Accounting Authors See Profession Getting Social In 2019 | Accounting Today
Panelists at a discussion hosted by the Accountants Club of America on Thursday in New York see social media, texting and cybersecurity among the major trends for the coming year.
Edward Mendlowitz, a partner at WithumSmith+Brown had a collection of his weekly Accounting Today columns, “Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting,” published by CPA Trendlines this year. He discussed how more accountants are using social media to get new clients.
“When I started out, I thought the way to build business was you had to go to networking breakfasts, lunches and dinners,” he said. “I had a Partners Network breakfast, and two accountants spoke. One guy got 237 clients last year from Facebook, and the other guy got about 150 tax clients from Facebook. One’s a sole practitioner, and the other one is a partner in a firm, and they’re using social media.”
Becky Livingston, president and CEO of Penheel Marketing, is the author of “SEO for CPAs: The Accountant’s SEO Handbook” and “The Accountants’ Social Media Handbook,” also published by CPA Trendlines. She is seeing more firms using text messaging and mobile technology to reach clients.
“I’m not saying text your clients every day, but there are important times of the year when you do need to send them information, whether they’re business owners who need to do taxes every month, or reminders every month or on a quarterly basis,” she said. “There are things you can prepare in a text-messaging platform to touch base with your clients every now and again. Maybe you’re having a community event like a shred-it day. You can alert your clients to the fact that you’re having a shred-it event and bring their stuff to get shredded, or any other kinds of events that your firm might be having. That’s a great little way just to touchpoint with them on a regular basis.”
Social media is a growing way for firms to reach prospective clients as well as potential staff members. Mendlowitz talked during the panel, which I moderated, about the impact of CPA firm videos like Withum’s annual State of the Firm videos, which typically feature members of the Withum staff dancing and lip-syncing.
“The marketing staff is being supplanted by the social media people,” said Mendlowitz. “My firm does a State of the Firm video every year. The first time they did it with social media, it was tremendous and they thought it would be very good marketing. What we did not think about or realize is it has become the best tool for recruiting. Young people see this and they want to come work for our firm. They want to work for the cool firm. Things are changing.”
Livingston is seeing more firms making their websites mobile-friendly as well as putting chat bots on their websites to interact with visitors who are becoming accustomed to voice interaction technologies like Alexa or Siri.
“Everybody’s using their phones for everything these days,” she said. “Is your website mobile-ready? Have you ever looked at your website on your mobile phone? If not, maybe you want to, because if it looks ugly to you, what do you think your client’s going to think, especially if they’re someone who is 40, 50, or, heaven forbid, 20? If they’re that young and they see that’s something really ugly on the website on their mobile device — because that’s their world — it’s over. It doesn’t matter what bells and whistles you have at your firm. Mobile is going to be huge, and I’m starting to see trends in the firms that I support in their website analytics that the mobile is starting to bypass the desktop. It’s fascinating to me that people are using mobile devices to work with accountants, but that’s what I’m starting to see as a trend.”
AI and cybersecurity ahead
Meanwhile, Hitendra Patil, director of practice development at the cloud accounting technology provider AccountantsWorld and author of “Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant,” also published by CPA Trendlines, sees artificial intelligence and cybersecurity playing a larger role for accountants.
“Awareness about a few technological advances is taking flight,” he said. “AI, artificial intelligence, is taking shape. It’s already there in some solutions for audit, for example. Accountants are also picking up on cybersecurity. I see regional and larger firms buying small technological firms, which will be able to provide cybersecurity services. That’s a trend that really surprised me in the last six or seven months. There are solutions now in the marketplace that you can use off the shelf to start providing cybersecurity services to your clients. You don’t need to be a technologist at all. Those are solutions that sit on a network and scan through everything, bringing real-time help for your clients.”
Patil also expects to see more firms getting into blockchain advisory services. “The websites of accounting firms are changing,” he said. “In the services list, you will find cybersecurity advisory services or blockchain advisory services, for example. Some 20- or 60-year–old firms are forming separate companies for blockchain advisory services for their clients. Those are the things that are definitely picking up.” He also sees more firms using straight-through processing to automate functions.