For many of us, we cannot imagine a life without social media. What did we do before the times of ‘likes’, ‘notifications’ and ‘emoji’s’? The digital world has become a tool that we both rely on, and love to hate. Social media plays a pivotal role in our daily lives; on a personal level a majority of the population cannot spend an entire day (in reality probably no more than four hours) without shamelessly checking our social media accounts. For example, statistically there are more than 1,870 million people using Facebook worldwide. According to ‘Smart Insights’, ‘’(Facebook) With over 1,870 million active users, it holds an 18% market share, 7% more so than its closest competitor, the Facebook-owned, WhatsApp.’’(Smart Insights, 2017). WhatsApp – that brings me to my next point; social media does not only refer to the archetypal apps such as Facebook and Instagram, social media has revolutionised the way we communicate with one another.
In the business world, all business’ regardless of industry specialisation have had to adapt their marketing campaigns, and content (to fit with digital standards) in accordance to the growing popularity of online platforms. For example, millions of companies now hold entire departments consisting of workers who are solely dedicated to contributing to social media accounts.
Initially we need to analyse and understand how social media has impacted our lives in a general sense; in order to comprehend what social relevance social media plays in an accounting company. The way in which we consume media is rapidly evolving, and consequently the ways in which we communicate with one another are altering too. There has been an obvious shift in popularity and consumer usage from traditional media platforms to the online realm. This cannot be ignored by any industry. The change has and is currently happening.
Industries like accounting, law and finance are considered to be sturdy; in terms of longevity (career progression) and economic stability. Accountancy can never cease to exist - every business requires accounting services, and very often even self-employed individuals can seek the help of accountants. Working within accountancy is considered a reputable career, and stereotypically we consider the social media realm as a ‘young ‘and fun past time – completely the other end of the spectrum in comparison to accounting. What do the two very different and separate industries have in common, I hear you ask?
More and more corporate businesses are beginning to see the advantageous side to up keeping and establishing brand image online, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram are among the most popular platforms. Even the most stern of business’ and individuals such as KPMG, Oxford University and Tory politicians all activrly have social media accounts, and they regularly post content.
Social media can work in the same way as traditional media in this sense, it may not bring immediate leads, it’s severely difficult to monetise – however you establish an online image, and subconsciously in consumer’s mind they are reminded of what the company is about, and the services they can potentially offer.
Accounting firms can even employ influencers and bloggers to write / post on their behalf. The constant uploading of content will encourage interaction with followers, and of course, help to gradually gain more. The fundamental idea is to encourage business growth online, so first you must grow your following.
We spoke to long-term accountant Hassan Fayyaz about social media and the accounting world a few years back.
‘’I am relatively young (24), but have been an accountant since 18, so of course for me I love social media. Its second nature for our generation to be social natives, social experts if you will. I have noticed an increasing pressure on accountants, and particularly accounting firms to establish an online persona. It can be difficult to keep on top of it though, if you don’t have allocated staff to regularly upload. The online world can be demanding, and if you do not post almost every day this can affect your following. However, because the accounting world is often seen as more of a conservative profession, we are encouraged to use forums and interact through strong influencers. To basically get our firms presence out there, and network as much as possible. You can really increase business growth by interacting digitally with clients, potential clients and even other companies.
Nevertheless, I now have double the work I did 5 years ago. I am asked by my manager to upload content, and lead online marketing campaigns – in addition to my usual workload. Around times, for example during the period we are doing VAT, and extremely busy, this can be very demanding. Social media is fun when you use it recreationally, but when it is forced upon you for business purposes, it is not quite the same experience. ‘’
To summarise Hassan and his colleague, fellow accountant Mariana Chiriches (37); both agreed that the pressure to upload is overbearing at times. For smaller companies like the accountant department where they work, their manager has refused to employ separate individuals to manage social media accounts. Existing staff are expected to do so – even without being trained / specialising in the digital field. A number of companies in similar financial situations will generally employ interns in order to manage their social media accounts. This gives, for example media graduates experience in a working environment, and means the company has very little expenditure when it comes to their digital presence. However, this can be risky for content management and building brand image. If a company is forever having different people managing content, without any real oversight, this will breed an inconsistency in content quality. This inconsistency can be obvious to audiences, and will potentially damage the company’s presence, and make their reliability seem questionable.
