Case study: Can accounting firms really be social?

McGladreyWhen you cast your gaze across the digital landscape one organization you may not expect to see is an accounting firm. But, one of the leading tax, accounting and consulting firms in the country–RSM McGladrey–has proven that notion wrong over the last year building up quite an online presence in the process.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a former McGladrey employee. I worked as part of the marketing/PR team for five years in the early 2000s. So, it’s been particularly interesting for me to monitor their progress as they’ve started their first blog, dove into Twitter and started a YouTube channel–all in the past year.

Overall, McGladrey’s one of the more socially active accounting firms. Just take a peek at their online interaction and platforms:

* RSM McGladrey Golf Blog

* Success Starts Here (career/recruiting blog)

* RSM McGladrey Mfg (Manufacturing blog)

* RSM McGladrey ESOP blog

* Official McGladrey Twitter account

* Terri Andrews and Ben Gotkin also tweet under the McGladrey banner

* RSM McGladrey Careers Facebook fan page (more than 1,200 fans)

* McGladrey Careers YouTube channel (1,179 views)

* McGladrey PR News channel (238 views)

* McGladrey LinkedIn Alumni Group (nearly 900 members)

But, as we all know, a “presence” means nothing on the surface. There needs to be an integrated strategy. A solid business case for engaging with these tools. I had the chance to ask Terri Andrews, PR manager at McGladrey, a few questions last week about their engagement, strategy and results so far.

TerriAndrewsB2B Voices: McGladrey is currently active on a number of different social platforms. How did you sell these ideas internally to senior management who must have been a little skittish?

Terri: Our senior management has been surprisingly receptive so far. They realized early on that social media was going to be the way of the world. And they understood we could either use these tools to solidify our reputation up front or move into reactionary mode online. We’ve been testing the waters since early last year.

B2B Voices: What were your initial goals as you began last year?

Terri: We wanted to get involved in a listening mode. What conversations were happening in areas we were interested in? We really wanted to get a feel for where we could add value. We also feel we can use social media to raise brand awareness in many ways.

McGladreyMfgBlogB2B Voices: How are you setting expectations internally at McGladrey? And how are you measuring success?

Terri: You can’t expect 10,000 clicks every time you post a blog. We’re trying to work with our executives and thought leaders to help them understand that their won’t be an immediate ROI in every case, but that it’s more about building relationships that will eventually result in ROI.

B2B Voices: In my view, social media for professional services firms like yours is all about thought leadership. As far as you know, has any of the work you’ve done online led to a lead or an actual new client?

Terri: We continually track our blog numbers and we know our social activity is increasing visits to our Web site. We’re trying to push folks to content on our site that is relevant to them. And, we’re working hard to find our audiences where they live online–whether that’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

B2B Voices: What’s next for McGladrey in the social realm?

Terri: We’re currently in the midst of implementing a social media policy/guidelines for employees. We believe this will give employees a better understanding of how they can get involved online on behalf of RSM McGladrey. We’re hoping this will ultimately result in even more employees representing McGladrey on social networks. The policy will also ensure we’re all integrated and supporting each others efforts.

So, how does McGladrey measure up?

McGladrey has already made great strides. The fact that they operate four blogs, three Twitter accounts, a Facebook page and two YouTube channels means, as Terri stated above, they’ve convinced senior management the benefits of engaging online outweigh the negatives. That’s no easy task in an accounting firm culture. Believe me.

However, while the firm has made great strides, like any other company, there seems to be a few opportunities. I thought we’d take a moment to look behind the numbers at their digital activity:

* Thought leadership: I’m a firm believer that the biggest social component to any professional services firm digital strategy is blogging. It’s the ultimate thought leadership platform. And, the SEO benefits are huge for firms like McGladrey. It’s nice to see McGladrey putting some emphasis behind an industry that I know is important to the firm: Manufacturing. Tom Murphy has been, and is, a great face for that vertical for the firm.

McGladreyTwitter* Engagement: As an organization that’s trying to establish itself as a thought leader in different categories, engagement isn’t always the priority. However, the lack of comments and two-way dialogue on the McGladrey blogs has to concern the firm just a little. On the flip side, Terri Andrews and Ben Gotkin do a wonderful job serving as the “face” of the firm from a recruiting and PR perspective on Twitter. And, the recruiting team does a nice job on Facebook responding to questions and jumping in when appropriate.

SuccessStartsHere* Integration: This is one area where I think the firm has a clear opportunity. Visiting the McGladrey Web site, other than the McGladrey Golf Blog, I don’t seen any mention of the organization’s social work or properties. So, there’s an opportunity to integrate all McGladrey’s social initiatives on their Web site. On the flip side, the Success Starts Here blog does a fabulous job of pulling together all the digital McGladrey properties. On the blog, not only can I link quickly to the firm’s Facebook page and YouTube channel (focused solely on recruiting), but I can also view a Google map with location info for every McGladrey office across the country. Nice.

So, can an accounting firm really be social? I think McGladrey’s answered that question beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt. But, like any other company, they still have opportunities. They’ve done the heavy lifting. Now, it’s a matter of listening and watching how their fans and followers behave on their sites, monitoring the digital landscape and adjusting as necessary.

Enough blathering by me. You’ve seen what McGladrey is up to now. What do you think? How does McGladrey measure up against other professional services firms (accounting, legal and architecture firms) you’ve seen online?

64 thoughts on “Case study: Can accounting firms really be social?”

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  4. Interesting read, thanks for sharing. I feel social media can be used by accounting firms but in the end, the effort may outweigh the results?

  5. Interesting read, thanks for sharing. I feel social media can be used by accounting firms but in the end, the effort may outweigh the results?

  6. This is a great example and I plan to use it in a presentation. The do need to work on getting people to respond to their efforts and interact. They should be measuring that like anything else.

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