A new report (at the time of writing) suggests that most of the biggest firms are wasting their time and are not creating enough of a buzz through their social media activities.
The report from Flagship Consulting (a PR consultancy) “used a number of tools” to “measure brand activity” across twitter, facebook and firms’ websites and blogs. The tools that Flagship reference are Hubspot’s marketing grader, Klout and PeerIndex.
I questioned the methodology of PeerIndex recently after it recently ranked me in the top 40 finance tweeters in the UK. (At the time of writing it currently has me as 30th). I have similar concerns about Klout. In both cases I am doubtful that the measures they focus on are the most important for accountants using social media. In effect if one seeks to rise up their rankings one is led to follow behaviours that may not be best suited to accountancy firms.
Back to Flagship’s report which notes on p2 that, in response to a survey undertaken by CCH and YouGov, “just 9% of the 99 firms” [so that's 9 of them] said “social media was the top method for bringing in new clients”. This is no surprise for sizeable firms but it helps explain their relative lack of commitment to social media – as revealed throughout the report. This stat is hardly likely to change. The bigger the firm the less likely that social media activity will be a key contributor to the winning of new clients.
E&Y come out top of Flagship’s analysis. Their twitter account, at the time of writing has >26,554 followers (despite following just 55 tweeters); taxassist, 2nd in the report has just 1,829 followers. The report stresses the importance of also considering engagement on websites/blogs and on facebook – but the difference is clearly massive. Regular readers will know that follower numbers on twitter are not the ‘be all and end all’. But any stats related to firms with less than a few thousand followers are relatively meaningless. For large firms the number of people who could potentially see their ‘stuff’ and with whom they can engage is surely key. If it’s low then the generic metrics, which may not mean much anyway, that rank social media players, are even less meaningful.
The report criticises firms that do not have active facebook pages and stresses the importance of also considering engagement on websites/blogs and on facebook. There is a good summary of the position on p20 of the report which reaches predictable conclusions – with which I do not wholly agree.
I did not see anywhere any reference to setting a clear strategy for building the firm’s brand on social media platforms. When I discuss this issue with accountants I stress that an overarching ‘social media’ policy is less important than the need to consider each of the social media platforms that are relevant or likely to be relevant to your firm.
I have written before about the challenges for large firms experimenting with social media.
The biggest firms, like E&Y, can adopt a similar approach to other well-known big brands. This may well include engaging someone (internally or externally) to build a brand presence across the major platforms. But engagement is often key and that is the biggest challenge when the culture is not embedded in the firm.
At the other extreme, smaller firms are increasingly looking to engage with individuals who are themselves active on social media and who may be target clients. But for the vast majority it’s still all a bit of game. I believe there are ways to secure better results but they take time, money and a realistic strategy. Few firms have yet thought this through. They are caught in the hype promoted by marketing, PR and social media ‘experts’ who will be the only winners for some time.
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