a few hundred followers they are unlikely to keep reviewing their twitter feeds so will miss many of your tweets (especially if they are few and far between). If you only post once or twice a day you are unlikely to achieve very much in the way of PR, followings or business.
- Use the twitter search facility to track all tweets that use a specific hashtag that interests you (eg: #accountex2016) as you may find new insights, connections and links of interest.
- When you tweet do not bother posting a succession of promotional messages about your firm. It will be largely a waste of time (see 3 above).
- Ensure that your twitter profile includes a professional photo of you, your name and links to your firm (rather than being all about your firm). More people will be interested, follow and interact with your twitter account if it references you as an individual rather than is in the name of your firm.
- Follow your clients who have twitter accounts and those of people/businesses you would like to have as clients.
- Use the twitter search facility to find local businesses and business people who are on twitter. You can follow them but remember that their accounts may be run by juniors in the marketing department rather than by the business owners themselves.
- Be yourself on twitter. Many people tell me that they have connected with people with whom they have a shared (non-work) interest or who have replied to tweets on non-business issues.
- If you see a tweet from someone with whom you want to engage you can reply to them (subject to the 140 character limit of all public tweets). If they are following you too then you can send a private message that only the two of you will see - and there is no 140 character limit. Public replies are only seen by you, the person to whom you are replying and anyone who is following both of you.
- You can ReTweet messages you feel warrant being shared more widely. Where space permits it's good to add a comment explaining why you have chosen to ReTweet the message. ReTweeting a message may lead to the person who tweeted it originally choosing to follow you.
- Don't be an accountwit on twitter. Sadly some people post a load of nonsense, rude or otherwise inappropriate stuff on twitter, Don't be one of them. I rarely see anything inappropriate as I am quite choosy who I follow.
- Be clear as to your objectives re twitter and ensure these are realistic. If anyone promises you that they will help you to secure loads of valuable business from twitter ask for proof and evidence from other accountants with whom they have worked. And check that the sort of work generated is the sort of work you would value.
- If you are looking for business on twitter, see the site for what it is. A facility to identify people whom you may wish to speak with or to meet – and to filter out those who are not your type. You can wait and hope that any followers you amass will make the first move to enquire about your accountancy services, or you can contact them first. Just don’t rush it. Few people like being accosted by new contacts actively promoting their services. It runs counter to the idea of ‘social’ media.
- When you watch or attend conferences or other events you can find others who share your interest through twitter. Simply search and follow the tweets containing the conference or event hashtag. The associated tweets may reveal more people to follow and others may find you too if you tweet intelligently using the hashtag.
I am not here to advocate twitter as a business generation tool for accountants. I’ve never seen it that way. But it can be a useful source of knowledge, insights and real-time information on topics of interest. I typically make more use of it when I’m travelling and between meetings than I do when I’m in the office.
Over the years I’ve found twitter to be fun, useful and a great way to start conversations with new people. Maybe you will too.