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Why Social Media Participation Can Be Good for CPAs

Social mediaCPAs may justifiably be wary of sharing personal and professional information on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  After all, many CPAs spend their days verifying facts in the form of numbers – and adding “notes” in financial statements when there is any question of the veracity of those facts.  How then could these same CPAs be comfortable tweeting about the newest changes in the LIFO accounting procedures or writing a blog post on whether book authors should deduct their home office on their income tax returns?

Welcome to the brand new world of online relationship building, where being willing to “put yourself out there” on social media can help you connect with current and prospective clients.

First, a word of caution.  You must use good sense on social media sites – the same good sense you would use at a live town meeting or reception.  You would not say anything harmful to others or anything that could come back to bite you. 

This means that no matter what the social media site’s stated privacy controls are, you will act online as if everything you tweet or post – and we mean everything – is available to be seen by everyone.  As we tell our own clients, everything you say could be on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow.

Now that we have provided the warning, let’s look at the benefits as well as what you are losing out on if other CPAs are participating and you are not.

We’ll do this by taking an imaginary scenario:

Charles is looking for a new CPA to do the accounting for his business.  His friend Emily provides him with the names of three CPAs.

Charles is active on LinkedIn, so he naturally goes online to check out the three names.  He can’t find the first person, the second person has no headshot and just the minimum listing, while the third person has a robust LinkedIn profile.

This robust profile includes recommendations from the CPA’s clients – recommendations that mention specific things that the CPA has done for her clients.  Which person is Charles most likely to contact? 

While different personalities gravitate to different social media sites, for CPAs LinkedIn is very important because it is designed as a professional social media site.  (Note that, while there is a paid version of LinkedIn membership, we are talking only about the free membership.)

Learning to be effective on LinkedIn is not a one-time effort.  You start by filling out your LinkedIn profile as completely as possible.  We highly recommend you include a good headshot of yourself and choose the option of displaying your whole name rather than only your first name and the first initial of your last name. 

The next step is to join LinkedIn groups that connect with your practice and/or your interests.  These may be local groups,specialty accounting groups,alumni groups or volunteer project groups.  If possible, participate in group discussions, adding insightful comments that demonstrate accounting knowledge where appropriate.  You can also start your own group.

Search for people you know who are already on LinkedIn and send invite requests.  At the same time, you can request recommendations from people on LinkedIn whom you think will give you a good recommendation.  Of course, provide recommendations for those people on LinkedIn you know and can recommend.  You want to demonstrate that you are an active LinkedIn community member.

Over time, as you participate, pay attention to what others have on their LinkedIn profiles.  Then emulate the best of what you see.

And when you are comfortable in this new world of online relationship building via LinkedIn, you can venture out to the next frontier – Twitter or YouTube or Facebook – as long as you practice the golden rule: Do unto others what you would like done unto you. 

AICPA members interested in learning more about getting started on social media can check out the Social Media User Guides located in the CPA Marketing Toolkit.

Mitchell R. Miller, Attorney at Law, and Phyllis Zimbler Miller, co-founder, Miller Mosaic LLC. Mitchell is a member of the AICPA and a tax lawyer in Beverly Hills, CA. His wife, Phyllis, is a marketing consultant and founded the Book Marketing group on LinkedIn.

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