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About In House Tax

About In House Tax

This weblog is a news and views site for tax professionals within the UK and international in-house tax community.  You will find information about appointments and people moves in and around the in-house tax market, issues affecting the in-house tax professional, opinions on the state of the tax job market, updates on tax technology, and other general thoughts of the day.

Hope you find it useful.

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Location: St Albans, United Kingdom

This site has been developed by Simon Godley, who also runs the niche tax recruitment company Talentpool Selection . Simon spends a lot of his time placing tax specialists into FTSE companies, large in-bound groups and some professional services organisations. He also recruits and is well networked around the UK tax technology and VAT markets.

Tax News

Tax Professionals......and the Social Media world

Monday, 6 February 2012

By Simon Godley

I think we all have to accept that web based social media (the main players being LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and latecomer Google+) is now highly established as a communication platform, and is without doubt here to stay. Facebook seems to be the industry Goliath, with 500m users worldwide and approximately 23m active users in the UK. That’s one third of the UK population actively using Facebook. Research shows that there are approx 6m active users of Twitter in the UK, and a similar number using LinkedIn. These are stats from mid-2011, and so these user numbers will have grown quite a lot by now. From 2011 user statistics, there are approx 2.6m worldwide users of LinkedIn who work in finance. From doing a couple of basic searches on the LinkedIn site, it shows that of these there are approx 350,000 finance users in the UK and just over 60,000 users in the UK connected to the word Tax, most of which have the word tax in their job title. That’s a lot of tax professionals already on LinkedIn.

Also, I think there is still a perception social media (particularly Facebook) is mostly used by teenagers and students who are connecting and mailing friends etc. That’s no longer the case. Of the 23m Facebook users in the UK, a significant proportion are in the 18-34 age bracket (12m), however there are approximately 2m users in the 45-54 age bracket, so I don’t see this as being a youngster fad anymore. Some of these sites now have a strong business network element to them, and that’s attracting people across all demographics.

So, how relevant is social media communication for the tax professional? Given the user stats on tax people appearing on LinkedIn above, we can safely say that LinkedIn is now a highly popular medium used by the tax profession in the UK. It is used as a highly effective networking and marketing platform, both for people marketing themselves, their tax services or their firms’ tax services and products.

However can tax experts benefit from using media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and how or why would they? For tax practice firms, who are client-facing and providing a service, then platforms such as Twitter are now being used to get their message out, whether it be on sound bites referring to specialist tax services they offer, or to start a debate or discussion around tax issues or new tax rules affecting their clients. If they can get a large number of relevant and loyal ‘followers’ then this could be a useful medium to potential clients, effectively augmenting or replacing e-mail marketing. I’ve recently seen a number of accounting firms and sole tax practitioners adopting this, although I sense it’s a bit too early for firms to adopt a full-on and cohesive social media strategy. In terms of business networking, Facebook is not at all realising its potential. There seems to be much less appetite from Facebook users to mix business with pleasure, with most users preferring to keep it as a non-work social and/or family contact zone. Most organisations, including all the major accounting firms, now have an active Facebook page, trying to get customers to ‘Like’ their page and in turn have an audience to engage with, but this really hasn’t yet taken off as a successful route to market.

How could social media be of professional use to the in-house tax adviser or Head of Tax? LinkedIn is now a well established tool amongst Heads of Tax – a quick review shows that there are between 350 and 400 UK based Heads of Tax using LinkedIn. LinkedIn would therefore seem a well accepted tool for commercial tax professionals to make and track connections to other tax people, and to read / take part in tax sector discussions. But I think it is much less obvious of any benefits to a Head of Tax, except for pure social use, from actively using Twitter or Facebook. In-house tax professionals are far less pre-occupied with selling/marketing their companies’ businesses, as they will have other departments and marketing agencies that take care of that, and it is those that will be engaging on Facebook/Twitter. However Twitter can be used to receive tax updates from the Big Four firms, through ‘following’ Deloitte UK budget or E&Y International Tax, for example. The downside of Twitter is that you are constantly flooded with information on Tweets, and it takes some time to decipher what’s useful amongst a lot that is not.

As mentioned before, social media sites are commonly used as effective tools to market yourself, and this can be just as powerful for a tax professional as for any other professional, particularly as either a job seeker or hiring manager. I would suggest it to be prudent for any commercial tax professional, irrespective of level, to have some form of social media presence. LinkedIn is currently the accepted channel. In terms of how the internet search engines (e.g. Google) and social media sites operate and interact, the reality is that you have to be ‘in it to win it’. In other words, by accepting and using social media effectively, a tax job seeker will be found more easily, and therefore logically a hiring manager can use it to seek out candidates.

In summary, social media use is increasing amongst tax professionals, with LinkedIn remaining the platform of choice and with many useful applications. For any tax professional or tax practice trying to get a message out and market themselves through social media, Facebook and Twitter should be explored, although I sense these mediums have got someway to go before they are a more tried and tested marketing route.

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posted by Simon Godley


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