Twitter for Dummies: CPA and Accounting Edition

There’s a lot of debate right now about the marketing value of Twitter. On one side there are a host of number crunchers and many of them appear to feel that the ROI of Twitter isn’t high enough to warrant it’s use. Many other marketing professionals are hailing social networking websites like Twitter as the next big trend. I stand solidly with the marketers who see benefits to social marketing, but at the end of the day you’ll have to choose for yourself where you stand.

First… What is Twitter? Is it, in fact, something that can help you develop a CPA practice?

Twitter is a social networking site. It allows it’s members to send short messages to their friends called “Tweets”. This is unlike Email. No recipient is specified when you “Tweet”. It is posted publicly, and copies are automatically added to all your “followers” home pages.

How does this translate to more billable hours? There are quite a few strategies you can exploit. First let’s talk about client retention.

The first strong reason to use Twitter is merely that your lots of of your clients use it. They will appreciate you taking the time to join in their community and will note that you’re exhibiting an interest in their lives by following them.

Twitter also gives you a terrific opportunity to keep your brand in front of your clients. Your Tweets are a a wonderful tool for showing them that you are working hard for them, and while tweets are really not truly a very personal technique to communication, they do FEEL personal. Another advantage is that by paying attention to your clients’ tweets you will learn things about them that you might not otherwise be privy to, and be able to contact them more directly when appropriate. I’m not just talking about catching a client tweeting about accounting problems that you can help them or their friends with. That will only happen infrequently. I’m talking about their “real” lives. As an accountant you are oftentimes not privy to things like births, graduations, and deaths in time to send out fitting congratulations or condolences. Twitter could put you in the loop.

Not many people would argue that simple personal contact isn’t healthy for client retention.

Finally, all tweets are public. While they are displayed on to your followers’ home pages they also show on Twitter’s primary homepage, at least for a few ticks. There are applications you can use that will permit you to monitor this stream of data and alert you if someone sends out a tweet about, for example, you or one of your associates. Using tools like this to identify clients that are tweeting about you is enormously helpful. If these tweets are agreeable you can thank the poster, and if they are wayward you can address the problem directly.

Accuratetly determining Twitters ROI seems unlikely to me. I don’t imagine that it’s actually possible to tally the dollar value of these types of customer retention strategies. In the defense of Twitter’s countless and frequently well-thought-of doubters, there’s also no way to establish definitively that they work either.

When talking about client acquisition things get even more vague, but this is where I reckon Twitter has an opportunity to really shine.

How do you acquire new clients with twitter? Again… there are countless strategies.

You can put links in your notes. This not only drives guests to your website, if the content you’re linking to is noteworthy there’s a fair chance some of your followers will “ReTweet” it. In plain English; they will forward it to their friends. If you have a business blog this works really well, but you could always link to a free guide on your site. For example… how about we link to a guide called “How to Get Top Dollar for Your Home”. There’s a good chance that lots of of your followers are familiar with at least one individual who’s selling a house. If so they could ReTweet it, and this tweet will be broadcast not just to the individual who’s selling, but to ALL the ReTweeter’s followers as well. It will present your brand to a lot of new prospects if even a few of your tweets go “viral” like this.

The links in tweets also have some small amount of search engine optimization (often called “SEO”) advantage. I won’t get too into this since I don’t want to get bogged down with technical details. Briefly: tweet backlinks don’t return any “Page Rank” but they do carry some small amount of “Domain Authority” and facilitate the search engines in noticing and indexing new pages.

Now I have made my living doing professional CPA Website Design for several years, so what I’m about to put forward may seem self-defeating at the outset. It isn’t however. I purpose my sites with this marketing philosophy in mind. A great CPA website is constructed to be a networking tool.

Why?

The quickest, savviest, most successful business owners don’t, as a rule, pick their accountant randomly from Bing searches or the local phone directory. The most desirable prospects find their CPA or accountant by networking. They contact you because a person they know and hold in high regard suggested you. Using the identical reasoning sites like Twitter and Linkedin are a natural online evolution of traditional network marketing, and as such merit  fervent respect as marketing tools.