Before we delve any deeper into these topics, let’s start out with some definitions that sum up social media in a nutshell: Social media is the use of web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue between network groups, consumers and businesses. One way of explaining social media in simple terms is that social media is like email, but public. It’s communicating with an audience in a public forum. For those of you who are already a bit familiar with social media, how would you define it in your own terms?
There are many reasons why you and your practice should be on social networks – as a business owner your audience can include your clients, potential clients, colleagues and taxpayers at large and as current social media statistics show, your audience is on and using social networks
The old ways of doing business and staying in touch with clients and prospects are changing. Clients and prospective clients want to have a conversation with you and social media provides a way to do that. These are all great reasons of how social media can benefit your tax practice. So now that we know why social media is important, the next question is how really HOW to use social media. Before you can really start to use social media and start seeing these benefits, you’ll want to set up a strategy on how do so….
Setting up a social media strategy is important or you’ll find yourself running around in circles and left feeling that all this online networking stuff is just a huge waste of time. One thing that a lot of business marketers struggle with around the entire topic of social networking is trying to jump into the next new thing without enough analysis of what they should focus on first. Therefore, you’ll first need to figure out how you want to utilize social media by establishing a social media objective for each platform. Establishing an objective for each social media platform will allow you to build a successful social media program. Ask yourself some preliminary questions to establish your objectives.Who is your target audience? Are you trying to reach new clients or network with other professionals in the industry? What are their demographics? (Age group, Socio-Economic Status, Education, Interests). Is your client base mostly individuals or small businesses? Establishing this will be important so you can determine what type of content you’ll publish. 2. What will you be using each social networking platform for? Do you want to spread content and expertise to new audiences? Do you want to grow your business or simply keep your current clients engaged and satisfied?Is your objective to help increase awareness about enrolled agents to the taxpaying public? Is your objective to help market your tax practice and services?Are there any other objectives you think might be relevant or does anyone have any questions or comments about establishing your objective? You can have more than one objective, but it’s important to make sure that each objective can co-exist in order to see a return on the time you’re investing in your social networking initiatives. For each social networking platform that you use, it will be important to establish objectives for each – every social networking platform is used differently and will not be able to accomplish all the same objectives/goals.
Once you establish your objectives you can start putting together a strategy for your social media program -- laying down a ground work for a social media strategy will be important so you can start moving in the right direction. One way to begin laying out your strategy can be with an easy six step process that starts off with setting your objectives:Plan – Set your social media marketing objectives and understand what it is you want to accomplish with each platformListen – Take a look at what other people in the industry are doing. If you’re thinking of starting a blog, start reading other tax blogs, if you’re thinking of creating a Facebook Business Page, check out other Facebook Business Pages of tax business owners or small business owners in general to get a feel for common trends, writing styles, and the look and feel of other pages. Has anyone found any Facebook Pages or blogs that they’ve gotten good ideas from? Join – Start joining and setting up your profiles on each social network. Open accounts on different social networks and create a blog. We’ll talk about setting up each of these pages a little later.Engage – Start commenting on blogs and Facebook posts, “tweet” to other people on Twitter, and add people to your network on LinkedIn, start “liking” other Facebook pages, answer questions. Network – Take your efforts to the next level and start being proactive. Tell your clients you’re on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re at a networking event, make sure to mention your presence on these online platforms as well. Manage – The most important step which can be time consuming, but will be important to create a successful social media plan and schedule. We’ll go into this in more detail a little later on in the presentation.
Once you have your objectives set, picking which platforms you need to be on will be the next step. There are many networks out there and sometimes this can be the most confusing part – so which social networks should you join? Let’s go over the major platforms and their purpose.
Blogs What is It? A blog is software that allows individuals to post content to a website or “web log.” The content is usually displayed much like a journal entry in reverse chronological order. The content can be anything the author chooses to write.
