Practice Tips for Managing Your Firm's Online Presence

As every accounting firm founder learns early on, running a successful business is about more than doing good accounting work. From the very first day you bring on a partner or employee, you find yourself wearing several different hats within your company, all while managing your client’s finances in a professional capacity.

One of the most unfamiliar roles for most accountants? Marketing—or the process of using your personal network or new technology to bring in new clients. While some firm's marketing tactics are as old as the profession itself, like word-of-mouth referrals and print advertising, others are new and still seem unproven. This uncertainty can lead to a lot of questions around social media and website content, as well as whether or not accounting clients even expect to see such activity.

In case you’ve been wondering; yes, your accounting firm needs to maintain an active online presence in today’s digital marketing environment, but not necessarily for the reasons you think. Here’s a look at three practical tips for understanding why your firm needs a social media presence, what it should look like, and how you can build it:

1. Clients may not find your firm through social media, but they will want to use social media to verify it

According to the Association for Accounting Marketing’s 2016 Marketing Budget Benchmark Study, the highest marketing return on investment (ROI) comes from search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, marketing automation and CRM software – not social media. But before you write off social websites as unnecessary, consider the customer purchase journey doesn’t stop when a prospective client finds your business. They simply move into the “information gathering” stage. As it turns out, when customers want to learn more about local businesses, they scour websites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for more information.

So, think of it this way: social media may not directly drive as many leads for your accounting firm as more straightforward tactics, but it can play a powerful secondary role in building rapport and trust with potential clients. It’s worth investing in your online presence to make sure clients can confidently reach out to contact you based on information they’ve gathered online.

2. Your industry and customers define what “active” means for your online presence

You can start the process of setting internal standards for social media activity and website content by understanding there’s no hard-and-fast rule for what an active online presence looks like for a given accounting firm. The definition of “active” will depend on what is considered normal for your industry and what your customers have come to expect from other vendors.

For example, accounting firms that serve businesses in the technology industry may find technology companies have higher expectations when it comes to the frequency of social media updates and email newsletters, particularly if they expect vendors to follow the latest in niche news like cryptocurrency or security breaches. On the other hand, customers who aren’t themselves active on social media may put more stock in a company website with details about members of your team.

The best way to find out which piece of your online presence is most important is to simply ask your customers. As you onboard new customers or check in with existing ones, ask a few intentional questions about how they found you, what sets you apart from other accounting firms and whether or not anything stood out (or was missing) from your online presence.

For more information and support on building a social media strategy, click here to access the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' social media toolkit and here to for recommendations on social media updating frequency from Buffer.  

3. Content ideas can come from anywhere

One of the most common questions accounting firms have about maintaining an active online presence is, “What kind of content should we have on our website and social media profiles?”

Start by looking at the founding values of your firm and your current company culture. After all, how you serve your customers in person and by phone can give you clear insights into how you can serve them online.

For example, does your firm pride itself on keeping its busy clients organized and in-the-know? It may make sense to treat your company's Facebook and LinkedIn profiles like sources of timely information with updates about new changes in tax laws or impending tax deadlines.

On the other hand, if your firm is known for being a valuable source of small business advice and inspiration, developing visuals with inspiring quotes from business leaders or tips about how to make strategic accounting decisions will appeal to prospective clients and resonate with existing ones.

An active online presence for an active accounting firm

Most computer-savvy clients will find your accounting firm through SEO, email marketing and marketing automation, but excellent lead generation techniques won’t always be enough to close the deal. An active and intentional online presence is a critical part of reinforcing your reputation and building relationships with prospective clients. It’s no longer optional for accounting firms that want to grow in today’s digital environment.