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Friday, 27 March 2009

Twitter is not for Accountants – Yes it is

I just had to write this after a response by BookMarkLee to my previous blog "Can Twitter work for the smaller business?" I'm grateful to Mark for writing such a controversial blog and setting off this healthy debate. His response was to refer me to an article he wrote here.

It should be obvious by now that I disagree with the contention that Twitter is not for accountants and here's why.

Marks first assertion is that there is no pressing need for them to use twitter, so therefore why bother. They don't need it, true, but the same argument has equal validity with Tax Advisors or commentators, or like, me consultants. Following this line of argument; just who does have a pressing need to use Twitter? - well, not many actually, which rather defeats the object of a social network marketing site.

We then get list of business issues where Twitter won't help; well to assume that Twitter was ever designed to address any of these specific issues is tantamount to putting it in a blue cape and red underpants. So lets be clear Twitter is a social network not a panacea for company issues. I would say further, having coached a number of accountants as well as other businesses that the list could be applied to almost any business. So is Mark suggesting that virtually no business should explore Twitter as a business tool, seems a bit extreme to me.

So why should accountants use Twitter? Well firstly lets not forget that Social Networking is big, really big.
More than two-thirds of the world's online population now use social networks and blogs, according to research firm Nielsen Online. This makes it the fourth most popular online category after search, portals and PC software, putting it ahead of personal email for the first time. More importantly, their usage is growing more than twice as fast as any other of these leading categories: last year it accounted for 9.3% of all times spent online around the world, which is half as much again as the previous year.

The UK is one of the most enthusiastic adopters of social media: Facebook has a greater market penetration in the UK than anywhere else, while social networks and blogs more generally now account for one in every six minutes spent online in this country. We're also more likely to access these sites via our mobile phones than anywhere else in the world. If you think this is hype, note that ASDA, Debenhams, Carphone Warehouse, Ebuyer, Dixons and Ebay UK have very recently entered this market, especially in using Twitter. It is now in the mainstream.

You use social networking to build your brand, reputation and build a community, by increasing your profile you'll also encourage recommendations and business. On the specific point about gaining more business I ask why not. If you set out to have fun and play then you'll most likely have fun. If you set out to get more business then you'll get more business. The results from Twitter depend on your focus not Twitter itself. Fortunately because of its ease of use and simplicity there are a number of add on programs which can help users make the most of Twitter; to name two there Twitter Local an application where you can monitor activity in say a 25 mile radius from your business office, and the recently launched exectweets which focuses on business rather than social Twittering.

I can't say how successful people will be using because it depends on how you use Twitter and if you use it in isolation or in conjunction with other social networking activities like blogging (something else Mark doesn't think is for accountants) or articles. It will be a difficult transition for many accountants who are actually artisans rather than business managers but the world and future clients are moving to social networking, they should not be as so often happens on the trailing edge of this change.


  1. Well Sated Laurence.

    Several of my Clients,local MFG, Wholesale and retail establishments, have found Benefit of using Twitter, Squidoo and Blogging all tied to a Circular Communication program to Existing customers and finding New Business along the Way.

    We touched on a few of these applications on our Talk Show Episode 03-26-2009
    BMC Talk Show 03-26

    Keep up the outstanding research and communication!

    Your clients are well served

    Chuck Bartok
    cjbart on Twitter

  2. Thanks Laurence. We're not as far apart as you might think.

    Why twitter was developed and how it has since evolved is not the issue. Neither is the extent to which many of us have adopted the medium. And remember I've made it quite clear that from a personal perspective I'm an avid user of twitter and run three blogs - two of which have been regularly updated for almost 3 years now.

    I spend most of my business life involved in activities that help accountants in practice. These range from Chairing the Tax Advice Network, to writing, speaking, training, mentoring and blogging on relevant subjects to help accountants in practice.

    I like to think I understand their psyche, what matters to them on a day to day basis, where there priorities are and how they can become more profitable.

    As such I find myself in an odd position.

    The article to which you have referred above was written in an honest attempt to explain to the typical accountant in practice that they need not bother with twitter and I explained the reasons why. They are specific to UK accountants in practice.

    I'm also on record as saying I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

    More recently I have started the UK tax and accountancy twitter league/listing - it has around 50 accountants on it. Few are actively posting on a regular basis. That's a shame but it's no surprise whatsoever.

  3. Mark,

    Thanks for your comments.

    You are correct in saying that where twitter came from and how it has evolved is irrelevant, but that’s not the point I was making; my issue is your assumption that Twitter which is simply another marketing channel would help Accountants address non marketing related issues. Further whilst those issues you quite validly raise are important to Accountants, they are by no means exclusive to Accountants in fact they would apply to almost any small business, that provides a service, you care to imagine.

    Now I agree that accountants as a profession are poor at marketing – this being due to their bias towards detail and analytics – but positively discouraging them to use an effective marketing tool seems to me to be trying to keep them in the dark. Surely as a self professed leader in this area you should encouraging them to find the light rather than staying in the dark.