Nick Lewis explains why you should regard social media as fundamental to your business, not just an afterthought
This month and in September I will be speaking at the ICPA’s Practice Evolution 2017 events in London and Manchester. In this issue’s column I would like to preview what I will be speaking about at both events, not only to whet the appetite of those who are thinking of attending but to offer the benefit of my insight to those who can’t.
My talk is entitled ‘Social Media, Accountants & Their Clients: It’s More Than Just Marketing’ and, as you can probably gather, it will present a strong argument as to why accountants should embrace social media, and not just for obvious, superficial reasons.
As a social media marketer, one of my main frustrations is trying to get clients to see social media (and online marketing as a whole) as more than just a simple broadcasting mechanism. Used correctly and efficiently, social media can strengthen existing client bonds, provide very useful intelligence on your competitors and potential clients as well as help you refine your marketing strategies and product offerings.
I don’t blame you if reading the above you arched a cynical eyebrow – “He would say that as he’s a social media marketer!” But case study after case study, as well common sense and inherent logic, shows that businesses and organisations benefit greatly if they use and approach social media properly.
The worst kind of social media marketing is that which is undertaken as an afterthought or a bolt on to other marketing and business activities. Social media needs to be undertaken intelligently and with all due consideration if it is to work. In fact, I would argue that a business or an organisation is better off not undertaking any social media activity than to consistently do it badly, as a poor social media presence can be damaging, counter-productive and therefore a monumental waste of resources.
So what is social media for? What is it, if it is not simply there to market oneself? Taking a helicopter view, social media is a pre-existing business ecosystem that you must try to engage with, influence and learn from. Obviously this highfalutin language can be applied to ‘real life’ but social media is exactly that; communities and individuals interacting online, in a parallel life, that should interact with your offline activities as well.
In short, if you’re not represented online, you’re missing out on a whole series of conversations and potential leads that your more switched on competitor is probably benefiting from. If you’re not online, you simply do not exist to online communities. And being online does not mean have a static website or a Yell listing; being online means being proactive online, in a considered, controlled manner.
Arguably, it is not just sufficient either to just post regularly about your business on social media. Social media should not been seen a 21st century iteration of a local newspaper advert, where the same message can be regurgitated over and over again. Such an approach will not work because, to put it bluntly, no one will care. To be a successful participant in the online world you have to offer others a varied, regular diet of information that will attract and cultivate the kind of client or business contact your organisation needs to flourish. Talking about oneself, repeatedly, bores and repels. As in real life, to cultivate a relationship with others you have to express an interest in them… otherwise, they will not reciprocate.
Aside from building communities and establishing relationships, social media offers a treasure trove data and metrics on potential clients and competitors. In age where everyone overshares and lives their lives online all the time, one does not need to be in the secret service to know who is doing what when, or who knows who. A sensible structured harvesting and analysis of this information could probably bring your business benefits that you simply had not thought of.
But ultimately, social media provides a key marketing and broadcasting function for businesses as well. It’s just a more sophisticated version of what has gone before, although by using software such as Google Analytics, you will know what works for you and what doesn’t. This did not necessarily happen in the age of the postal mailshot.
I will be fleshing out all of the above at the forthcoming Practice Evolution events, so please do come along and listen to what I have to say. I am also offering discounted rates for my services to all ICPA members, so please see the ICPA website for more information.
- Nick Lewis is a communications professional with over 15 years’ experience. He offers social media support via www.nicklewiscommunications.com.
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