Still looking for social media’s elusive return on investment?

You should’ve been with me in Vegas last week. I found it at the AICPA’s annual Practitioners’ Symposium and Tech+ Conference.

The event included a session titled “Face Time vs. Facebook: Building Client Loyalty in a Digital World,” which examined the process of building relationships by pitting the old-school glad-handing concept against the new-school social-networking approach. “Which is better?” was the unasked question as attendees filed into the room.

As the session got under way, the answer quickly became “neither” … and “both.”

The speakers — Michael Hsu from DeepSky and Michael Shost from Shost & Company — quickly offered up anecdotes that backed their arguments:

  • Hsu explained how he used digital technologies — including social media — to go more than two years without ever meeting his biggest client.
     
  • Shost said his old-school breakfast-and-lunch approach takes more time than social networking, but believes it can build a “golden” business.

It quickly became apparent, though, that neither approach is better than the other, and here’s why: They’re both about people. They’re both about building relationships, and they both go about it in similar ways.

Think about it: “Social networking” isn’t a new concept. Whenever you get a crowd together, you’ve got a social network. We’ve been doing that since the dawn of time.

It doesn’t matter how many “friends” or “followers” or “likes” you have. You still have to make connections and add value to people’s lives. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter how big your social network is.

To that point, here are some key takeaways, courtesy of the really smart people who attended the session:

  • A great way of adding value is by finding your niche and establishing yourself in that area. Social media can help you do that quickly.
     
  • Social media makes your reach much broader, but face-to-face still seals the deal.
     
  • Social media lets your clients know you before they do business with you.
     
  • To know you, your clients have to know the real you. Social media isn’t about accounting content. It’s about presenting your authentic voice. Don’t be afraid to be weird … and to own that weirdness.
     
  • People want to like and trust you. The only way to do that is to show them who you really are.
     
  • There is no B2B or C2C. Everything we do is P2P — people to people. It’s all about building relationships.

And there, my friends, is your ROI on social media. You won’t make a dime until you build connections and relationships. You won’t gain their business until you gain their trust.

And you won’t do that until you get to know them and let them know you.

Until you get social.

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