The overwhelming majority of accountants are very cognizant of the relevance of networking in building their firms. Alas many accounting practices are still failing to grasp the best way to use online tools in that effort. There are several such tools available. Facebook, Twitter, Ping.fm, Multiply, Google, Tumblr… and accountants who are serious about the future have to familiarize themselves with all of them. Probably the most valuable of these sites, from a business networking point of view, is a site called LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is not dissimilar to Facebook in numerous ways in that it offers profiles, status updates, and groups, but with less on your “social” and more of your “professional” life. As a rule people won’t be posting funny videos or pictures of their cats. The focus is on employment, networking, references, and virtually anything else you’ll need to run and grow your business.
This is reflected in your profile, which is dominated by your current employers, and expanded on further down by descriptions of your experience, past and present, recommendations from clients and coworkers, and a personal “summary” where you can highlight your specialties. There is also space for your online social networking information. At the bottom of your profile you can include your website URL, your Twitter handle, and your Instant Messenger contact details.
Once you have all this filled in (LinkedIn will give you a percentage-to-completion box on the right side, indicating how ready you are to get out and start networking), you’re free to start connecting with contacts, requesting recommendations, and joining groups. One of the nice things about LinkedIn is that it’s like a dynamic resumeconstantly updating and showing up-to-date progress, while providing an ever-changing face for potential clients.
But where LinkedIn provides many opportunities to its users, it isn’t going to do the work for you.
The key, says Barry Macquarrie, “is participation”. Macquarrie, who is director of technology at the KAF Financial Group, recently posted a blog on CPA2Biz outlining seven essential LinkedIn activities. His first four activities are fairly straightforward. They basically cover the process of setting up a complete profile, keeping your status updated, and connecting with your clients and employers. The other three are more involved, such as joining groups, which will allow CPAs to interact with those they share interests with, sharing links, and following other companies and competition.
He also suggests that CPAs should join certain groups. Specifically he suggests creating/joining a group for your own firm as well as those of your competitors. He also recommends his own group, SocialCPAs, AICPA, your state’s CPA society, and the International CPA Association.
Accounting professionals shouldn’t ignore the advantages of a networking service such as LinkedIn as a means of bettering themselves and their businesses, as well as interacting with other accounting professionals from other practices. This is a brand new medium and there’s no telling how far it can take you, but it’s already proven to be worth the relatively small amount of time and effort it requires.