By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage
Is there anyone out there? A simple question. I wanted to find some Accountants based in Ireland that are on Twitter and ask them if Twitter is really useful for their business. On the @sageireland Twitter account, we follow a good number of accountants but until I started digging a bit deeper I wasn’t aware of the number of Irish Accountants using Twitter. I think I’ve only scratched the surface and keep finding more!
While some use Twitter for a mix of business and pleasure, other accountants have a Twitter account that is meant just for business and use their business name instead of any individual name.
@aidanclince Aidan Clince, a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland, currently providing consultancy services to a variety of clients in the hotel and pub sector said that; “Social media is an ideal forum for accountants in practice to sell their services but the conservatism associated with the profession seems to hold us back.”
@xcelbusiness Helen Cousins from Xcel Business Solutions, also a Chartered Accountant, advises accountants on how to use social media for their business. Helen is of the opinion that;
“Accountants are not natural marketers. We deal in hard verifiable facts and crafting a marketing message involves softer skills. Many accountants are afraid of making a fool of themselves on forums like twitter, or of appearing trite or unprofessional. They also fear that what they post could be seen as advice, and therefore risky. These fears hold them back from using social media at all or else they engage in a limited way, and don’t develop a relationship with their followers. A lot of accountants follow me on twitter. Those that do engage use it for business intelligence and to build relationships that lead to referrals in the same way as offline networking does. You can’t do business with people that don’t know you exist. Social media is a great way of building up a business network and a reputation. It’s a long game, not an instant win. Social media definitely has a place in the practice development toolkit.”
Helen makes some great points, there are no quick wins in social media but there needs to be some return on the time investment. The ultimate measurement of social media success is did it help your business, did it win you customers. Here is what some accountants that tweet had to say;
@noonecasey Anthony Casey from Noone Casey Accountants and Tax Specialists said “Yes, we have won business from Twitter contacts. It’s Important to filter out the Twitter noise to identify what target clients are doing.”
@ballymountaccs Tom Holmes from Ballymount Accounting said “I did pick up some work from contacts on Twitter – just a couple of small things but definitely work I would have not come across had I not been on Twitter. I have offered advice and I regularly put out some reminders & tips online. This I suppose is unpaid work but even though I have put time into giving advice to online followers I feel that this exposure will lead to bigger assignments in the future.”
Tom really understands that all social media including Twitter is about building relationships more than it is about achieving a quick sale. By giving free advice and tips online Tom can build trust with his followers.
@Accountantsmcc Tim McCarthy from McCarthy Accountants said “We’ve obtained a number of clients from Twitter. A lot of our existing clients find the twitter tax deadline updates in relation to P30s and VAT returns very helpful. You often worry that tweeting about tax might annoy people but the feedback from clients we have received is positive.”
@CACMAccountants Carla Manning from CACM Accountants said “I have got business from contacts I got through Twitter although I do not actively target users for business. I also find that when people are looking for recommendations for an Accountant, it is easy for people that follow me on Twitter to refer them to my Twitter account so they can have a look and see what I’m about before they come to meet me. They can see my interactions with other users as well as comments and retweets. If people find the content useful and interesting, then this is a positive and gives people an idea of the type of person I am and the and business I have. In my opinion, this is further reinforced when twitter users such as CPA and other businesses and professionals interact in a positive manner with my business on twitter. It certainly gives people a level of trust and reassurance. It’s almost like “try before you buy”.
Carla tweets a combination of CACM articles/blogs/newsletters as well as interactions and links to other non accountancy, but business related articles that interest her and that she thinks maybe of interest to others too.
Not every accountant I spoke to had got business directly from Twitter;
Noel Taffe from DBASS Chartered Accountants @DBASSaccountant said that they have “found Twitter moderately helpful for getting business. I think you need a significant following on Twitter to have a real chance of creating business from it. We have focused more of our efforts on Facebook as more local businesses have a stronger presence on it. We use social media to promote ourselves and build loyalty among potential clients. It helps us keep top of mind with the prospect and eventually if they need an accountant they may come to us.”
DBASS Accountants raise an important point. For Twitter to have an impact on your business, you need to have a significant following and that can take time and effort that could be spent more effectively on another social media channel, depending on your target audience.
There are also other types of conversions that you can measure apart from direct sales. As Tracey Glacken @Tracey2103 owner of Glacken Accountants pointed out, “I don’t think I have got any direct business from Twitter contacts but I produce a regular newsletter and I have increased my distribution of this by posting it on Twitter.”
Mark Ryan @MarkRyanQuintas from Quintas uses Twitter to promote the Quintas business blog and sees Twitter as a useful channel to promote Quintas on-line. A business blog can be a great source of content to post to your Twitter and other social media channels. While retweeting other content is an important part of relationship building on Twitter, you also need to have content of your own to Tweet and a business blog is an ideal solution for this.
@MisiJenkins Emily Hurst uses her Twitter account for “personal use but with an eye on business related matters. I follow a number of tweeters that are in the business field for tips information etc. On a number of occasions I have contacted other tweeters in relation to business. One tweeter was looking for a new larger firm of accountants & I contacted them re same.”
Sian Phillips @_Sians is an Accountant that uses Twitter particularly effectively, she says; “I have been recommended on Twitter and received business and also bagged a good client via a retweet once, out of the blue. As I call myself ‘an accountant that likes to write’ I have picked up business for my writing skills which have sometimes turned into accountancy work too which has then led to recommendations to other companies for my accountancy skills (and writing). So I guess that is a little bit different from a ‘normal’ accountant, but still I have definitely received work via Twitter.”
What is interesting about Sian is that in her business she offers multiple services and these cross pollenate, so while the initial contact with a client on Twitter might not be for accounting services, it has ultimately led to her accountancy work. This is something that other accountants should think about. Do you provide business advice and other related services? if so make sure that you are Tweeting about topics that relate to your entire service offering.
Sian has written a really good list of tips about how to increase your following on Twitter and get some customers from your Twitter activity. You can read her post here on the Sage Blog: Tips For Tweeting Accountants.
I also asked accountants what was their favourite business or accountancy related Twitter accounts that they followed. Thanks to everyone that contributed to the list below;
And of course @sageireland
If you are an Accountant that Tweets and want to join our conversation, leave a comment below and include your Twitter name.