Blog software also allows: Readers of the blog pages to make comments and add their own contentReaders of the blog to subscribe to the content so they are automatically notified whenever the content is updatedSearch engines to receive notice whenever the content is updated
Why Use One? Blogs are often the backbone of many social media efforts, and while not for everyone, is something worth trying for a number of reasons
As with all of your other social media platforms that you plan to be present on, it’s important to “listen” and research other blogs first to get a feel for what yours might look like. A great place to start is www.technorati.com Technorati is a blog search engine and directory, so you can go to the website, type in some keywords to pull up the top blogs in your industryRemember to consider your social media goal/objective when starting your blog. Who is you audience and who are you writing for? Discover the exact phrases your audience is using when they search and write valuable content around that and people will find your blog. If your audience/target market is new clients, and they’re looking for last minute tax filing tips, write about that. Blogging is a great way to build an engaged community, so write blog posts in a way that invite people to participate and comment. Ask for ideas and opinions. As with your other social networks, create a schedule to keep your blogs up to date with current information
As mentioned previously, blogs are run by software, so one of the first chores is to determine what software you want to use and get it set up. Here are some leading choices:
Facebookhas become the most widely recognized name in social networks where users can create profiles with photos, lists of personal interests, contact information, and other personal information. Users can communicate with friends and other users through private or public messages and a chat feature. They can also create and join interest groups and "like pages" (formerly called "fan pages”), which are maintained by organizations as a means of advertising[
Profiles represent individuals and must be held under an individual name, while Pages allow an organization, business, celebrity, or band to maintain a professional presence on Facebook. In addition, Pages are managed by admins who have personal Facebook profiles. Pages are not separate Facebook accounts and do not have separate login information from your profile. Once you have set up a Page within your profile, you may add other admins to help you manage this Page. People who choose to connect to your Page won't be able to see that you are the Page admin or have any access to your personal account.
www.facebook.com/help/?page=175 –Facebook’s Help Page on how to use Facebook Business Pageswww.facebook.com/pages/create.php - Link to create your Business Page
In simplest terms, Twitter is a free service that allows anyone to say anything to anybody in 140 characters or less – it’s the “what are you doing right now” of online sharing that permeates online social communication. It is a great network for what is called “real-time internet,” the conversation that is going on at this very moment. After creating an account for you or your tax practice, you will have the ability to follow other “Tweeters” to stay up to date on what is going on in the industry and post your own messages. Twitter can be a way to connect and network with others in the tax industry and is a steady stream for ideas, content, links (that you can post on your other social networking outlets for content), resources, and tips focused in your area of expertise. Twitter is a good place to share, get ideas, and establish yourself as an industry expert who is “in the know.” Remember to identify your social media strategy and objectives to decide if Twitter is the right tool to use.
Social Media 101
Social Media 101<br />An Introduction to Social Media and How It Relates to the Future of the Tax Preparation Business<br />1<br />
What is Social Media? <br /><ul><li>Social media is the use of web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue between network groups, consumers and businesses
How would you define social media in your own words? </li></ul>2<br />
Is Social Media Just a Fad?<br /><ul><li>Social media is no longer marketing’s new thing – it’s simply part of the way we do marketing today
Think you can sit the social networking craze out? Consider the following statistics…</li></ul>3<br />
Social Media Statistics<br /><ul><li>As of 2011, Facebook has more than 500 million active users and 30% of the entire Facebook user base is aged 35+ (Facebook)
Social networking site usage grew 88% among Internet users aged 55-64 between April 2009 and May 2010 (Pew Research)
The most recent count of blogs being indexed by Technorati currently stands at 133 million. The same report also revealed that, on average, 900,000 blog posts are created within a single 24-hour period</li></ul>4<br />
Benefits of Using Social Media <br /><ul><li>Boost your marketing efforts without busting your budget
Creating Your Blog: Blog Software<br /><ul><li>www.wordpress.org – offers free, open-source blogging tool (to use if you already have your own website)
www.wordpress.com: A hosted version of WordPress software that allows you to easily create a blog that is hosted by WordPress. No real setup, simply sign up for free, choose a theme and start blogging.
