Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Accountants baffled by online content marketing

7th Jul 2016
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Accountants are still bamboozled by social media and blogging, research from the content marketing platform Passle has revealed.

According to the research, Grant Thornton topped the crop of firms showcasing its expertise online, with Mazars and Kingston Smith closely following. Passle analysed how the top 50 accounting firms performed online by measuring the number of knowledge pieces published, social media followers (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), engagement levels and their Klout scores.

The top 50 firms featured in the survey produced more than 3,200 knowledge pieces in 2015. That may seem like a large number, but further Passle research found that it equated to 0.29 knowledge pieces per staff member per year – revealing the dearth of blogs or articles posted and highlighting how accountants can increase their online presence by writing more think pieces to demonstrate expertise.

The results also reveal that accountants lack the skills and gumption to use content marketing to attract potential clients.

AccountingWEB’s consulting practice editor Mark Lee came to the same conclusion last year when he discovered ‘dozens of accountants’ websites had been untouched for years. Considering the effect of a neglected website, Lee wrote: “The question though is whether you are missing out on referrals and recommendations as people checking you out online are not enthused by what they see?”

Reviewing the survey’s results, Passle’s co- founder Tom Elgar echoed Lee’s sentiments. “The reality is that in a market as competitive as accountancy, firms need to seek every advantage to make themselves stand out from the crowd,” he said.  

However, accountants who dislike the idea of adding blog writing duties to their already bursting workloads will be relieved to learn that the average knowledge piece written by the top 50 firms included in the research totalled 514 words, with the outlier firms churning out blogs creeping over the 1,000-word count.

It is not just in knowledge pieces where accounting firms can brush up their online skills. The report found firms do not engage often with Twitter users, with firms averaging just 2.19 tweets per day.

PracticeWEB’s head of marketing Alex Tucker was not surprised by the results. How many of the firm’s employees are empowered to do anything that might be considered marketing; after all, they’ve got clients to look after and invoices to get paid, he said.

That said, Tucker stressed the importance of accounting firms writing insight blogs and becoming active on social media, especially in attracting their buyer persona. “The best thing you can do to start to get on their radar is to produce content that helps [your ideal client] do their job,” said Tucker. “It makes them more likely to come back and look at your blog again, follow you on Twitter, or remain engaged.”

For those sat scratching their head while staring at a blinking cursor, Tucker advises firms to get more employees engaged in creating blog content. And he said this can be achieved through encouraging the “vocal and opinionated people who have a point of view on what’s going on”, to transfer their “watercooler conversations” into a blog as a “platform to convert those opinions into content for the firm”.

“The other approach would be to look at the key people within your firm and have them champion a particular aspect in business,” Tucker said.

This would help build the profile of different members of the business as thought leaders, such as championing cloud or efficiency, and as Tucker explained, would help the firm to be not as reliant on the chief executive or leader of the business as the mouthpiece.

As part of its own online marketing strategy Passle has issued a challenge where if you review its content marketing report, the organisation will send you a ranking of your firm’s online engagement

Replies (5)

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
07th Jul 2016 15:56

I usually turn off quite quickly after finding more than one (two) typos in the first two paragraphs.

Sack your proof reader!

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Richard Sergeant
By Richard Sergeant
09th Jul 2016 07:39

There are some great examples of Firm's doing some really interesting and engaging work around content/social.

It's true that it's easier for some than others but a little discipline (committing and getting it done) goes a long way.

For blogging I quite like - great tone, and not scared to voice an opinion.

and - ditto

Both have healthy but steady social media channels too.

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Replying to rsergeant:
By AlexTucker
11th Jul 2016 10:23

I especially like that Lambert Chapman has blog posts produced by and accredited to different people in the firm - this is great for the firm's brand and the personal brands of its staff

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
11th Jul 2016 21:01

Another day, another piece of misconceived 'research' into how accountants 'should' use social media.

I haven't seen the research so can only comment by ref to this report which includes ref to :

"how the top 50 accounting firms performed online by measuring the number of knowledge pieces published, social media followers (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), engagement levels and their Klout scores".

I would hope that none of those firms uses social media with the intention of winning clients. This is a tough enough objective for smaller firms where it is clear who is involved in the social media activity. In the larger fims this is rarely the case.

Larger firms have different social media objectives to smaller firms. They also have less need to engage on social media. Outside of the largest firms hardly any will be able to build sufficient of a following for it to be worth them sharing content in the firm's name on social media.

The related research that might be worthy of comment would need to rank the aggregate number of times each firm is referenced positively, negatively or neutrally across all social media platforms including all publications, articles, analysis etc shared online by staff, partners, clients and 3rd parties.

The independent social media influence measurement of 'Klout' does this to a degree already of course. And few accountancy firms score very highly here.

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
12th Jul 2016 08:12

I have now traced the research and note that the top ranked firm of GT is a client of the research company. This doesn't invalidate the research but it does suggest that the measurement techniques used may be self serving. Equally it could be that GT have benefitted from the research company's insights and advice - which would be a good thing.

My key observation though is that the research tells us nothing about what accountants generally think about social media and blogging. The report references only the top 50 firms who have different agendas, objectives and staffing profiles (in terms of who is responsible for social media and blogging) as compared with the thousands of smaller firms around the UK.

I would add too that quantitative research focused on activity tells us nothing about the achievement of wider business objectives in terms of engagement with prospects or to what extent new clients have come on board after having seen or engaged with the firm's online content. This is typically a key measure of effectiveness of online content.

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