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Use Social Media, Don’t Let It Use You

Social-mediaThe AICPA’s Forensic and Valuation Service Conference, held Nov. 11 through 13, involved several sessions that were taught the “un-conference way.” These sessions were unconventional in their approach and involved peer-to-peer interactive learning. One un-conference session I attended was Tom Hood’s “Getting an ROI from Social Media via ROA (Return on Attention).” Tom is the CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs and is considered a top thought leader in accounting.

From the moment we entered the room, we were thrown headfirst into the world of social media, as Tom encouraged us to sign into the gosoapbox event. Tom kicked off the session with a survey of attendees’ social media habits. In our group, 11% did not use social media at all and 71% viewed social media as a time sink, a valid concern for professionals who already have very demanding schedules. 

Most of us wanted to know how diving into the world of social media would be worth our time. A Deloitte/MIT study on social business found that connecting and collaborating with customers and team members are essential to the long-term survival of a business. Tom, quoting Francine McKenna, stressed how important it is to “use the tools, don’t let the tools use you.” This is vital in keeping social media from becoming a black hole that results in inefficiency and inefficacy.

As the session progressed, without a phone or computer at hand, Tom was somehow sending out a steady stream of tweets. How did he do this? Did he have an assistant hiding in the wings? Turns out he was using HootSuite, a social media tool, to schedule tweets throughout the day. Using the tools, he put aside time in the morning to write messages that would be posted throughout the day. He was not wasting his day puttering about Twitter, he was actively participating in social media and his thoughts and ideas were being shared with his peers.

Risk management in social media is a big concern. There is a real fear that anything that we say in social media may impact us negatively at trial. Also, discussions through social media by members of our staff may be risky. We must develop a safe social media usage policy. One solution is the one used by the MACPA that is tied to, among other things, the CPA Code of Conduct. The simple approach, given by Tom, is to not say anything you wouldn’t say to your mother.

We each received an i2a:Insights to Go worksheet to use during our session to record what we learned, what trends we felt would have the biggest impact in our organization and the five steps we intended to take to get an ROA on social media. The key to success is to start small and take manageable steps into the world of social media. A blog (that you post to regularly) is a good start.

Armed with this knowledge and a strategy to get started, we went from being skeptical and apprehensive about social media to being motivated and equipped to implement these new tools into our business and perhaps even become thought leaders ourselves.

AICPA Members: Interested in social media, but not sure how to get started? From blogging to Twitter to YouTube, the AICPA’s social media toolkit will help you formulate and execute a strategy. Plus, join the FVS Section LinkedIn group for an opportunity to network with your peers.

Rumbi Bwerinofa, CPA, CFF, Controller - Managed Accounts, TGM Associates, LP. Rumbi was selected to be a member of the Emerging Program for Rising Forensic and Business Valuation Professionals, which was specifically designed for CPAs with less than five years of forensic accounting or business valuation experience. 

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