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How to cut through the online noise

7 August: With conferences cancelled and face-to-face networking opportunities limited, many accountants have taken to social media. Some are doing it well, but others are just adding noise. How can we do it better and make ourselves heard? Author, practice owner and ICAEW ROAR online influencer Della Hudson explains.

Have a plan

First and foremost, know why you are on social media and who you want to talk to. If you’re in practice it may well be that you want to generate leads, but it can also serve other purposes:

  • Demonstrating your expertise in a particular field 
  • Building your personal brand by sharing your personality and values
  • Building a network of suppliers, introducers and collaborators
  • Keeping in touch with existing customers or suppliers
  • Inviting business owners to your events 
  • Driving traffic to your website

Knowing your purpose will also help you to choose the best platform to focus on when resources are limited.

Post valuable content

Use social media to provide something that will help your target market. By all means, demonstrate your expertise but it’s more important to provide something of value to them than to preen. Your focus should be on your audience rather than on yourself. If you provide useful content, then it is more likely to be shared. The various online algorithms are all trying to promote popular content.

Some people prefer written content and others prefer video, so it is good to provide content in different formats to suit a wider range of followers. You can repurpose the same content in more than one format.

If you are posting videos, then it is useful to caption these to give accessibility for all and because most people view social media with the sound off. There are several apps available to caption or videos or to create a transcript you can use as the basis for a written article. 

Using photographs or memes is more likely to catch somebody’s eye.

Your content can be scheduled to be shared at the best moments for your audience. You may already have good content that can be adapted to the current situation. Keep recycling any ‘evergreen’ blogs and videos that will stand the test of time.

Build relationships

Online networking should be approached in much the same way as face-to-face networking. Many businesses just broadcast their message on social media, which is like talking ‘at’ people in a room. Try to make it a bit more of a two-way conversation. 

Share other people’s content that you think will be of use to your followers and where appropriate share your clients’ content to increase their online reach

Comment on other people’s posts as you would in a room. Agree or disagree but do it politely.

Make helpful introductions just as you would at a real-life event. It’s not all about you but a good introduction will reflect well on you

Don’t be afraid to show a little personality. This is where smaller businesses or practices can win a few online battles with one main person representing the business. It is also possible for larger organisations to do this, but clear brand guidelines including your ‘tone of voice’ are often required.

It’s not an instant solution

Doing social media well takes time. Both time spent each day interacting with others online and also time elapsed to build relationships. 

The process can be accelerated, and relationships deepened, by incorporating one-to0one interactions and meetups equivalent to a chat over a cup of coffee or a pot of tea. If possible, this should be done in the real world as well as online but, even in normal times, geography and time don’t always make this easy. 

If you’re doing social media well then there will be a natural recognition of the individual and brand when you eventually meet offline. If your online presence doesn’t reflect you and your business in the real world then you will need to start the relationship again in real life. 

You don’t need to share everything online if that isn’t your usual style, but you should be recognisable when you make the transition to a deeper, and more profitable, relationship.

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