Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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Ten reasons accountants shun social media

23rd Sep 2013
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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Mark Lee has long recognised that many accountants are just not interested in social media. He asks if their cynicism is justified.

If you have held off joining the social media maelstrom or have determined it’s a damp squib, this article will come as a relief. But I do not intend to simply reinforce your preconceptions. I will challenge them too.

Here are 10 reasons often given by accountants who don’t want to explore social media properly:

  1. It takes too much time
  2. You get too much spam
  3. I prefer real life
  4. Twitter is twaddle
  5. I tried it and it doesn’t work
  6. I don’t want to grow my practice
  7. It’s not professional
  8. My clients don’t use it
  9. It’s over-hyped
  10. People like me don’t use it

As regular readers will appreciate I am NOT encouraging accountants to shun social media. Far from it.

My objective here is to distinguish the justifiable reasons why some accountants might wisely choose not to bother, from the more fallacious arguments I sometimes hear. I am a big fan of and big user of social media but I’m not an accountant in practice. What matters is what works for other accountants like you.

Thus, the fact that I get value from social media is as irrelevant as the fact that big brands use it, that ‘celebs’ use it or that recruiters and marketing specialists use it. But what about the increasing number of accountants who are active on social media? Let me stress, I am talking here about those who have remained active online after a few months. Many start and then give up – as ‘it didn’t work’.

Each accountant needs to determine for themselves how they can get best value from each of the most popular social media platforms. Much depends on your objectives, goals and plans.

Let’s consider the 10 arguments in turn:

1. It takes too much time

You may be right. If you’re the sort of person who can get sidetracked ‘playing’ it may become an unproductive distraction.

But, if you establish good practices early on and get to tame the beast, you can adopt a range of time-saving facilities. And then, rather than taking up a lot of time, it can save you time overall.

2. You get too much spam

Only if you don’t know what you’re doing. I have more than 5,000 followers on Twitter and more than 3,000 connections on LinkedIn, plus thousands of readers of my blog and of my articles. I get barely any spam. Why should you get so much? Probably only if you follow naïve advice from self-serving social media ‘gurus’.

Driving a car uses too much petrol and is too slow – but only if you try to drive fast while stuck in first gear because you don’t know how the gears work.

3. I prefer real life

Me too. If you have the time to call or meet up with all of your connections, introducers, clients and prospects at least once a week then good luck to you. Social media can enable you to keep in touch with a wide range of contacts and to pre-qualify more prospective clients and introducers in less time than is possible in ‘real life’.

Think of social media simply as a tool to help you arrange your real life interactions. It is a means to an end, not an alternative to ‘real life’.

4. Twitter is twaddle

Only if you choose to follow silly people. I don’t see twaddle as I unfollow anyone who posts nonsense that is of no interest to me.

5. I tried it and it doesn’t work

I offer my driving analogy again. It really helps if you have a decent instructor – or check out relevant advice rather than simply guess or follow naïve advice.

I would also stress that LinkedIn is in a class of its own. This professional business networking tool doesn’t bear comparison with simple social media platforms.

6. I don’t want to grow my practice

What can I say? This seems a perfectly reasonable justification for NOT doing anything new or different. I just hope that you don’t lose a bunch of clients and suddenly need to replace them. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be should it ever happen to you.

7. It’s not professional

Social media is just a tool, like email.

Are you professional? Then you can ensure that whatever you do on social media will be professional too. No one says you have to interact with anyone else whom you consider to be unprofessional.

8. My clients don’t use it

This is a key point or it may simply be an unwarranted assumption. I entirely agree that your marketing and networking activities need to take place where you are most likely to meet your ideal audience.

I’m never sure how many accountants who make this point really know whether their clients are active on LinkedIn or on other social media. In any event, your current clients are just one possible target. You might also be looking to find and pre-qualify prospective new clients, introducers, the local media and suppliers.

9. It’s over-hyped

This is true too. But irrelevant if you understand how each social media platform can help you in your practice.

It’s very important to understand that each social media platform is different in terms of what you can do, who you can reach and who can reach you. Some of the platforms are indeed over-hyped; so what?

Google+ may, one day, become the biggest and most important social media platform for accountants along with everyone else. But it’s not there yet. It has been consistently over-hyped since launch in my view. I still don’t know what it’s ‘for’. Whereas, in my experience, the other key platforms have a distinct nature and purpose.  I’m also unconvinced about the value of YouTube to accountants (yet) – but I still post new videos myself – just in case.

10. People like me don’t use it

I suspect this normally translates as – my ‘real’ friends and acquaintances do not use it – or, if they do, they haven’t told me. Sometimes it may mean that you don’t know anyone who uses social media to market their practice or to generate new clients.

I have interacted via social media with many hundreds of accountants of all ages, backgrounds and level of expertise. An increasing percentage are telling me about how they have won new clients or have simply found it fun, entertaining and useful.

