Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
Share this content

The accountants’ guide to Twitter

15th Sep 2009
Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
Share this content
Kashflow logo

Mark Lee offers an introduction to the social networking tool of the moment and discusses how accountants can benefit.

There’s so much nonsense written about Twitter in the media generally that it wouldn’t surprise me if most accountants had made a conscious decision to ignore it. Personally I have been active on Twitter for over a year and have learned a great deal about how to get the most from it, what works and what doesn’t.

Back in December I wrote a blog setting out why I thought accountants in practice don't need to bother with Twitter. Frankly I remain of that view, and yet there are an increasing number dipping their toes into the water. The UK tax and accountancy Twitter listing now has well over 100 accountants on it, although not all tweet regularly.

While it’s true to say that accountants don’t need to try telemarketing or direct mail, many do and some are successful with them. By the same token, the time has come to help accountants who want to explore Twitter for themselves.

The biggest misconception

There’s a huge misconception about Twitter arising from those in the media who still think of it as a micro-blogging website where users post inane messages telling each other the answer to a standard question – ‘what are you doing right now?’ Indeed, plenty of people think Twitter is full of people talking about what they had for breakfast or tea, but I use it without ever seeing that babble and so can you.

It’s easy. You only see the tweets of people you choose to follow, i.e. people you find of interest. If someone you are following posts stuff you think is rubbish, uninteresting or pointless, you simply stop following them, and that’s it - you won’t see any more rubbish.

Conversation not advertising

To avoid disappointment let me just stress that accountants can derive business value from Twitter, but that value is often indirect in nature and depends greatly on the personal approach.

As with all other forms of online social media, overt messages like ‘tax worries? Call now!’ will fall on deaf ears. Do not bother experimenting with Twitter if you are thinking of using it for overt advertising. It doesn’t work like that and you'd be wasting your time.

Getting started

Twitter glossary

Tweet: The word used to describe the update a person posts on their Twitter page

Following: The members of Twitter you have chosen to follow

Followers: The members of Twitter who have chosen to follow you

Retweet (or RT): The act of reposting on your page a post from another member which you find particularly interesting or useful

  • Go to www.twitter.com and set up an account. You will need to choose a username (e.g. @JohnSmith) and enter a brief biography. You’ll also have to identify your locality and add your website address.
     
  • Decide whether you’re going to post tweets in your name or your firm’s name. It’s generally best to use your real name, as it’s the one that people know you by. Of course, if you have a common name you may need to adopt a variation (e.g. I’m @bookmarklee). You can use underscores if that helps. Another exception is if you’ve built a brand around a name other than your own (e.g. @thetaxbuzz), in which case staying consistent takes priority.
     
  • More people will want to follow you if you also add a photo showing your face, rather than a logo or any other sort of photo. A photo of yourself can also help your followers feel that they are getting to know you as it will appear alongside each of your tweets. This is the first step towards them starting to like you and trust you, which are usually prerequisites to them becoming clients.
     
  • Tweets cannot be more than 140 characters in length. It’s common to provide links in your tweets to interesting items on other websites and blogs. Most people who do this shorten the length of their links using URL shortnening sites, such as tinyurl.com or bit.ly.

Twitter etiquette

Once you’re all set up, you’ll need to decide who you want to ‘follow’. When you follow someone, it means that you will be able to view their tweets and also send them direct messages if you wish.

You may wish to follow other accountants (read Ten accountants to follow on Twitter for ideas). There’s no point in posting lots of tweets until you have people following you. This is a bit of a catch 22 situation as few people will follow you until you start posting, so I would recommend posting twice or three times a day even before you have any followers. Before you start, think about what might prompt people to want to follow you. Overt promotional messages will not work in this regard.

Your tweets can only be seen by people who are following you or by those who search Twitter for words contained in your tweets. In time your tweets may be seen by other people if any of your followers re-tweet (RT) your messages.

In my next article, I'll set out my top 20 Twitter tips to help accountants get more benefits from their experiments with Twitter.

Mark Lee is chairman of the Tax Advice Network and consultant practice editor for AccountingWEB.co.uk. Learn more about Mark's approach to Twitter on his Ambitious Accountants blog

Replies (6)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By Anonymous
15th Sep 2009 11:04

Using Twitter

 I write as one who uses both the overt "Contact me if you have xxxx worries" type of message on Twitter alongside more convential tweets pointing to an article written in one of my blogs.

In my experience the one reinforces the other. The sales-type approach draws attention to your brand whilst the tweet drawing attention to an article in your blog points to your professional relevance and competence (and quickly draws comment if you have let something slip!)

I have been using twitter for some three  months now and it has repaid the time invested in it in terms of fees and personal satisfaction. I am constantly surprised at the number of approaches I receive and their geographical diversity.

Thanks (0)
Adrian Pearson
By Adrian Pearson
16th Sep 2009 16:55

Over two years and still not inspired

I signed-up for Twitter in May 2007 (@topaccountants) but have subsequently never tweeted or followed anyone.  I keep intending to follow the herd and join in the fun but, when logged-in, with fingers hovering over the keyboard always think "what's the point?" and promptly log out again.  Maybe one day I will "get" Twitter, but I doubt it somehow.

Most of the tweets I see are not messages at all but links to web content, usually a blog posting or news item. Surely, if I am interested in someone's blog I can simply keep visiting it on the web to see what's new, or even subscribe to the blog's RSS feed if I don't want to bother actually visiting.  Why would I need to "follow" the writer's tweets, simply to receive a link, to follow to where I could have gone in the first place?

I usually love playing with new technology but, alas, Twitter seems to be lost on me.

Adrian Pearson
Top Accountants

Thanks (0)
By GaryMc
17th Sep 2009 09:02

Tweetdeck is the answer

Adrian, you may want to have a look at Tweetdeck.  It allows you to search for multiple items that are being tweeted about.  You can then find the blogs and info that maybe you haven't found while surfing the Web.

For example, I have a search set up for the term HMRC.  Every time someone on Twitter mentions HMRC in a tweet, Tweetdeck brings it to my attention.

Also, something that Mark hasn't mentioned in this piece is that on his Tax Advice Network site is a list of accountants on Twitter - might be worth having a look at that and following a few of them to see how they use the app.

Thanks (0)
By Becky Midgley
17th Sep 2009 12:19

Discussion group

I have just created a discussion group for using Twitter within the 'Developing your assets' discussion group.  If you are not a member, don't worry, just click to join and leave your comments. 

Thanks (0)
David Winch
By David Winch
17th Sep 2009 15:36

. . . u run out of space !!!

Messages on Twitter can only be a maximum of 140 characters long so I am wondering how you manage to get anything interesting said before yo

Thanks (0)
Adrian Pearson
By Adrian Pearson
28th Sep 2009 15:59

All that Twitters is not gold?

I have just blogged my further thoughts on Twitter at https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/blogs/topaccountants/top-accountants/all-twitters-not-gold

With apologies for the cheesy subject line!

Adrian Pearson
Top Accountants

Thanks (0)