Social Media for Accountants

OSCPA-logo_blue_rev2_12Every business should use social media to transmit their message to clients and staff, even very conservative and traditional accounting firms.  Recently the Ohio Society of CPAs was featured in the Accounting Today “8 Examples of Accountants Innovating in Social Media.” The article says in part:

“Major kudos to the Ohio Society of CPAs for putting on a professional, top-notch show on YouTube. Their well-designed channel features a “Spotlight Series,” with a bimonthly discussion with newsmakers and thought-leaders in the business community about issues important to Ohio CPAs.”

Effectively communicating with current and potential clients is even more critical today – messages are sent in rapid fire rates to all of us. Staying in touch, sharing valuable information and creating a feedback opportunity helps you stay connected with clients. It’s really networking – you’re using technology to advance your message. With so many tools available, all firms need to decide which they want to use and develop a plan to create content and deliver it.

Great job, OSCPA! Full disclosure: I am a member of the OSCPA and a past chair of its executive board.

There’s Work To Networking

There a many articles and posts out there about the best ways to network, and all of them have some good ideas. This article offers 10 important networking tips:

• Be Helpful    • Build a Reputation    • Be Visible
• Meet lots of People    • Be Intentional
• Think Long-Term     • Get Rejected
• Listen    • Ask     • Follow Up

All good tips, and all will help you build a stronger network.  Often I hear complaints that networking just doesn’t work. But when I go through this list of best practices I learn that the person has barely scratched the surface of connecting with people. Without effort you cannot successfully expand your network.

In addition to this list I suggest one more very important component:

Be Authentic.

Don’t pretend to be someone or something you aren’t. If you need help, ask. If you can offer help, do it.  Go to events, introduce yourself, ask questions. Then follow up with an email, a note or phone call. There is, after all, “work” in networking!


Building a Better Network

Is it better to surround yourself with people just like you, or is a diverse group of colleagues? For many of us, it is more comfortable to stay within a network of like-minded people who look, talk and act like us.  Accountants who network with accountants may discuss interesting initiatives and issues within their profession, but they will not learn what is impacting people (read potential clients) in other professions.

Building a stronger professional network depends on going outside your comfort zone. Networking outside your profession can offer you new ideas, diverse opinions and exposure to various professions. For young professionals, establishing a diverse network is really important to ongoing success and job satisfaction.

An AICPA blog post, The 7 Types of People You Need in Your Network, talks about how to build a well-rounded network.  Develop a strategy for developing your network that includes people who fulfill specific roles:  Mentors, Peers, Influencers and Prospects. Three others groups – Cheerleaders, Grounders and Connectors – are, I think, more difficult to cultivate but critical to your success.

Cheerleaders – In every career, something goes wrong. Clients leave, accounts are lost, mistakes are made. We all need trusted friends and colleagues who know us, believe in us and will stand by us when things are not going well. A cheerleader helps lift the fog and lets you get back to the business of doing business.

Grounders – If Cheerleaders pick us up, Grounders ensure we don’t fly out into orbit! Think of these folks as the realists in your network. They challenge you, encourage you to push harder and are the people you can count on to help you think through your biggest ideas.

Connectors – This under-developed group are the folks who offer you access to their network. While many people you meet will not do this, the Connectors take pride is offering contacts, information and resources to help you succeed.

Networking does take effort but you will reap benefits. Identify opportunities within your professional and personal communities to meet diverse groups of people. Whether it is your local Chamber of Commerce, a charity that you care about, Rotary or Kiwanis, or the PTA at your child’s school, get involved. For networking, showing up is half the job.  Actively participating is the rest.

Introverts CAN Network!

It can be easy to hide behind the “I’m and introvert” excuse when it comes to networking. But that doesn’t help you develop your skills or your business. While it may feel uncomfortable to mix and mingle at social and business meetings, there are steps each of us can take to make networking feel less risky. A good article I read gives six networking secrets:

1.  Introduce Yourself – Make the first move. Say hello and initiate conversation. Chances are there are other shy people there, and you just may be helping one of them get engaged.

2. Choose an Easy Title – No matter what title is on your business card, start out telling people what you really do. Instead of “Vice Coordinator in Charge of Client Experience,” it’s probably easier to introduce yourself as being in “customer service.” And more people can recognize your job or position.

3.  Listen and Repeat – Repeating the concept of a conversation, not verbatim, helps to keep you in the moment.

4. Stay Off Your Phone – While this should be obvious, it is one of the biggest problems for introverted networkers. Instead of hiding in the corner, they hide in their phone – searching, digging, checking the weather. Anything to avoid meeting someone!

5.  Don’t Fear Silence – Lulls in conversation happen, not a big deal. If the lull turns into ackward silence, jump in and save the day with a comment germaine to the event or your industry. If the conversation is really over, say how glad  you  are to have met and move on.

6.  Show Up – It is more than half the battle! Like many other things, improving your networking skills takes practice.

Need more help? Check out my Building a Stronger Professional Network course.

Get The Most Out of Every Conference

Much of my life is spent at conferences and conventions, so I have some pretty good insight into how to get the most out of every conference. They can be a really good experience or a big waste of time – you decide which. With some planning and effort, you can gain insight into your industry, meet great contacts and have fun. Here are some of my tips to maximize each convention.

1. After you register, use the conference planner to plan your itinerary. Review the sessions and then hone down to a day-by-day agenda–including alternatives in case your preferred session is full. If you are going to the conference with colleagues you should attend different sessions to ensure you have it all covered.

2. If pre-registration is not required, have at least two sessions in mind for every time slot. If you get to one and the room is overflowing or the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, head over to your second choice. Conventions and conferences are a great way to learn more about areas outside your expertise, so consider signing up for them.

3. Check out the exhibitor list and create a list of “must-see” booths. You will be able to cover the convention center more efficiently and still have time to wonder around. Spend enough time at each booth to gather the information you need and talk with the exhibitors.

4. Stay with the group for meals, and try to sit with people outside your normal network. Meeting new people and sharing information expands your connections and sphere of influence.
Collect and offer business cards, talk about relevant professional issues and learn a bit about the person.

5. Take notes on sessions you attend.  Suggest to your boss that each person who attends the convention present what they have learned back to the office staff. Sharing what heard and saw helps reinforce the material and is expands the ROI of the trip.

6. Have fun…but not too much fun! Unfortunately I have seen too many attendees miss significant convention time because they partied to much. Pace yourself and get plenty of sleep.

Oh, and one more thing: If I’m presenting at your conference be sure to come see me, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot and have fun, too!