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LinkedIn: What It Is and What It Means to Your Accounting Practice

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Posted by steve on May 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

As a rule most accountants are well aware of the relevance of networking in building their practices. Alas many CPA firms are still failing to realize the appropriate way to incorporate online tools in that effort. Though there are opportunities in every social networkon the web, from Facebook to Twitter, none are more significant than “LinkedIn”, a business-focused, “professional” social networking website, opened in 2003 by Reid Hoffman.

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in a lot of respects. It has profiles, allows status updates, and lets users create and join groups. Unlike Facebook, however, LinkedIn concentrates on business rather than social contacts. Instead of your connections sharing pictures of their cat, the focus is on employment, networking, references, and virtually anything else you’ll need in the business world.

This is reflected in your profile, which is dominated by your current employers, and expanded on further down by descriptions of your experience, past and present, recommendations from clients and coworkers, and a personal “summary” where you can highlight your specialties. You can also include your website, Twitter, and even any instant-messaging handles you may have at the bottom.

Once you have all this filled in (LinkedIn will give you a percentage-to-completion box on the right side, indicating how ready you are to get out and start networking), you’re free to start connecting with contacts, requesting recommendations, and joining groups. One of the nice things about LinkedIn is that it’s like a dynamic resume—constantly updating and showing up-to-date progress, while providing an ever-changing face for potential clients.

But where LinkedIn provides many opportunities to its users, it isn’t going to do the work for you.

The key, says Barry Macquarrie, “is participation”. Macquarrie, who is director of technology at the KAF Financial Group, recently posted a blog on CPA2Biz outlining seven essential LinkedIn activities. His first four activities are fairly straightforward. They basically cover the process of setting up a complete profile, keeping your status updated, and connecting with your clients and employers. The other three are more involved, such as joining groups, which will allow CPAs to interact with those they share interests with, sharing links, and following other companies and competition.

He also suggests that CPAs should join certain groups. Specifically he suggests creating/joining a group for your own firm as well as those of your competitors. His own group, SocialCPAs, as well as those of AICPA, the State CPA Society, and the International CPA Association, are also good bets.

You already see the significance of social networking. If you wish to compete in today’s market don’t let the benefits proffered by online networking websites slip away, and LinkedIn is very likely the best place to begin. This is a brand new medium and there’s no telling how far it can take you, but it’s already proven to be worth the relatively small amount of time and effort it requires.

About the Author

Brian O’Connell is the CEO and founder of CPA Site Solutions, one of the country’s largest website design businesses dedicated solely to accounting website design. His firm presently provides websites for more than 4000 CPA and accounting firms.

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