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The Struggle Toward Social Media Sophistication
Saturday, June 07, 2014

By Danielle Lee, Technology Editor

In the recent past, many accounting firms struggled to recognize the necessity of social media, while only those that were considered cutting edge integrated it into their marketing strategy.

Today, the awareness level is high enough to have encouraged -- or perhaps forced -- most firms into establishing a social presence, so that the message is gradually becoming less "I'm here!" and more "This is why I'm here and what I can do for you."

The positioning is more strategic, and the conversation more engaged - the result of both social media's proven influence and the maturation of some of its biggest platforms.

LinkedIn, with its professional user base and focus, remains the most popular and easily adopted social network in accounting.

"Firms and partners once saw social media and online marketing as a time-killer, but that attitude has changed a bit - and, for some firms, changed substantially," explained Stephen White, who for 12 years helped lead the social media strategy of Washington, D.C.-area Top 100 Firm Aronson in his capacity as chief administrative officer and partner, and recently became principal of Greenfield Belser, a brand, marketing and consulting firm for professional services firms. "Only the forward-thinking partners had LinkedIn profiles, and now it spans across all four generations. Many, if not a large percentage [of firm professionals], have some sort of LinkedIn profile."

Top 25 Philadelphia-based accounting firm ParenteBeard continues to reap the social network's benefits, according to communications manager Karen Toner. "LinkedIn is the biggest outlet we push here, since everyone can play a role in marketing the firm," she explained. "We encourage our team members to take an active role and reshare updates from our company page. We actively host LinkedIn training sessions and prompt the team to join industry groups on LinkedIn."

White stressed the exponential nature of LinkedIn's personal connections, which immediately amplifies this shareable -- and marketable -- content.

The social network also continues to be a crucial recruiting tool, especially for experienced professionals.

Recent updates to the LinkedIn interface, however, have proven both beneficial and detrimental to these efforts. The design changes have made LinkedIn, like other social networks, more visually oriented, thus attracting more attention and click-throughs for posted content.

On the other hand, LinkedIn removed the products and services section from company pages, to the chagrin of many professional services firms. "The downside is we invested -- as I'm sure many other firms did - significant time and resources into the product and service section," Toner reported. "This is where we were able to have client recommendations posted and go into detail about each service. LinkedIn has replaced that feature, as you probably know, with 'showcase' pages, which are really not as beneficial for professional services firms as [they are] for product companies."

Despite these updates, the network remains vital, she continued. "LinkedIn has proven to be the space where the most prospective employees, clients and business partners are on."

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