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EXTRA! EXTRA! Meet the Brains Behind @AICPANews

Hello_my_name_isAICPANewsTwitter has increasingly become the go-to place for industry news. Recently I sat down with James Schiavone, AICPA media relations manager and the brains behind the @AICPANews Twitter account, to discuss what he has learned from managing this thriving social media channel.

Q) The @AICPANews account was stated in March of 2009. More than 3,500 tweets and 17,000 followers later, what have you learned?

A) Growing our Twitter following and hearing what AICPA members and others in the profession have to say has been one of my favorite parts of the job over the past four-plus years.

I believe that having a strategy when you start out on Twitter – or any social media platform – is extremely important. Ensuring that you have a level of consistency, not only with the content you push out, but also the tone you use, is also important. By being consistent, your audience knows what to expect and, hopefully, you build a level of trust where they know that if you believe something is important enough to share, it likely has some value to them.

I’ve also learned that, even though you are limited to 140 characters, it is important to avoid ambiguous tweets. Spreading your message out over two tweets, linking to a platform where you can more fully express your thoughts or sometimes just not tweeting are all better ideas that putting something out there that might confuse your audience.

Q) How has Twitter changed since you started managing @AICPANews?

A) You mean besides their valuation having gone through the roof?

I find that a lot more people are live-tweeting from mobile devices and tablets at conferences. Partially as a result hashtags, which didn’t seem to be widely understood when Twitter first became popular, have really caught on. I’ve found that by monitoring hashtags I am able to get a sense of what the key takeaways of conference sessions are that I haven’t attended, and that I am able to keep abreast of what is going on in concurrent sessions when I am at a conference.

Also as people have had times to grow the number of people they are following, the use of third-party platforms to manage different conversation topics and lists have really become a necessity. I personally prefer HootSuite, but once you are following more than 100 people I think it is important to segment them into different lists - regardless of the platform you use.

I’ve noticed that people are more likely to reach out directly on Twitter with an @ mention and ask a question now than they were when we first started out. For better or for worse, people have a real expectation that they will be able to interact with brands in real time in social media. I try to respond to every non-spam message or @ question I receive, but a lot of these discussions are better held through direct message or email. Twitter requires that you follow an account in order to send direct messages, so I think it is important to follow any account you interact with if you expect a response. And remember that there is a person behind the account, so be mindful of your tone.

Q) How has social media changed the way you ‘do business?’

A) The ability to share content directly with your audience is a great opportunity, and since the AICPA is a trusted organization we are able to take advantage of that through our social media channels and our blog.  This often creates a conversation, where people will comment on Facebook or Twitter or on a LinkedIn forum, which allows people to network and share ideas in a way that would have not been possible a decade or two ago. By listening in on these conversations, I gain greater insight on the issues that CPAs are facing.

On the other hand, social media and the rise in online publications has increased the speed at which reporters operate and put more pressure on PR and media relations professionals to meet deadlines. This fast paced environment, combined with the increasing influence of blogs  and social media accounts means that there is more information available than ever before from a wide array of sources. With additional platforms and publications to monitor popping up all the time, it can be difficult and time consuming to ensure that your side of the story is being told.

Q) Do you have any tips for CPAs who would like to utilize Twitter for media relations?

From a media perspective, you can get a sense of what the hot topics in the news are and where the public may be seeking clarity on a certain issue. This helps you identify where you can offer your expertise as a CPA to reporters who are covering that issue.

In my experience, while there are some reporters who are amenable to being pitched on Twitter, there is greater value in listening to see what topics reporters and bloggers are tweeting about. This can provide some insight into their personality and also allow you to better understand how they identify the stories they ultimately wind up covering.

I would also recommend that you follow all the media outlets that are of interest to you, and certainly make sure to tweet any media mentions of your firm or company. This helps drive traffic to their website, which everyone appreciates, and lets the reporter know that you saw the story and shared it. It’s a #winwin (sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Thank you so much to James for sharing his wisdom…happy tweeting! Check out all of the AICPA accounts on Twitter.

AICPA Members:  Interested in learning how to get started on Twitter? Download the AICPA Twitter social media user guide.

, Strategist, Social Media and Member Engagement, American Institute of CPAs.

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