Many CPAs, EAs and tax accountants misunderstand the role social media should play in growing their practices. They are afraid of social media or think it is a waste of time. To fully understand why tax accounting firms must have a social presence to compete online, one must look at industry trends such as the move toward apps and mobile-based traffic. In short, more traffic now comes from social apps than from Google search.
Here are some eye-opening social media statistics:
> According to a Shareaholic report, social media has dethroned search as the number one source of website referral traffic.
> Per a GlobalWebIndex report, more Internet users visit YouTube than visit Facebook.
> Per a GlobalWebIndex report, YouTube and Twitter have significantly more visitors than active users.
> The number of smartphone owners keeps increasing. According to Statista, mobile Internet penetration will grow to 61.2 percent worldwide in 2018.
> Comscore reports that the majority of digital media consumption now takes place through mobile apps such as Facebook and Instagram.
Where prospects find you goes way beyond Web browsers.
According to a new study from Forrester Research, consumers use apps 85% of the time when on their smartphones; however, the majority of that time (84%) is spent on just five native apps. These apps, such as Facebook and Snapchat, drive significant traffic and referrals to websites and brands. If you do not have a social presence or are not active on social media, you are not part of this conversation. The lines between social media and search have already started to blur. Facebook receives 1.5 billion searches a day. This means that Facebook users are not leaving that app to open Google for searches. They are searching within Facebook itself.
OK—you are convinced that social matters, but where do you start?
A lot depends on your target audience and how they engage with social media.
To help, we have developed the following guidelines:
1) YouTube: YouTube handles more than 3 billion searches a month. That means it’s bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined! Google owns YouTube and gives it significant authority in Google search results. Using YouTube can increase your overall brand authority and help your brand’s search rankings. We have found that professionals who post topic-specific content get many more views than those who post only infomercials. Many tax-accounting professionals have spent thousands on polished videos that then receive just a handful of views. Successful videos can range from several hundred views to thousands. It all depends on the quality of your video and on the subject matter. Here is an example of a quality presentation from our friends at Tax911.com.
2) LinkedIn: LinkedIn has over 400 million members, and it continues to swell in importance for tax accounting professionals. It provides a gold mine of information and possible connections. LinkedIn groups, the Pulse blogging tool and your own profile enable you to distribute content and showcase your expertise. At minimum, you should connect with all of your clients as well as with industry influencers and prospects. LinkedIn has a strong search tool. With its advanced search, you can find people by title, company, location or keyword. You can find recent posts or events that your prospects have shared and engage with them online. This keeps your brand visible and makes it easier to get through gatekeepers. There are number of “how to use LinkedIn” articles, but here is one of our favorites from HubSpot.
3) Facebook: According to Facebook, the site had 1.09 billion daily active users on average for March 2016. That volume is staggering. Do you still think social media doesn’t matter to your tax accounting firm? You will need to establish a small-business page for your practice. The first step after you set up your business page is to invite your client base via email to like your page. One of our savvier CPA firms used a raffle to help grow its following. See the amazing results Team Tax generated through its Facebook campaign. On your page, you want to be a source for tax- and accounting-related information. If you target startups, share articles that users will engage with. Join groups so that you can add value to the conversion. Whatever you do, take off your sales hat. When you are selling on social media, you are laying the groundwork by showing that you are an authority figure. It takes time to build trust with your audience.
4) Twitter: Many tax accountants do not understand Twitter or its role in building a brand online. One important concept is that Twitter posts are indexed by Google. If you are sharing information, and it shows up on Google’s index, you are expanding your reach and building your online authority. Think of Twitter as a social site for breaking news. You can identify trends and see what people are talking about in real time. You can use this information to help develop topical content with long-tailed keywords that can drive the kind of increased traffic that your brand would normally never be able to compete for. Search Engine Land covered some of the basics of the Google / Twitter partnership and some of the factors you should consider when building your following on Twitter. Neil Patel at Marketing Land also compiled a great Twitter guide that includes links to dozens of how-to guides that will help you get the most from your Twitter presence.
