How you and your firm can monitor and control your presence in the world of social networks.
(This article was previously published in Corporate Finance Insider.)
In my last article, Social Networking and Your CPA Firm, I revealed strategies on how to leverage the various social networking sites in promoting your firm, building your brand and developing your networks. For now, let’s assume that you read the article and have implemented some of the strategies and are wondering “What’s next?”
Funny you should ask, because that’s exactly what I plan to talk about this month! This article will focus on strategies that you and your firm can use to monitor and control your presence in the world of social networks.
Develop a Social Networking Policy
Do you remember the first time you attended a Chamber of Commerce luncheon? You got the sense that everyone else in attendance knew the rules except you. Hopefully, someone from your office was there to explain the dress code and expected behavior to you before the event. When faced with a new challenge, it is helpful to find an experienced person to coach you through the process. In the world of face-to-face networking, it is easy to find the seasoned professionals within our firms.
However, the world of social networking is new to many of us. We’re not sure what the proper dress code or expected behavior is at this new networking event. Even worse, it may be hard to find someone at your firm who is a seasoned veteran on Facebook or LinkedIn. We are all left wondering, “What are the rules?”
Your CPA firm should develop a social-networking policy that will outline the acceptable use of and behavior on social-networking sites. The policy should provide guidance about how and when your staff should use social-networking sites. It should also provide direction about how your employees should reference your firm on their personal social-networking profiles.
You may consider involving several people from your firm in this project and include staff and partners from all age groups. Try to combine the concerns of those not accustomed to social networking with the carefree attitude of those with significant social-networking experience. Research the social-networking guidelines published by large companies and read online articles about social-networking policy. Also, ask other CPA firms in your professional associations to share a copy of their policies.
You don’t have to start from scratch when developing a policy for your firm.
Monitor the Buzz and Protect Your Brand
Do you have any idea what your employees, clients, prospects or competition are saying about you and your firm? Do you know how your firm is being represented in the social-networking world? Do you know where your firm’s name appears on the Web?
If not, below are some ideas that might help!
The first place to start is with Google Alerts. In addition to being a leading search provider, Google has developed some cool applications. As described on their Web site, Google Alerts
“e-mails updates of the latest relevant Google results (Web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.” You simply enter your search term, your e-mail address and tell them how often you want to be alerted. I have set up alerts using my name, our firm’s name and other topics of interest. This tool can help you easily monitor when and where your firm is being mentioned on the Web!
Another tool that is helpful is Social Mention. According to their About page, Social Mention “allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product or any topic across the Web's social media landscape in real-time.” You can use their site to perform a real-time search of any topic or create Social Alerts that are similar to Google Alerts.
If you are using LinkedIn, check out their Company Buzz application. According to their Web site, this application: “Allows you to see what people are saying about companies and topics you care about, uses information from your profile such as companies and schools to find relevant discussions on Twitter, shows you how frequently your company or topic has been mentioned and the top words associated with your company and the topic.”
Several tools available that can help monitor your brand on Twitter, such as TweetScan, which allows you to search information on Twitter. This site also allows you to set up alerts so that you will receive an e-mail when your search term appears on Twitter. TweetDeck is another popular application that lets you organize your social-media information. Finally, you might want to check out HowSociable.com. This product “provides a simple way for you to begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social Web.”
Just My Opinion
Your firm has probably spent a lot of time and money creating your brand. You partners and staff have probably attended numerous business luncheons and social events in an attempt to build your brand and attract new business. In the traditional networking world, success was often as simple as learning the rules and getting involved.
The world of social networking has changed all of that! Being successful in the world of social networking is no longer as simple as learning the expected behavior from a seasoned veteran. There aren’t many social-networking-seasoned veterans from whom to learn.
It seems like we are trying to figure out how we can use social-networking sites to promote our businesses and attract new customers safely. It is important to set the ground rules for your firm, train your staff and then monitor your success.
Maybe, by the end of 2010, we’ll have it all figured out!
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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, is the director of technology at KAF Financial Group. MacQuarrie has extensive experience working with CPA firm technologies and expertise in workflow, process improvement, disaster recovery planning, security and paperless office technologies.