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Twitter won't catch on among accountants

by Mark Lee on 25.12.2008 07:04

Perhaps because I’m increasingly active on Twitter a friend suggested I should write a piece about Twitter for accountants. To his surprise however I had already concluded that most Accountants in practice don’t need to bother with Twitter. 

This is much the same approach as I adopted recently when I wrote about Blogging myths for accountants.

Let’s be clear I am NOT against any of these new communication techniques. Far from it. I maintain three blogs of my own and typically update each of them two or three times a week. I’m enjoying Twitter and have benefited in a number of intangible ways as a result thereof.  I know dozens of people who tweet regularly and I have almost 200 followers on Twitter (at the time of writing).

But I also understand the accountancy profession.

Accountants

Whilst other commentators may seek to encourage accountants to try new technology, to experiment and to explore new forms of communication I adopt a different approach. I accept that the vast majority of accountants do not apsire to try out these new ideas. They don’t think many (any?) of their clients or target clients are using such tools. They don’t have the time to experiment and to test new ways of doing things.  They don’t perceive the need to do these things.

This is also evidenced by the relatively slow take up of the facilities to use this ion community.

And the fact is that I entirely understand why few accountants in practice are interested in spending time blogging, on twitter or on ion. The simple fact is that there is no pressing need for them to do so.

Yes, there are ways that accountants COULD use and benefit from Twitter .  Yes, they MAY find ways to use Twitter to help them build their practice and Yes, to do so would put them ahead of the field.

But, will being on Twitter help them avoid client losses? No.

Will it help them to provide pro-active advice to clients? Unlikely

Will it help them with their HR issues (to get rid of under performers and to improve the quality of new recruits)?  Unlikely.

Will it help them to secure more profitable clients of the type they seek?  No faster than any other marketing activity and it’s even less area specific than blogging.

Will it help them to make more money or to increase their profits? No.

Will it help them solve their succession issues? No

The bottom line is that Twitter will not do any of the things that accountants in practice are most concerned about at the moment. And to the extent that it might do so, the time and effort required to secure such benefits are disproportionate to the hoped for benefits. As such I cannot advocate the idea that they should explore Twitter as a business tool.

What is Twitter?

I should explain that Twitter is a free online social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as ‘tweets’). Each post or ‘tweet’ is limited to 140 characters in length.

Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them by ‘following’ people in who they are interested.  Users can also send and receive tweets through third party web based applications, iphones and Blackberry devices.  Many tweets contain links to web pages and blog posts.

Anyone with access to Twitter (and one of the third party applications that make it easier to use and understand) can follow the flow of messages and comments, contribute, reply or simply keep up to date.

On one of my blogs I recently wrote a related piece: If you’re not on Facebook you need to be on LinkedIn. It’s worth noting that, unlike the Facebook status updates, tweets can be directed at specific twitter users, people tweet much more often than they update their Facebook status, and it is much more acceptable to follow people you have never met on Twitter than it is on Facebook.

For more on Twitter (which is only 2 years old), have a look at this recent article from the Times by Sathnam Sanghera.

So why do I use Twitter?

For the same reason as many other people. I’m experimenting, testing, having fun. I’m not in practice as an accountant. I use it to promote my business activities, blog posts and seminars. I use it to keep in touch with people, to learn from others and to find interesting people with whom to connect.

Twitter has a number of potential business benefits to me. But none that I think would justify me spending time on Twitter if I were still in practice.

Conclusion

I have a number of ideas as to who does and can gain most benefit from Twitter but none of them are remotely connected with accountants in a business capacity so I won’t post them here.

If you are an accountant in practice and you contribute to this ion community and you’re experimenting with Twitter do please get in touch, equally if (despite the tenor of this piece) if you decide to try it out. And of course if you disagree with my perspective please add your views as comments to this piece.