To many, the mysteries of building a social media network can be scary - so much so they avoid social media or discount it as frivolous and unnecessary. But, as we all know, squeezing our eyes shut won't make the monsters go away.
It is time we look social media squarely in the eye and accept that it has an important and powerful role in the way business is conducted today. That's right. It's time to discuss social media for accountants and other financial services providers. Let's start by understanding what we fear - social media - then learn how to master it to our advantage.
Traditional versus Social Media Networking
So what exactly does it mean to network on social media? We understand traditional business networking - it's attending a local chamber of commerce function or a conference for a professional association. The goal is to meet people face-to-face, shake hands by the buffet or chat during the cocktail hour.
Online or social media networking is the same, but it extends your reach exponentially. You're no longer limited to the few people in a room. With social media, you can access a network of potential clients, referral sources, and teaming partners from around the globe, across the country or up the street.
The Benefits of a Social Media Network
Now that we better understand social media networking, let's consider the top 5 reasons for mastering social media for accountants and financial services firms:
- Increase visibility. As we've already discussed, being active on social media allows you to extend your reach beyond your current professional network or geographic boundaries. Social media networking can also increase your individual visibility among new audiences while generating greater awareness of your firm as a whole.
- Establish expertise. Social media networking lets you share your expertise and become known for your thought leadership. Join relevant industry groups on LinkedIn and educate your peers or prospects by sharing content they'll find informative. Be sure to use good social media etiquette and contribute to group discussions. By sharing and commenting on other people's content, you can establish yourself as an expert and a valued participant, rather than someone who is simply self-promoting. Twitter's another great platform for sharing content, especially for making timely announcements (upcoming speaking engagements or webinars) or for sharing your most recent blog posts.
- Improve SEO. Social media networking will drive traffic to your firm's website and improve your domain authority (the strength of your website's reputation). Social media content is also searchable so tweets and LinkedIn posts that link back to your website will be found by search engines and direct traffic to your website.
- Be in the know. Your social media network will expose you to important insights about those you're connected to or following and how they're connected to others. Our referral research tells us that nearly 60% of buyers check out an individual/firm on social media before making contact, even in the case of getting a direct referral by someone they know. Well it goes both ways. You can research potential clients online to learn more about them and better tailor your message...perhaps you attended the same college, are members of the same professional associations, or have shared business connections.
- Recruit top talent. You can use social media and your online network for recruiting and vetting top-quality professionals to join your firm, much the same way you can use social media to be introduced to and learn about clients. Potential candidates will learn about you and your firm through your social media profiles and content and you can learn about them and better assess if they're the right fit. LinkedIn also has options for posting highly targeted career opportunities.
Social media networking isn't so mysterious now that we've shed some light on how you can leverage it to supplement your marketing and business development efforts.
Social media for accountants and financial service professionals can still seem risky - some may fear competitors knowing your business connections, attempts to poach your best people or clients, or that online comments open you up to liability. But the truth is there are risks both online and offline.
What is clear is that social media networking is now an integral part of our day-to-day lives and the way business is being conducted. The opportunities and benefits outweigh the risks. Without a presence on social media your firm runs the risk of being obsolete - and that is truly scary.