Whether or not you are active on twitter, you must have been tempted. Mark Lee asks whether it is a waste of time or can you derive business benefits?
In my experience, when it comes to Twitter, UK accountants typically adopt one of the following approaches:
- Given what I’ve seen and heard I’m not wasting my time on Twitter
- I love it. It’s fun. I’ve found clients through Twitter and I’ve built valuable business relationships here.
- We tweet in the firm’s name – we believe it will boost our profile and I’m told it could help us generate new clients
- I tweet as me but only business related stuff and not every day
- We pay someone else to tweet for us to get the firm’s name out there
- Our web people put Twitter links on our website but we don’t really do much with it
- I’ve let one of our junior people tweet in the firm’s name as Twitter isn’t my sort of thing
- We tried it but it was a waste of time. It didn’t help us to win any new clients and we got fed up seeing all the dross that people tweet
Back in 2009 I wrote some articles for AccountingWEB on the topic of Twitter. Little has happened to change my advice in the interim although the number of accountants who have experimented with twitter has increased dramatically.
I remain keen to help accountants who want to explore Twitter, to do so, but only if they have realistic expectations.
This is quite different to many of the generic advisory pieces I read that imply you must become active on Twitter and that you will miss out on loads of new work if you don’t embrace twitter.
Such advice often misses key points such as considering whether your clients and target audience are active on Twitter, how to get value from the time you spend on twitter, the benefit of following up away from twitter and whether you might get more value from increased face to face local business networking.
I still believe there is little point in accountants wasting time and effort on Twitter unless either they are having fun or if they have a clear strategy and understand what is feasible and what is not. For those who get it right, Twitter can be a simple and easy way to generate new leads for valuable work.
But hundreds, possibly thousands, of UK accountants are wasting time on Twitter every week. As long as they are happy that’s fine but I suspect many are disappointed.
A minority are winning work as a result of their activity on Twitter. That’s great – if it’s the type of work they seek for the sort of clients they want to work for and if the value of the work warrants the time and effort spent on Twitter.
How do I know that so many accountants are wasting their time on Twitter? Well, for some years I have been building up twitter lists of tweeting accountants, These enable me to see what they tweet, how often they tweet and the extent to which they engage with other tweeters. Beyond my own experience there is also the independent evidence of klout scores – of which, more later.
I curate two distinct Twitter lists that anyone can access and follow. The main one includes all UK accountants I have found who tweet in their own name. The second list is for those who tweet in an accountancy firm’s name. If you’re not on either of the lists please tweet me @bookmarklee and I’ll add you to the appropriate one.
I don’t offer any scientific analysis of the accountants on the two lists but over the years I have noticed a number of recurrent trends that apply to a clear majority and which are typically a waste of time:
- Routinely tweeting little more than promotional links, presumably in the mistaken belief that twitter is some big advertising hoarding
- Tweeting just once a day – or even less frequently perhaps assuming that their followers see everything they tweet
- Thinking they are getting somewhere if they have more than a few hundred followers – though most have simply followed them back and may not be interested or even ever see their tweets
- Following back everyone who follows them
It is no wonder that so many accountant tweeters get bored and stop tweeting for business purposes after a few weeks or months. That this happens all too often is clear from the number of accountants’ Twitter feeds which become dormant.
It would be wrong to suggest that this is inevitable and that Twitter is useless or full of rubbish – any more than we might suggest that satellite TV is full of shopping and music channels. You choose which channels to watch on TV and can easily avoid any programmes that do not interest you. Twitter is much the same. I follow hundreds of people but rarely see much rubbish – as I choose who I follow. If anyone routinely tweets nonsense I simply unfollow them and don’t see it any more.
I also prefer to track accountants’ tweets via my two Twitter lists rather than to follow them all individually.
By the way, those who tweet using their firm’s name typically have fewer followers and generate less interest and interaction compared with those who tweet using a real person’s name. Looking at the firms’ tweets this is not very surprising.
The question for accountants has to be, what is your purpose in using Twitter? It needs to be more than simply to accumulate lots of followers.
When I look through the tweets on the two lists referenced earlier I surmise that more accountants gain value from twitter when they tweet in their own name rather than when using their firm’s name. This is unsurprising. Outside of the big brand names, building personal connections is invariably the most effective way to generate interest, conversation and value from twitter.
As a judge for the Practice Excellence Awards this year I noticed a number of firms referencing how many followers they have on Twitter, as if this was an indicator of some value.
Some also expressed the hope that their Twitter activity would eventually translate into new client work. Maybe it will. But chasing follower numbers of itself will not lead to new clients. It’s quite easy to generate more followers simply by following hundreds of people who often just follow you back but may never see what you tweet. Turning followers into clients or referrers of clients is quite different.
You will often see a two digit number in a small orange box next to someone’s name on Twitter.com. This is their klout score and is supposed to represent their influence on social media. The more influential they are, the higher will be their Klout score, on a scale of 1-100.
Klout.com tells us that “Influence is the ability to drive action. When you share something on social media or in real life and people respond, that’s influence. The more influential you are the higher your klout score.”
What I like about Klout is that it gets us away from chasing follower numbers or thinking that more followers means anything in isolation. It doesn’t.
My own score at 79 (at the time of writing) is somewhat higher than most, so you might expect me to embrace the concept. Tempting though that is I remain a tad cynical as I’m not convinced that the way Klout measures ‘influence’ accords with real life, in our world at least. So I would not encourage accountants to chase a high klout score. The metric that matters more will typically be the value of the fees you generate directly from being active on twitter.
I would also suggest that you might think twice before following the social media advice of someone with a low Klout score.
Real benefits from twitter?
If you are confident that you’re not wasting your time on Twitter and are happy with the results of your use of twitter do please share your story below.
How much time do you devote to twitter each day/week? Are you generating work from established businesses or from start-ups? Do you tweet in your name or your firm’s name? Are you focused on your local business area? To what strategy do you attribute your success on Twitter?
- The Do’s and Don’ts of twitter for accountants
- Social media: Cynical view from an early adopter
- Do you need a social media strategy?
- Balancing personal and professional online
Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB. He also facilitates The Inner Circle group for accountants, entertains as a conference speaker and is chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists providing help and support to smaller practices.
About Mark Lee
These days Mark Lee focuses his business actiities on two key activities:
1 - He loves being engaged to speak on stage to audiences of accountants in all size of firms. His latest keynopte talk is: The rise of Robo-Accountants - and how to beat them. He is an accountancy focused speaker, futurist and influencer with a positive reputation for entertaining, engaging and enthusing his audiences.
2 - He loves supporting savvy sole practitioners who want more out of their practice. More clients, more money, more time, more satisfaction - or everything!
An accountant by profession, Mark moved away from the provision of professional advice in 2006. He is now a professional speaker, mentor, author and debunker.
Mark is passionate about helping accountants generally so is a keen blogger and commentator in the accounting and tax press. He has been consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and has written hudnreds of articles here that have been viewed over a million times.
Check out how he could help you here: www.BookMarkLee.co.uk/savvy
Mark no longer gives tax advice despite being a past Chairman of the Chartered Accountants’ Tax Faculty. He is however Chairman of the Tax Advice Network - the UK's highest ranked lead generation website for tax advisers and accountants. The network also publishes a weekly practical tax update for accountants in general practice and full tax support, on demand too. You can also use it as a lead generation resource for local people seeking tax advice from an accountant.