Social media action plan for accountancy firms

Social media is constantly mentioned as the latest, greatest and best of all free marketing tool. But for some accountants, it’s uncharted territory. Rachael Power offers some tips courtesy of PracticeWEB.

Specialist website developer PracticeWEB recently hosted a social media management webinar that shared tips and advice for firms considering how to implement a social media strategy.

Drawing on the PracticeWEB online engagement benchmarking report, marketing manager Elizabeth McMahon noted that 83% of the 260 firms surveyed were already using social media in some form or another, with almost 100% of them on LinkedIn. Facebook did surprisingly well with 75% of respondents having a presence. However, firms tended to use Facebook more for recruitment than promotion.

Social media is not only good for improving your search engine rankings, it can also aid client engagement, brand awareness, marketing, lead generation and networking. As the webinar unfolded, McMahon presented a structured framework to help your firm get the most out of its social media use. The main ideas and suggestions are described below.

Set goals

Setting goals for use of social media in your firm “imperative”. Identifying goals will ensure that everyone in the firm retains the same focus and in turn reduces the potential of waster chargeable hours.

Make sure to include elements within the financial and non-financial goals under that will help you measure return on investment (ROI).

The types of goals you set should be aimed at increasing your network overall, McMahon said, as converting networking leads to referrals, which is the best way to gain new business.

Identify the audience

Social media is like any form of marketing. After you set your goals, the next stage is then to identify your audience.

Start by finding out where your clients hang out in the social media arena, what sites they visit, what kind of articles they read, what groups they’re on in LinkedIn and who they follow on Twitter.

It sounds like a lot of work, but going through your client list to find out what interests them and who is on what platform will contribute the return on your social media use.

Think about the target groups identified in your firm’s practice development plan - who do you need to reach to meet your objectives?

Ask yourself also what key points you want to make and what you want to get out of social media.

Remember not to ‘sell’, though, as the more you try and sell your firm, the worse you will perform.

Establish social media KPIs

Social media key performance indicators (KPIs) should go hand in hand with the goals that firms have set.

They should also be quantifiable, for example, the number of visitors, followers (on Twitter), article reads and shares, comments or likes, retweets - there are many to choose from.

Firms can measure their KPIs through a variety of tools, including Google Analytics, organic tools within the social media sites themselves and external ones like Tweetdeck or HootSuite - but don't limit your indicators to just those sources. Identifying where online contacts have turned into actual engagements with your target clients, for example, will require linking your social media measurements to in-house CRM.

Once you have the statistics, you can identify what is and what isn’t working, feed the information back to those involved in the plan, implement new procedures and repeat the process.

Content is king

“This is the absolutely fundamental part of social media, or indeed a website. There is no point in having a social media platform unless you have something interesting to say,” McMahon said.

Create a good content plan, which could include asking people to contribute to blogs or articles, having an editorial calendar and taking advantage of the expertise you have in-house.

Don’t work hard, work smart, PracticeWEB said. The content plan should identify who is going to contribute and when, and maximise your resources by using all the marketing channels at your disposal.

If necessary, hire copywriters or subscribe to helpful bulletins or news channels to get ideas.

Capacity

Decide who will implement your firm’s social media strategy.

Appoint the person first of all, and then make sure they can manage their time.

Allocate a minimum of 1.5-2 hours week to social media activity, although you may need to spend a bit more time learning how sites work when you first start out.

Ask yourself if you have the most efficient workflow and tasks set out, whether you need any outside expertise and whether your current content updates depend on any other resource or person.

Try to be as methodical as you can be when implementing your social media strategy, and ensure you choose someone who is willing, responsible and trusted within the firm.

Culture change

Getting people to buy in to your social media management plan is important as this is the thing that ties everything together.  

Once you’ve identified goals and KPIs, decided on content and identified your audience, tell people what the outcome is going to be.

People may worry that those in charge of social media are using it inappropriately, but PracticeWEB say these instances are lessening off, as people learn how to use the platforms.

“These are new tools. Some will want to interact on social media in professional ways more than others, especially partners,” McMahon said.

If the social media leader has a sense of “ownership”, but is open to getting the most of the most enthusiastic and interested staff members, it will pay off positively.

Also consider whether your team needs a specific firm-branded account, or if they are okay to use their personal accounts on sites like Twitter.  

Setting use parameters for employees

Trying to ban the use of social media altogether is counter-productive, according to PracticeWEB. A good social media policy should cover both how staff use it during work time, and how they portray your firm.

Discuss issues such as client confidentiality with employees and make it very clear what information they can and cannot share.

Don’t be heavy handed, however, and trust your staff to make the right decisions. If you are worried about the outlandish views of an employee, then perhaps ask them to include for a simple "personal views" disclaimer in their various social media profiles.

Once you have got all that down, implement the following action points:

  •  Identify your goals
  • Identify your audience
  • Allocate someone to be responsible for social media
  • Create a social use policy
  • Start broadcasting
  • Track results
  • Spend time at the start to get it just right for you
  • Revisit content six months down the line and repackage or refresh it

PracticeWEB will host another social media management webinar on Monday 12 August

Comments

But why?

dogsbreath |

In short,  put lots of time and effort into social media to get results.

But what results?

As an accounting practice,  are you *really* likely to get someone coming to you following a post on the infinite monkey cage that is twitter and facebook?  Compare that to,  say,  leads being generated by satisfied clients or specifically targeted sales prospecting.

Anyone believing that LinkedIn forums have any gravitas is sorely mistaken.  In my experience they're all either dead, full of spam,  or bland enough to rival three -- no four -- bread rolls.

As regards a facebook/twitter strategy for the office;  how about blocking it at the firewall.  Job done.  Then the social media evangelists can get back to earning fees.