Social media has traditionally been considered as the domain of young, hip, technologically-savvy brands – about as far away from accounting firms as one could imagine!
But the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report* tells us that 94% of adult Australians are using Facebook, and spending around 23 minutes a day on the site. LinkedIn has a penetration of 18% (skewed towards 50 to 64-year-olds), with Twitter’s penetration at 32%.
Social media is where people spend a great deal of their time today, and it presents a real opportunity to build and shape a brand – without the need to invest huge amounts of money.
The social space allows frequent, unobtrusive communication with clients and prospects in order to keep a business top of mind, which is important when the time comes for them to decide who to go to for their accounting needs.
Simply social, or targeted ads
With social media, accountants can reach people who both have an immediate need for their services, or grow awareness and remain on the radar amongst people who might need them down the track.
It can be used purely as a channel to interact with and inform existing and potential clients. Firms can demonstrate expertise and boost visibility by posting original content that keeps people engaged, up-to-date on new developments, and solves common problems.
Social media can also be used for paid advertising targeting specific audience segments. Paid ads can range from one-off promoted posts to full campaigns. Importantly, 31% of social media users who see ads are happy to click on them occasionally to find out more*.
How social can bring in the leads
A compelling social media advertisement with the right message will motivate users to click through to a landing page (a web page with more detail on the firm and offer).
There the prospects will fill in their details to arrange a consultation, download an offer (like a free tool or e-book) or join a mailing list if they are interested enough.
In any case, it brings leads – some to be cultivated through ongoing communication, and some who will contact immediately for a consultation. The number of leads depends on the strength and relevance of the message and the accuracy of the targeting, like with any marketing activity.
Why a good website is an important part of the mix
Before delving into the social media space, it’s important to have a strong website that is nicely designed, user friendly and shows current and prospective clients what the business offers them.
A business’s website is the anchor of its online presence, and the place people interacting with the business on social media will go to explore further.
This is particularly the case when it comes to advertisements. People generally very briefly glance at paid advertisements – essentially the advertisement is enough to pique their interest and prompt them to click to learn more. All social media platforms limit how much text can appear in ads, so messaging is restricted to a few impactful words. A website is an essential part of any social media campaign as it is what the user clicks through to, to give them more information on the company and offer.
So which platform is right?
Social media is excellent for generating website traffic and leads. To successfully plan social media marketing, accountants need to figure out who is to be targeted, and what exactly is to be achieved (get specific – generate x% increase in website traffic, generate x more leads in the next 12 months), then develop a content strategy with the right platforms.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow firms to reach a large number of relevant users, and are the platforms most used by Australian businesses in their marketing*.
Content must be tailored across each platform, as the audiences are different and their reasons for using the site also vary.
With more users than any other social media platform, Facebook is excellent for both pure social media use and paid advertising. It provides scale with more flexibility than LinkedIn or Twitter on the type of paid ads that can be used, and who the ads are targeted to. Advertising can be targeted by region, age, occupation, company, interests, the list goes on. To advertise on Facebook, accountants will need an image (or better, create a video) that captures the key message in an impactful way.
LinkedIn has a smaller reach and less sophisticated targeting (job title, workplace, education or size of business), but users are on the site to look for and generate business and network, rather than for social reasons. In addition to paid ads, accounting firms wanting to grow a B2B client base can use this platform to showcase their corporate accounting expertise, for example by posting original articles.
Twitter is all about frequent, brief timely communication with an audience. Communication is limited in characters so content needs to be made up of short, sharp updates that are of use to followers. There’s also a paid option for promoting tweets. Twitter is great for statistics – the latest data released on consumer confidence, the dollar, investments, or anything that might be influencing a target audience and their decision to seek accounting services.
Create a competitive advantage
Without any robust studies, it’s difficult to understand exactly how many accounting firms are utilising social media as part of their marketing activities. However, the Sensis research does indicate that just 32% of Australian businesses in the finance and insurance sectors use social media*.
This means there is a real opportunity for accounting firms, particularly SMEs, to stand out from the competition by adding social media into the marketing mix, starting now.
The good news for accounting firms is that social media is a cost-effective way to reach a large audience – with the right planning and execution it can be an ideal way to grow a business.