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Rhonda Maraziti, WithumSmith+BrownAll signs point to social media as having an important impact when it is actively used by firms like WithumSmith+Brown of Red Bank, N.J. "We support and encourage social media," says Rhonda Maraziti, the firm's director of marketing and practice growth. "It's a great way to demonstrate thought leadership." And there are a lot of elements in social media than can be measured. Social media managers can count the number of friends, followers or contacts for those at a firm or cite the number of employees with blogs along with the number of views for articles and You Tube videos to find out how well these tools work

WithumSmith aggressively uses the Big Four tools - LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - and is trying to develop blogs. All practice leaders and niche leaders have created LinkedIn groups to serve their industries. In many ways, it is old-fashioned networking with a technology boost.

"We encourage all of our industry practice leaders and service line leaders to write articles, make presentations, post on websites and  to LinkedIn groups," she says. Maraziti even finds Twitter as "having grown up" and become very useful. For its medical practice, for example, the firm follows hospitals on Twitter and that has developed new relationships. "We monitor followers, not just number but quality of followers," she says. And there are analytics available with YouTube  and WordPress, which is used for blogs. But even with tools available to measure followers and shared tweets, when it comes to the results from Twitter, "I can't say that for certain that we have gotten new business," Maraziti notes.

That is the state of social media, even for the most enthusiastic advocates. It is still tough to pin down the impact of marketing conducted through these new platforms, although there is much evidence that the process of seeing and being seen bymany people works in these venues just as it did with traditional media.

"People are trying in home-grown ways to measure engagement-who is commenting on a blog or on a Facebook page, as well as using traditional measurements  concering how many visits are being made to your website," says Patricia Tynan, social media and community marketing manager for Sage North America. Sage recently published the results of a social media usage study. It's not about the accounting community, but it does cover a market that is interest to many firms: the nonprofit sector. And Tynan says it is very clear that trying to count the results of social media use is very important. The survey showed that "those that have a goal and a measure they are striving for are the most satisfied,"
she says.

According to the survey 61 percent use headcounts as a measurement of success while 28 percent track the conversion of social connection to supports and 17 percent measure the amount of funds raised. Jowever, Nonprofits are probably like most sectors in that blogging is not one of the prime tools. increase." Blogging is where they are behind, putting up blogs and writing themm," says Krista Endsley, SVP and general manage rof Sage's Nonprofit Solutions division. .

They are not alone. Kurt Siemers, CEO of Kennedy and Coe, says that the issue of blogging "has been a struggle for me. We have always pushed the firm brand, not the individual's  brand," he says. The firm's blogs do not list authors and Siemers is aware that is not the general practice. "I follow a lot of blogs, most of them are individual brands.. I am not sure our strategy is right," he says. Blogs are also tricky because they require someone with skill, the ability to write on a regular basis and the knowledge to make posts valuable to a particular market.

The Wichita, Kan.-based firm is also less active in encouraging professionals to use social media than WithumSmith is also does not have a formal process for evaluating results. "I would say we have not tried to do any quantitative analysis. It is 'what is working,'" says Seimers. And in one area that many say lends itself to social media - recruiting- Seimers cannot point to results. "We have had some applicatiosn come via LinkedIn. I don't know that we have ever hired anybody when the process was initiated on LinkedIn," he says."It facilitated our ability to look at people in another way." That other way is heavily weighted to fact checking--looking at the resumes posted on LinkedIn and seeing the experience and network that a prospect might have.

However, Siemers has no doubt that allowing employees to use social media is the right policy. "It's available at work all the time just like the telephone is,." he says."It's a real negative impact to say 'You can't use Facebook."

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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