When asked I typically suggest that you just start exploring how you can use social media as a time saving route to up-to-date news, insights and information. This is especially true of Twitter.

Conclusion

So which of those 10 reasons resonates with you? Or are there others that have been holding you back?

Related articles

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB. If you like this article, do check out his BookMarkLee blog and ebooks for accountants who want to better understand and get more value faster from their social media activity. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists.

Replies (14)

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By jon_griffey
23rd Sep 2013 16:38

Haven't got the time

 

The main reason has to be time pressures.

In recent years practising accountants have had to get to grips with iXBRL, RTI, IR35, MLR and an accelerating churn of tax, employment and other legislation.  This aside, for the smaller firm on a daily basis you have to be the firm's credit controller, marketing manager, IT manager, HR manager.  CPD eats up even more time.  That makes for a very 'time poor' life in a professional office.  I am sure that social media has benefits but as accountants - we do accountancy.  Finding out about new technology like social media is learning about something new and unfamiliar and then applying an uncertain business strategy to it.  Then forever more you have to spend a large part of your day posting, tweeting and so on.  If Twitter is the 'must have' platform today, we can find out next week that it is out of fashion and Google+ or something else is the latest thing that we all told to get to grips with.    Who in practice has the time for all this?

 

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
24th Sep 2013 07:28

I fully understand Jon

Not only that but I agree you are making the right decision. Indeed that is precisely why I do not advocate the idea that all accountants NEED to learn about or start to use social media. You will do so as and when you anticipate that it will be beneficial to do so.

That's exactly as it should be. The so-called experts in social media and marketing who try to encourage all accountants to get to grips with social media are the ones who have got it wrong in my view.

The only point with which I would disagree is your fear that if you get into social media: "Then forever more you have to spend a large part of your day posting, tweeting and so on."

I suspect that I am seen to be more active across a range of social media than most accountants in practice. But I probably devote less than 30 minutes a day to it (more if I am writing a blog post but that's all).

Mark

 

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By Donald6000
24th Sep 2013 11:23

I am not really just an accountant, I Robot

Some of the excuses given by accountants for not joining in social media are as fallacious as their methodology of dealing with clients.

Becoming an accountant is not like becoming "I Robot". You are allowed to make social contact with people; in fact making social contact with people oils the wheels of the profession. People who say that all they can do is accountancy should be avoided like the plague because that means that they are a one horse town, cannot engage and in truth, probably cannot function in their chosen profession either.

Life is a multi-skilled proposition; it is not about the pursuit of one profession to the exclusion of all others. A man or woman in their time plays many roles.

 

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Replying to DJKL:
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By VLH
24th Sep 2013 12:05

No bowler hats and pin-striped suits here!

Donald6000 wrote:

Some of the excuses given by accountants for not joining in social media are as fallacious as their methodology of dealing with clients.

Becoming an accountant is not like becoming "I Robot". You are allowed to make social contact with people; in fact making social contact with people oils the wheels of the profession. People who say that all they can do is accountancy should be avoided like the plague because that means that they are a one horse town, cannot engage and in truth, probably cannot function in their chosen profession either.

Life is a multi-skilled proposition; it is not about the pursuit of one profession to the exclusion of all others. A man or woman in their time plays many roles.

 

 

This is precisely why I tweet - sometimes our tweets are about business but mainly they show that we are human beings first.  It gets our business name out there and enables people to see that we don't eat, breathe, sleep accountancy.  This in turn makes us more approachable. 

Clients shouldn't be scared of their accountant!

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By Breckmans
24th Sep 2013 11:46

ignore it at your peril

We monitor how new/potential clients find us and there has been a big shift in recent years - do you know where yours come from?

Richard

 

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By rajrajput
24th Sep 2013 12:39

Follow or Fail?

If the same question was asked in 2006, why accountants shun websites would there be similar answers? Today we are looking for more visible and interesting content and make decisions on what we can find out about companies and individuals - surely if you have clients using it, you would feel the need to be a bit into Social Media even if it is only LinkedIn? 

We have so many tools to help with Social Media and applying a little effort could help get you noticed. The comment about "have had to get to grips with iXBRL, RTI, IR35, MLR and an accelerating churn of tax, employment and other legislation" is all to be found in the Social media space - so join the debates, ask questions and follow the content - you'll be quite amazed at what you find.

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By Henry_AIMS
24th Sep 2013 12:27

Riding the Social Wave

The return on investment (ROI) from social is always tricky. A customer may see you on Facebook and click the link to your website and quote the website as a source.

 

Social Media is more of a platform to communicate with your audience. Sainsburys has just announced that they investing in a Social customer service to monitor and respond to the customers feedback. 

Our clients (existing & potential) are all on Social Media, so why shouldn't we be? 

Marketing has and still is going through a transition to digital and social and it's important that Accounting practices are aware of the changes.

Social Media isn't for everyone, but it should be considered.