5) Instagram: We live in the world of the selfie. Indeed, a significant number of young people live on their mobile phones. Unless your client base does not include millennials or other young people, Instagram needs to be part of your social marketing plan. At ClientWhys, we have developed our own tools to make it easier for you to capture shareable selfies through our Social Accountant lobby cards. This tool makes it easy and fun to engage clients, who can participate by adding photos of themselves holding one of the lobby cards; this creates a viral share of your brand that the client’s friends and colleagues will see. Basically, you are creating a library of client testimonials that your clients will share for you. There is no better form of introduction.
6) Google My Business (GMB): While this is not a social site, it does have very important social elements that are key to your business. If you have been paying attention to the changes to Google search results, you will that see your GMB listing is becoming more important than ever. You will want to make sure that you claim your profile and add photos of your office, staff and building (to start). Make sure you choose the correct categories and start attracting five-star reviews. You will need at least 5 reviews to start making a difference in the search results.
The others (Medium, Reddit, Google+ and Pinterest): There is only so much time in the day, so you will have to pick and choose where to concentrate your efforts. We use social tools that help us post to multiple platforms, but if you are looking for some other social options, you should take a look at Medium, Google+, Reddit and Pinterest.
Medium: Most likely, you have never heard of Medium unless you are very active in technology or social media. It is a blogging tool that enables you to post your articles so that they can be viewed by an online network of readers.
Why might it work for you?
If your website has very little traffic, Medium lets you connect with a much larger audience. If your content is well-received you will build up your online authority and indirectly drive traffic to your brand.
Pinterest: This site, like Instagram, is built on visuals. To get this site to work for your tax accounting business, you must think creatively. You could use the Social Accountant lobby card concept or create infographics to build up some shares. Regardless, you need to show some personality. Pinterest can help you share who you are while showcasing your expertise. We really enjoyed this Pinterest blog article by Peg Fitzpatrick, which breaks down all this advice.
Reddit: Reddit calls itself “the front page of the Internet.” It is a tool through which users share links, which are “up-voted” based on their popularity. The Reddit accounting page is not a good place for spam content, but you will find a ton of opportunities to participate in threads about accounting topics such as business start-ups, taxes and the like. One of the best ways to use Reddit is to engage with your local area. You will want to post content that is not salesy or even particularly related to tax accounting. For instance, you could discuss a new restaurant (that is also a client) or post about the area’s history. Be clever, and tell a local story.
Google+: The jury is out on the status of Google+. Google may kill it or continue to try and find a niche for it; this decision will play out in the coming years. Google has already decoupled Google+ from Google Maps, which makes your Google My Business listing your primary focus. Previously, however, we found proof that Google+ did impact your search results, which in itself made the site worth the effort. We referenced an article by Track Maven that might shed some light. As a whole, however, Google+ may not be worth your effort going forward. Unless you use the community tools to engage prospects, maintaining an actual profile has become somewhat ineffectual.
Need a little more prodding to get social?
If you still have doubts about the effectiveness of social media in driving new clients, here are some tasty stats to convince you of the continuing power of social media:
> 90% of young adults (age 18 to 29) use social media (compared to just 35% of those over age 65). Fully one-third of millennials say that social media is one of their preferred channels for communicating with businesses.
> According to Ad Age, consumers say that social media plays almost as big a role in purchasing decisions as television does.
> 57% of consumers say that they’d be somewhat or very influenced to think more highly of a business after seeing positive comments or praise about it online.
> 72% of all US adults who are online visit Facebook at least once a month.
Overwhelmed by all the accountant social media options? It is easier than you think -- we can help. We make it easy to dominate in social and we will even create your accounts and post 2-3x per week on your behalf with great tax and accounting content. Contact us for social help: 1-800-442-2477 x3.