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Social Business Winners and Losers

By Joey Havens

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For years I have heard jokes about how slow the public accounting profession is in being innovative or adopting changes in business practices. Odds are, you have too. My favorite has always been, “When did the CPA buy his/her first fax machine?” Of course, the answer is, “When the client called and asked, ‘What is your fax number? I’m trying to fax you something.’”

I guess the new version will be, “When did the CPA convert their applications and website to be mobile responsive?” Or maybe, “When did the CPA firm find out their best client was engaged digitally with their competition and moving forward together on the biggest project of the year?”

Sound farfetched? Let’s take a quick look at how fast social media and digital engagement are changing how firms recruit people and conduct business. “Social business,” as I like to call it, will have a significant impact on CPA firms and our profession’s relevance in the future. 

According to Futurist Daniel Burrus, our future is being significantly transformed by the exponentially growing power of the smartphone and the internet where information will flow freely to provide information, wisdom, and solutions at our fingertips.   

Millennials (87 percent of whom keep their smartphones by their sides 24/7), who we are desperately trying to attract to our profession and firms, will seek and research job opportunities digitally first. To “win” this talent, firms must be engaged in social business with heaps of information on who we are. Culture matters to this group and they will check it out. A 2012 survey revealed that 94 percent of young careerists under age 34 will talk about their employers on social media. Do you even know what your team members are saying online right this minute?   

Not only is the talent we are seeking taking note and seeking out our digital footprint, but clients and new prospects are too. It’s no secret that the growth of new business will be highly dependent on our digital engagement. Hinge Research Institute recently reported in their survey of businesses seeking to hire professional services providers that over 83 percent go to our website first, even when referred by an existing client or relationship. How does your website look? Over 63 percent will perform an online search for digital presence and information on us. Almost 60 percent will check us out on social media. Have you checked your LinkedIn profiles lately? All of this happens before even picking up the phone to call us! 

Social media and digital power are quickly making “Social Business” a main focus of our world as talent and future growth will be searching for us there. Are we relevant? 

Here are a few relevant facts to help us gauge how we are doing and if it is really important or not.

  • Adults spend 5.6 hours a day on digital media. 50 percent of this time is on a mobile smartphone.
  • 30 percent of millennials consider meaningful work as the most important consideration in selecting a firm.
  • A 2014 Glassdoor study reported that 95 percent of jobseekers cite “an open and transparent environment” as important in their evaluation of a company.
  • 69 percent of millennials will post a positive comment on social media if they are happy clients according to IBM Institute for Business Value.
  • Hinge Research Institute 2015 reported that for accounting expertise, companies use an online search to look for an expert over 30 percent of the time.

There are just a few more facts for us to consider if we will be a winner or chaser in this transformation. According to Content Marketing Association in a 2013 report, 70 percent of B2B buyers prefer getting to know us via our content, an article, blog, or client posts as opposed to advertising. Almost 50 percent of B2B research is already performed by millennials according to Google/Millard Brown Digital Study 2014. Do you believe this will trend down or do you believe the smartphone will play an even more significant role in the immediate future? It has been reported that 42 percent of research is already conducted using a mobile device.

Contrast the rapidly growing use of the smartphone for research to the study shared at the AIM conference in Orlando this year. The study included the top 100 CPA firms plus 40 other firms considered as “emerging firms.” Only 15 percent of these firm’s websites were evaluated as being mobile responsive where the information could be easily accessed and engaged from a mobile phone. Relevant? What is your fax number?

Kodak, Blackberry, and Blockbuster were once relevant and market leaders who ignored technology and customer choices. With the recent successes of Uber and AirBnb, we can see how quickly this transformation can change relevancy and make a significant market impact. We are seeing more competition from outside of our profession as new digital companies like Incline and CountUp are constantly popping up in an effort to capture this social business opportunity. 

The great news is that if we focus our organizations and team members on these opportunities, we can continue to lead our clients to great solutions and increase our relevance in the business world. Let’s engage to build a powerful digital footprint for our profession, demonstrating transparency and communicating who we are. We should proudly display our core values while being relentless givers of knowledge and wisdom. We can lead in relevancy online and be a profession desired by the most talented people and the most innovative clients. In the future, the best will be face-to-face and also digitally engaged and relevant. 

I’m afraid this time the transformation is a little stronger than when the fax machine came on the scene. We don’t have the time to wait on a phone call that may never come. Let’s work to be innovative and relevant rather than part of the punchline.    

Instead of just do it, let’s just embrace it!