Would you go to a job interview without shoes on? Of course not. But many CPAs insist on making the digital version of that kind of mistake — neglecting their LinkedIn profiles.
LinkedIn use has increased tenfold in the past five years, with more than 380 million people around the world now using the service. Two new users join every second. Simply put, LinkedIn isn’t optional anymore.
“It’s table stakes,” said VSCPA member Lynn Fasi, a Northern Virginia-based growth consultant who will lead a session on LinkedIn at this week’s Professional Development Conference at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel in Vienna. She says not having a LinkedIn presence is “the equivalent of not having a website. And if you see a company without a website, you think they’re not legit.”
Fasi’s session, “Are You LinkedIn or Left Out? Strategies to Improve Effectiveness,” details the ways firms and individual CPAs can use the service to acquire new clients. At a minimum, that means a company page and individual pages for each employee, updated at least once a week.
That last part might seem excessive, but it’s all about staying active and keeping your name and expertise in the forefront of others’ feeds.
“It’s just basically looking like you have a sign of life,” Fasi said. “It’s not so much that something’s changing with you or your clients or skill set with that frequency, but you’re putting an article out there. You’re putting out a factoid that you recently read. You’re actively getting connected. Activity comes in a lot of shapes and forms.”
So it’s a double-edged sword, in a way. An incomplete LinkedIn profile can be as damaging as not playing in that space at all. But the good news is that it’s easy to create a profile that passes muster with potential employers and clients. All you need to do is make sure your profile is complete and accurate.
“People have this expectation of being able to vet and do due diligence on vendors and CPAs and service providers, potential employees, potential employers, and do it via the web,” Fasi said. “If a LinkedIn page isn’t current from a recruiting prospective, if I see a discrepancy, then I know that’s somebody who’s a little suspect.”
Fasi refers to LinkedIn as an “online Rolodex” in terms of making connections with potential clients. CPAs can learn in seconds what used to take years of painstaking legwork.
“Back in the day, CPAs would try to be rainmakers,” Fasi said. “They would try to grow new clients by going to public events, Chamber events, hosting seminars. I always ask the old rainmaker who’s been there forever what the most people was who attended one of his events. He’ll say 300, 400 people, and he got to know 20 or 30 of them. And he couldn’t figure out who knew whom, what they thought of them, who was connected to others. It would take him years to get to that level of connectivity.
“You can learn where somebody worked before, where they worked 10 years ago. It’s a game-changer.”
It’s not hard to figure out how that can be helpful to service-oriented professions like accounting. Referrals have always been the most effective method of client acquisition, and an active LinkedIn presence can serve as a constant referral. Figuring out connections with potential clients and putting the proper online face on a firm can be invaluable in finding new business.
Part of the reason for that is simply the ability to get in front of new clients and the information that can help grab their attention. But when you think about it, the fact that your client is also active on LinkedIn means that they understand the value of a strong Internet presence — which makes them more likely to respond positively to yours.
While LinkedIn is a form of social media, it’s quite different than Facebook or Twitter. Those outlets can be quite useful in managing the impression your company puts out to the public, but LinkedIn is unique among social networks in its potential usefulness in generating business.
“Social media is ‘cool,’ but no managing partner or firm that I know will fund ‘cool,’” Fasi said. “Management wants business developed as inexpensively as possible — and LinkedIn can do that.”