www.TypePad.com: Another great hosted service with many features and a simple startup process
Compendium Blogware: Business targeted blog system that works around targeting keywords and phrases</li></ul>15<br />
Facebook: What is It? <br /><ul><li>Facebook is a social network where users can create profiles with photos, lists of personal interests and contact information
Users can communicate with friends and other users through private or public messages and a chat feature
They can also create and join interest groups and "like pages" (formerly called "fan pages”), which are maintained by organizations as a means of advertising</li></ul>16<br />
Personal Facebook Profile<br /> Personal Facebook Profile<br />Allows individuals to create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, pictures and other information including automatic notifications when they update their profile<br />www.facebook.com/help/?guide=set_up_profile – Setting Up Your Profile<br />17<br />
Facebook Business Page<br /> Facebook Business Page<br />Allows business owners and organizations to create a similar profile page for their business that allows networking with customers/clients while giving more privacy and an opportunity to brand their company separately from their personal Facebook profile<br />www.facebook.com/help/?page=175<br />www.facebook.com/pages/create.php<br />20<br />
Facebook Terminology <br /><ul><li>Profile: Your personal page. It contains your photos and videos, a list of your friends, your recent activities, and anything else you choose to include on it
Wall: A featured section inside every Facebook profile that allows people to post public messages to you
News Feed: A continuous stream of updates about your friends’ activities on Facebook. It appears on your Home Page</li></ul>25<br />
Facebook Terminology <br /><ul><li>Status: A feature that allows users to inform their friends of their current whereabouts, actions, or thoughts
Like: A feature that appears as a link next to something you see on Facebook that allows users to let others know they appreciate that something, whether it be a video, a comment or something else </li></ul>26<br />
Why Use a Facebook Business Page? <br /><ul><li>Allows you to create a flexible business outpost on Facebook
Connect and be in touch with your clients and potential clients on a more personal level
Allows your “fans” to suggest your Page to their friends – a great networking tool
Allows visitors to see what others are saying about your company and services</li></ul>27<br />
Things You Need to Create Your Facebook Business Page<br /><ul><li>A personal Facebook account (profile)
A Facebook objective/goal – Once again, who is your audience and what do you want to achieve
Content – we’ll go over content creation in a bit
A schedule, time and consistency </li></ul>28<br />
Twitter<br /><ul><li>Twitter is an online service that allows anyone to say anything to anybody in 140 characters or less
These messages, or Tweets, are public and available to anyone interested in them
Twitter users subscribe to your messages by following your account. Followers receive every one of your messages in their timeline, a feed of all the accounts they have subscribed to
It is a great network for what is called “real-time internet,” the conversation that is going on at this very moment</li></ul>29<br />
Why Use Twitter: Possible Objectives<br /><ul><li>As a business, you can use Twitter to quickly share information, gather market intelligence and insights, and build relationships with people who care about your practice. Some possible objectives:
Stay connected with up to the second updates and network with others in the tax industry
Keep your clients and potential clients up to date with the most current information that’s relevant to them
Instant access to what’s being said, this minute, about your company and services
Extend the reach of your thought leadership; blog posts and other content </li></ul>30<br />
How to Use Twitter<br /><ul><li>Once you create an account, you’ll be given a home page, profile page, and Twitter handle (username)
i.e. NAEA’s handle is @tax_experts or www.twitter.com/tax_experts
From these pages you can find other Twitter streams to follow, post your own messages, and watch the public stream of comments flow by</li></ul>31<br />
How to Use Twitter<br /><ul><li>Use search.twitter.com/advanced as a lead generation tool. Find people in your area who are tweeting about “tax” and reach out to them
As with all of your other social media platforms, make sure to identify at least one objective from the “Why Use Twitter” slide, identify your audience, and focus your efforts on learning how to use the tool to that end </li></ul>32<br />
Twitter Terminology<br /><ul><li>Tweet: When you post or write your 140 characters on Twitter and hit send, it’s called a tweet or tweeting
Handle: Your Twitter name and part of your Twitter URL. i.e. @tax_experts
Follow: The act of adding someone to your list of people you are following – this makes their tweets show up on your homepage</li></ul>33<br />
Twitter Terminology<br /><ul><li>Replies: This is what it is called when someone writes a tweet directly at your handle, i.e., @tax_experts Thank you for posting the updated PTIN information!