It seems most companies, despite specific industry, all feel the same pressure to build online presence. It is only felt more so in an industry like accounting, because the majority of staff are seen to be senior, and the content to be produced can also be viewed as ‘dry’. In spite of this, accountancies still have a social obligation to deliver online presence.
Naturally social media is synonymous with technological advancement, so how has technology changed accounting in recent years?
The general need to manually input information has been greatly decreased due to advances in software’s, ‘’Osmond Vitez from ehow.com comments that “accounting software’s are evolving from data loading report generating programs to applications where such loading is not necessary; instead of using employees to load information on financial transactions to the general ledger, the current accounting systems can import information electronically. Proprietors and managers can define internal procedures within these accounting programs to process the information according to specific rules and instruction guides. This allows the accountants to invest more time in analysing information than in loading information”.
‘’Cloud computing is based on software, platform and infrastructure through the internet. Users do not need to invest in servers, nor in licenses nor in updating, maintenance, renovation or in the processing of resources; all this is the responsibility of the cloud administrator who shall only bill the purchaser what is used, in effect, in the period accorded.
All this progress in information technology and its impact in the accounting are forcing the accountant to acquire new tools related to information systems and technology. This is such that, in many countries, information technology is a part of the curriculum and it is even included in doctorates and post grades in said area. In other words, nowadays, not only is accounting know-how, how to apply standards and principles and to interpret fiscal matters required, but also an accountant must have solid know-how relating to information technology and must be capable to combine these with all the set of the know-how before mentioned. The aspects that are causing impact mostly refer to Enterprise Resources Planning ERP, Supply Chain Management (SCM) Systems, legal requirements related to information technology (IT Governance), Sarbanes Oxley Law, Forensic Auditing, among other.
In regard to the financial auditing practice, we can observe that auditing software programs have been focused on risk assessment (based on IASs). Here the rule has been and is, that the more integrated an entity is in regard to its managerial information systems, the more the applications the auditing software programs must have. If an approach of controls is adopted, there would be more need of auditing software and the more automated and integrated the entity’s information systems are, the more IT software programs and auditing shall be required. Under this scenario, there is less substantive auditing focus, which is based on the review of physical documents that shall start disappearing as the actual bookkeeping and accounting method applications require less paper.
No less important is the effect that the social networks are having on the marketing and sales of the services of an accountant. “What? You´re not using Twitter or Facebook? And you´re not blogging? Well, if it´s any consolation, 90 per cent of your competitors are not either. But that means that 10% are, and they are getting a competitive edge over those who don’t” .Steve McIntyre-Smith (www.stevemcintyresmith.com) points out. This comment highlights the importance that the social networks and other applications have, such as the equipment used (smartphones, tablets, laptops, notebooks, among other) in the marketing of this accounting profession.’’ (Mgi worldwide, 2016)
To conclude, technology is gradually helping to decrease manual tasks for accountants, however social media is forcing more manual work! The advancements are clear through better software’s, yet the workload is ever increasing.
Is social media having a negative or positive impact on the accounting industry?
Like every other industry today, accountancy is being forced to adapt to change. Although companies may be forced to expand their staff numbers – or simply increase workload for current staff. Regardless of this, they are being provided with platforms online free of charge, which can help the business to expand, particularly in regards to establishing and strengthening brand images/values. Marketing campaigns in the past could have never been executed with little or no charges involved – what is happening in our current societal atmosphere is unique. It has to be utilised correctly. Those who embrace the changes, and adhere correctly have been, and will continue to reap the rewards.
In conclusion technology in general has had a hugely positive effect on accountancy. Advances in software have reduced the need for manual labour; alterations in the way we communicate save us time, and social media has brought a whole new meaning to networking. We can grow as businesses in the online realm, connecting and interacting with likeminded individuals. Free of charge social media platforms enhance businesses by offering a stage, all we need to do is perform correctly. Building audiences, building rapidly on an already established audience – you can widen your demographics. Although it is extremely difficult to monetise any of the work you do online via social media (or even blogging), again, it’s about networking. It’s about making your presence known. And as earlier mentioned, it’s about planting a subliminal message into the consumers’ mind, familiarising them with a brand, and your brand values. Utilised in the correct manner, social media in accountancy is a tool not to be reckoned with.
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