 

 

 

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By Vaughan Blake1
24th Sep 2013 13:02

It's just another marketing tool it's not black magic!

When clients ask about "doing some Inheritance Tax planning", I say "let's do tax & succession planning exercise of which IHT plays only a part".

Likewise social media should be only a part of a marketing strategy.

Jon, on the basis you are the marketing manager you no doubt have budget in terms of both £s and time. Only you can decide how best to use that budget as only you know what you want to achieve.

My thought process runs like this:

1)  Do we want new clients?  Unless you are running the business down the answer has to be yes.  However good the firm is, clients are always going to be lost due to death, retirement, business sales, moving to Zanzibar etc etc.

2)  What type of new clients do we want? 

3)  Why haven't they come to us already?  This for me is the key question and ultimately shapes the marketing approach..

4)  So how do we get them using the available marketing budget?

Every firm is different it's not one size fits all.  I know of successful firms that do not spend any time or £s advertising or marketing.  They do a grand joband have happy clients who recommend them to their friends and contacts.  This has to be the best way!

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By Barry_ACMA
24th Sep 2013 13:47

It's just a progression from blogging

I have to laugh at those above who shun social media, as irrelevant or time-consuming, but who have the time and inclination to comment on this thread.

I segregate my social media: Facebook is for friends and family, sharing pictures of the kids, laughing at life and acknowleging each others' successes, calamities and frivolities; LinkedIn is for work, for maintaining a loose relationship with past and present aquaintances, and for 'researching' the claims people make about themselves.  A few people overlap as both 'Friends' and 'Contacts' - these are the work colleagues I actually like, and the friends who have professional compatability.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By jon_griffey
24th Sep 2013 21:58

I am not a Luddite!

Barry_ACMA wrote:

I have to laugh at those above who shun social media, as irrelevant or time-consuming, but who have the time and inclination to comment on this thread.

 

Lol!  Mea Culpa!

Some good points made by all on this thread.

Back in the day when our practice was much smaller - and I had much more time on my hands I picked up no end of clients from Usenet which is I suppose old school social media and in fact probably half of my current clients can be traced back to that, so I fully accept that it can work, and work very well if you can find the sweet spot.

However I am on Facebook socially and Linkedin for work but I really am scratching my head at how on earth one makes them an effective marketing strategy. 

 

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By Mick Dickinson
24th Sep 2013 15:49

Time/resources

The point about taking too much time... You're right, there are plenty of tools that help you maximise efficiency. Often people who build social marketing into distinct slots in their day make the most progress. It's all about workflow. 

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
25th Sep 2013 09:20

Good points above

Interacting on accountingweb is a form of engagement on social media. And yet it's not even close to an activity likely to generate more business for most accountants.  There are other benefits - which is why so many accountants engage here.

Back in 2008  I wrote  couple of articles questionning the then popular view that accountants HAD to embrace twitter or they would get left behind. I challenged such statements then and continue to do so today. Five years ago my arguments were rubbished and yet my predictions seem remarkably accurate with the benefit of hindsight.

Mark

ps: Don't get me wrong - as regular readers will know I am an ardent user of social media and linkedin. I also frequently encourage accountants to explore the facilities and to plan how they might achieve realistic business objectives through their use thereof.

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Replying to Cameraguy:
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By Breckmans
28th Oct 2014 14:31

it depends on the client base

bookmarklee wrote:

Interacting on accountingweb is a form of engagement on social media. And yet it's not even close to an activity likely to generate more business for most accountants.  There are other benefits - which is why so many accountants engage here.

Back in 2008  I wrote  couple of articles questionning the then popular view that accountants HAD to embrace twitter or they would get left behind. I challenged such statements then and continue to do so today. Five years ago my arguments were rubbished and yet my predictions seem remarkably accurate with the benefit of hindsight.

Mark

ps: Don't get me wrong - as regular readers will know I am an ardent user of social media and linkedin. I also frequently encourage accountants to explore the facilities and to plan how they might achieve realistic business objectives through their use thereof.

Personally, I dislike social media. I am on LinkedIn, however I never had a new client from it. We are active as a firm on Twitter and many of our clients use it. If nothing else it is a good way to get the firms name out there.

The firm's website is becoming the most powerful advertising tool, behind client recommendation, with most potential new clients finding us via a search engine and the website..

Richard

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By johnjenkins
25th Sep 2013 09:46

Interaction

between client and Accountant is very important. How that takes place can be varied. I tend to use e-mail and texing. I do not use facebook or twitter. I don't really want to tell "my followers" that I've got the ump because "Simmons" aint got any sausages ore bacon left (builders got in before me) so I've had to make do with a peppered steak bake and an iced bun. (i normally have an iced bun or a jam doughnut - which a partner (many years ago) used to call dooffnuts).

All my new business is by word of mouth. This does take longer to build a client base but you get to know your clients quicker and to me that is important.

What's the old saying Orses for courses.

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