Retweet: This is a tactic of republishing someone else’s tweet – the original tweet along with the author stays intact, but you are basically showing someone’s tweet to your followers- many people find this a great way to add content and acknowledge good stuff from folks they follow</li></ul>34<br />
Twitter Terminology<br /><ul><li>DM (Direct Message): This is a message that is sent directly to another user. They must be following you for you to DM them, but this is a very useful tool for private messages
Hashtag: This is a way people categorize tweets so that others might use the same tag and effectively create a way for people to view related tweets – it will look something like “#tax” in many of your cases </li></ul>35<br />
Who Should You Follow?<br /><ul><li>To make Twitter useful, you need to follow others and begin to have others follow you
While you can upload your current contacts (a good place to start) and search for people you know on Twitter, there are sites to help locate people with common interests:
Twellow is like a Twitter phone directory that sorts people by industry
Tweepsearch focuses on searching Twitter bios and profiles to help you locate Tweeters who are interesting to follow </li></ul>36<br />
What Should You Say on Twitter?<br /><ul><li>Whatever your answer, it needs to be 140 characters or less – make sure whatever you say, you’re targeting your audience and reaching your objective that you establish in your social media marketing strategy
If you’re trying to reach new clients or keep your current clients informed, keep them updated with information that is helpful and relevant to them</li></ul>37<br />
LinkedIn<br /><ul><li>LinkedIn is the largest online network specifically created for business professionals, used by many as a digital resume
It has much more of business participation and is great place to network with other business professionals </li></ul>43<br />
LinkedIn<br /><ul><li>As is the case with any social network, it’s important to take time and get to know the culture and accepted norms – lurk a little bit!
Use the time to build your profile and your network of current friends so you can see firsthand examples of how people connect and reach out on your chosen network
From there you can begin to contribute and seek out connections </li></ul>44<br />
Why Use LinkedIn?<br /><ul><li>Find clients, help, and deals. For the tax industry, LinkedIn is a great place to locate prospects and network with partners
Build up buzz. Once you’ve established a following within LinkedIn you can begin to promote specific happenings around your tax practice
Visualize connections. Your profile lets visitors know exactly how they’re connected to you, which builds a degree of trust between the visitor and yourself</li></ul>45<br />
Why Use LinkedIn?<br /><ul><li>Give feedback and research. Use LinkedIn as a resource for research and feedback. Simply putting questions out to your group is a great way to get a feel for areas where you want input.
Receive and give recommendations. LinkedIn allows you to request, receive (and give) recommendations from your colleagues and clients – your connections will be able to see first hand what your business contacts have to say about you and your services! </li></ul>46<br />
Set up Google Alerts with important key words
Follow blogs and Twitter feeds of industry information leaders </li></ul>55<br />
Managing Your Social Media Platforms<br /><ul><li>Following an automated routine or schedule provides insight into how you can best integrate your social media strategy into your overall marketing plan
For each social media platform, develop a plan/schedule for certain tactics that you will perform on a daily and weekly basis and stick to it
Maintain a list of content ideas for posting </li></ul>56<br />
Tips to Promote Your Social Media Platforms<br /><ul><li>Include links to your platforms in your email signature
Include links to your platforms on your website and in your client newsletters
Add social networking “badges” or logos on your business cards, brochures and other marketing materials</li></ul>57<br />
Tips to Promote Your Social Media Platforms<br /><ul><li>Place Facebook ads using Facebook’s own social ad feature