Accounting and financial services have not been in the forefront of social media marketing. There are probably several reasons why this has been the case.
First, most accountants and financial professionals chose their career for a reason. If they were strongly inclined toward marketing they probably would have chosen a different career.
Second, these professions are, by tradition, fairly conservative. This is not where early adopters of social media were nurtured and encouraged.
Finally, there are a host of regulatory and legal requirements that impact what you might say or do online. A freewheeling approach to social media innovation and a heavily regulated environment do not always mix well.
Why Social Media Marketing Makes Sense for Accounting and Financial Services
Having recognized some of the key limitations, there is still a strong case to be made for social media marketing.
- Prospective clients rely heavily on referrals and online search to find new firms. Social media marketing helps the visibility and credibility of your firm in both of these situations.
- Social media allows you to gain visibility with targeted groups beyond your immediate geographic area.
- It allows you to demonstrate your expertise and understanding of client challenges in a way that traditional networking or advertising cannot.
- Because there are so many regulations and frequent changes affecting the industry, it matches nicely with the characteristics of social media. There is always something of substance to talk about and educate potential clients on.
- Many of your potential clients are already on social media. Now you can spend time getting to know them.
While all of these reasons are true, perhaps the strongest argument of all is the one that is closest to an accountant’s heart. Our study of online marketing for accounting and financial services firms shows that social media marketing helps your firm grow faster and become more profitable.
That’s right, faster growth and higher profitability. This is a hard argument for any self-respecting financial services executive to ignore.
Developing Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Let’s run through some of the key strategic decisions that you will have to make for an accounting or financial services firm. We’ll also look at some of the best uses of social media marketing.
- Best uses. Because so many different types of organizations can use accounting and financial services, many firms have diverse target audiences. Some will be heavy users of social media and others less so. The top uses are new client acquisition, recruiting and research.
- Typical target audiences. The decision makers in client organizations tend to be executive level financial officers and general management. For advisory assignments, it may be the same executives or executives with operational or technology responsibilities. Recruits may be either recent grads or experienced professionals from competitors. Influencers are typically other professionals (attorneys or management consultants) or the executives peer group.
- Selecting social media channels. For most target audiences, LinkedIn will be the best channel. Some not for profit clients are more likely to be found on Facebook. Twitter and Facebook are also good recruiting tools. Video is a hidden gem for differentiating your firm and recruiting. YouTube tends to be the best channel for video. LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube work well for promoting your new content and sharing alerts and updates to regulations.
- Program goals and measurement. Brand building (increasing visibility and strengthening reputation) within a target audience, identifying new business opportunities, identifying client concerns from discussion, sharing content, and strengthening and extending your network are all common and very achievable goals for a social media program. Trackable measures need to be selected for each goal.
- Special implementation considerations. The two key considerations are consistency and regulations. Consistency is especially a problem in accounting. The nature of tax and reporting deadlines makes for “busy seasons” where social media activity can easily slump. This will require special planning and perhaps the use of outside resources to maintain consistency. Regulatory limitations are a special problem for the financial services industry. These days the legal department looms large. Here it is best to have pre-vetted content to share. Although less spontaneous, you can be sure you will not run into a regulatory quagmire.
To learn more social media marketing tips related to accounting and finance, check out a free download of our new Social Media Guide for Professional Services.