A Managing Partner’s Guide to Social Media

By: Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Guest Blogger

As a managing partner or top executive, you’re probably more focused on taxes than Twitter. Growing your firm, finding great talent and fostering profitable client relationships are probably at the top of your to-do list. But what you may not know is that social media can play an important role in all of those areas.

In my decades of work with accounting firms, I have witnessed the impact of social media on growth, profitability and recruiting. And this observation is supported by the research my company has been conducting into professional services firms. Those that use social media stay ahead of the game. They’re the playmakers, the fast growers.

Social media is important in today’s competitive and increasingly Internet-fueled marketplace. If you’re not harnessing the power of social media, you are missing key opportunities.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a tech guru to put social media to work for your firm. But you do need to understand how and why it’s being used – and you’ll need a basic working knowledge of one or two key tools, starting with LinkedIn.

In this article I focus on the role social media plays in the marketplace and why you may want to consider upping your social game.

Here are six ways to think about it:

  1. Social media is here to stay.
    Like it or not, social networking is not a fad. It’s only going to become more important to firms like yours. For instance, social media is being used today to vet potential employees, expand firms’ networks, nurture prospects, develop visibility, demonstrate expertise and position executives as thought leaders. If you aren’t doing these things today, you will be at some point in the future. The question is, can you afford to be much later to the game?
  2. Your competitors and prospects are already using it.
    I get it. Not everyone at your firm is going to be excited about social media. Even if you or other top executives don’t want to participate on LinkedIn or Twitter, you can still benefit from being on social media. That’s because your clients and prospects use social networks to do everything from research to finding and vetting possible vendors. If your firm isn’t visible, it is missing out on a growing source of new business. In fact, six of 10 buyers use social media to check out a firm before they do business with them. So long as someone on staff is paying attention to your firm’s social media, you’ll at least be on people’s radar. Many of your competitors have embraced social media. If you want to compete, so should you.
  3. It is the new “face” of networking.
    Social media is just another form of networking. You still may prefer to meet with colleagues or prospects over lunch or at an in-person event, but face-to-face networking isn’t the only way to forge connections. Sure, social media isn’t as personal as traditional networking, but it offers other advantages. It’s the perfect medium to build a thought leadership following, for example, and you can use it to reach far more people with less effort. Keep in mind that your clients are using social media to network – if your firm isn’t part of the conversation, they are likely being influenced by a firm that is.
  4. All social media is not created equal.
    Social networking encompasses a wide range of platforms that use different formats – micro-blogging (Twitter), photos (Instagram), videos (YouTube) – each designed to reach different kinds of audiences. It can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you can safely ignore the vast majority of these platforms. If you focused only on one, LinkedIn, you’d cover most of your bases. LinkedIn offers a variety of channels designed with businesses in mind. LinkedIn Pulse is a great place to publish articles, while LinkedIn Groups is where like-minded people gather to share ideas, discuss their business challenges, and offer up possible solutions. Other platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have their place, but you can add them to your mix over time as you need them. When it comes to social media, figure out where your audiences interact and put your energy there first.
  5. Using social media requires an investment.
    Creating a social networking profile may be free, but you still have to invest in it. How? You’ll need a strategy, one or more writers, social media policies, someone to post messages and someone to manage the whole thing. While it’s fine to start small, to make the most of a platform you’ll need to commit real resources to it. That’s when you’ll begin to see a real return on investment.
  6. It can boost morale – and much more.
    If you want your team to tout your business, let them loose on social media. This process has a name – employee advocacy – and it can turn your employees into powerful brand ambassadors. We’re not talking about bald-faced bragging. Rather, it’s a way staff can share industry insights, client success stories, and expert advice. Getting them involved cultivates a sense of “ownership” in your firm. According to our research on employee advocacy, firms with a formal employee advocacy program grow faster and see more benefits than those without one. In fact, high-growth firms are twice as likely to encourage staff to use social networking.

In particular, employee advocacy encourages Millennial staffers to get involved in marketing the firm using a medium they are already comfortable with. If they balk at the prospect of attending a networking event, why give them an equally valuable way to contribute? Our research finds that Millennials want to participate in social media more than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers because it helps them develop relevant skills, differentiate themselves from their peers and boost their career opportunities. And of course, the younger members of your firm can probably teach you a few things about using social media in the process. Win-win.

Social media can help the modern accounting firm in many ways. From marketing strategy and operations to employee development and recruiting, social media is changing the way firms grow.

Lee Frederiksen is managing partner of Hinge Marketing, which focuses on professional services firms.