The Power of Blogging 

by Stephen L. Nelson, CPA 

Social media is an extremely powerful tool. A few keystrokes and clicks can provide a practical way for firm practitioners to put their professional skills on public display to a massive audience. And, the nature of the media (text, video, pictures, etc.) makes it easy for professionals to show what they do in a format that will last. Establishing a social media presence for our firm has allowed us to attract clients from varied geographic locations—something that would have been much more difficult as a sole practitioner using traditional means.

I think the primary goal in using social media for CPAs is to showcase your professional offerings to a targeted audience in a way that is not bragging or selling. You want to display professionalism, good people skills and technical/industry competence while also making connections and building relationships. Our firm has experimented with several social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Now our focus has narrowed to primarily participating in relevant and appropriate online forums and groups and blogging. Our blog, in particular, has been extremely successful in terms of increasing the firm’s brand awareness and establishing our credibility and expertise. We are reaching over 100,000 people a year through this medium.

Commit to Quality Content
One key to maximizing the return of your social media use is creating high quality, targeted content. Two years ago, we created a series of blogs and an e-book focused on tangible property regulations, which was a relevant, and complex, topic for the clients we serve. Because the content was high quality, these blogs spread rapidly. I initially promoted them in one of my LinkedIn groups. Soon other people began sharing them and they expanded to other platforms as well. In the end, we had over 400 CPAs participate in the discussion around those blogs.

We strive to create content around subjects that are interesting and relevant to current clients and those clients we are targeting and for whom we can deliver high value services. If you are posting about a very specific topic, you will get a specific type of client and referrals from these types of blogs creates an enormous ROI. We also want to use the blog as a client service platform. Blogs provide an easy way to answer common niche questions and save clients an appointment. Once you have a strategy, niche and target client, then the kind of questions you’re answering for your current clients will attract prospective clients in your niche as well.

I would say that because of the reach and permanence of the content, social media is generally an owner level responsibility. However, blogging is a place where you can also bring in technically skilled and experienced staff to highlight their expertise. Though I create the majority of the content for our blog, I also have a highly competent staff member who will contribute on various technical and international tax topics.  Blogging is a great opportunity to let staff develop their communication skills and share their niche knowledge. Staff’s contributions should still be reviewed, but ultimately these blogs are also adding to that individual’s credibility, as well as the firm’s.

One bonus is that the actual IT cost of utilizing social media is essentially zero. The real cost is in terms of time, especially the time of high level employees when they are contributing. A really good blog post could take 4-6 hours to create. However, these are an excellent activity for downtime. Rather than dedicating that time during busy season, you can use slower times to build up a library of posts. We typically aim to have several months’ of content lined up so that we can maintain a consistent, strong social media presence regardless of our workload.

Establish a Strong Web Presence
The other key factor in successful social media use is visibility. As a sole practitioner, our firm’s social media presence is closely tied to my own, so I strive to stay active in a number of forums. I regularly participate in relevant LinkedIn groups, such as the CPA Sole Practitioners and CPA Small Firms group which includes about 4,000 CPAs. I also engage in other appropriate online forums and discussion groups. For example, I’ve blogged a couple of times in the last year at the popular White Coat investor blog, which talks to a physicians, dentists and other “white coat professionals” about their money and small business challenges. I’ve also participated in the Bogleheads forum, which is another example of a popular forum, geared toward investing and personal finance, where a practitioner can enjoy the subtle long-term benefits of sharing their expertise and connecting with potential clients and peers.

Social media represents a new way to professionally network. It allows firms to market themselves to a very large, very distracted audience, who could potentially use or refer their services. Social media is an amazingly powerful tool that has opened the world to sole practitioners and small firms and can help take their success to the next level.

Stephen L. Nelson CPA PLLC is a sole practitioner based in Redmond, WA.




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