Socialmedia E-mail? Phone? They're so Nineties. If you want to stay relevant today, the ways you communicate had better include a health dose of social media.

And yet there's a gaping social divide between large and small companies. Communications firm Burson-Marsteller says 84 percent of the world's largest 100 companies are using social media, compared to about half of small and mid-size companies. “And only between a quarter and a third (of small and mid-size companies) use it in any structured way,” reports CFO.com's Alix Stuart.

The challenge, then, is to get smaller companies up to speed on social media best practices. But where to start?

Michelle Golden has a few ideas.

Michelle, president of Golden Practices, Inc., and a thought leader on the social media front, says social tools offer smaller businesses some huge advantages in business development and brand management. The first step, though, is much more personal. CPAs who haven't already done so need to build their individual online brands … and they need to do it now, before someone else does.

The reason, says Michelle, is simple: Everything is online today. We need to be, too.

“All CPAs should have a really solid LinkedIn profile and claim their Google profiles. Both of those things will help elevate your Internet presence,” she said. “LinkedIn is a great place to start, for a couple of reasons. One, it's the only social media platform that was created directly and exclusively for business. Two, it gives you the ability to update your status, which is a little like Facebook. It lets you answer questions, which can feel a little bit like blogging. And it gives you a home page with a running feed of what your contacts have to say, which is very Twitter-like. So it gives you an introduction to the types of things that other social media tools offer.”

The bottom line: Don't wait. In an online world, your online brand should be near the top of your priority list.

I spoke with Michelle about all of this and more at the Accounting Today Growth and Profitability Summit a while back. Here's what she had to say.

Want to learn more?
We'll be talking about social media and a whole lot more at the 2011 Maryland CPA Summit, scheduled for June 3 at the BWI Marriott. Get complete details and register here.

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