Social Media for accountants – my take

At the recent Cloud Advocates seminar – Cloud Accounting for the 21st Century – debunking the myths one of the speakers was Mark Lee known to many in the social media sphere as an enthusiastic user of Twitter and consummate blogger. He gave an entertaining and perhaps slightly controversial presenatation on Social Media for Accountants and posed the question – does social media work for professionals? (my words).

The gist of his argument was that whilst many accountants now use social media, did they get any benefit from so doing. Apart from the overriding (and not unimportant) consideration that it is fun. (As Ben and Jerry say in their mission statement -” If it ain’t fun, don’t do it”). I must say that I found his argument somewhat surprising and I am not sure that I entirely agreed with all the points that he made.

As many professionals will agree, networking in its many forms is an essential component of business generation and over the years has become more popular and widespread. I have lately been travelling to a number of meetings of international associations – most recently Kreston International in Budapest – where I have spoken to accountants from all over the world about the Cloud and the benefits therefrom. These meetings are a great opportunity for the international firms to meet and network and the networking is probably more important in the long run than the actual conference sessions.

And in many respects is that not what social media is – another form of networking. Getting your name out to a wider world and expressing views and opinions which might not otherwise be heard. Importantly those who will be reading your comments etc are users of social media themselves and if they are looking for an accountant or professional advisor are possibly more likely to choose one that is social media savvy.

Social media is an excellent medium for getting your name and message heard –  will it generate new business – well. like chicken soup, it won’t hurt.

The Cloud – Debunking the myths

David Terrar and I share a passionate belief in the Cloud and all it represents, together with a frustration as to how it is explained to a broadly sceptical professional world. As a result we joined together to form Cloud Advocates - our mission to explain the Cloud in straightforward, jargon free terminology and show how it will benefit and add value to both business and individuals. Our launch event was a seminar held at the offices of Mimecast in London, entitled Cloud Accounting for the 21st Century – Debunking the Myths.

It was a well attended event and we had great speakers including Denis Howlett, who delivered his presentation via Skype from his home in Spain (the sound of his disembodied voice booming out to a packed room was somehow strangely suitable for Denis!) – the Cloud in action!; John Paterson from Really Simple Systems explaining Cloud based  CRM, Mark Lee who gave an entertaining presentation on the value or otherwise of social media for accountants and Steve Thorns who explained Hosted Desktop.

We also had a number of panel sessions and the best one  was a session that consisted of Philip Woodgate for Goodman Jones, Sean Price – IBox Security Ltd and Paul Smalley of Paper Mountain Solutions. These three are respectively Twinfield, Xero and E-conomic users and they gave an excellent explanation of why they went into the Cloud and chose the solutions that they did. There was good interaction with the audience and I think was an excellent example of how the Cloud can work in practice and the benefits derived therefrom.

Inevitably a later session got embroiled in the perennial issue of Cloud security – wouldn’t it be great if a discussion about the Cloud could avoid that topic. However, it was a good opportunity to clarify the issues concerning Cloud security (there aren’t any!) even though I did upset one member of the audience when I said that most people didn’t really want to know what was under the bonnet – they just wanted to know that it works. He thought my answer unacceptable but the point I was trying to make (perhaps a little too flippantly) was that once there was acceptance that Cloud was probably considerably more secure than most on premise solutions, most users were not really that caught up with this.

In fact Phil Wainewright , another of our panellists, made the excellent and pertinent point that true internet security began at the desk top – passwords other than P4ssw0rd for example or worse, post it notes with logon detail stuck on the monitor!

It was a good day and a sign  of how well received it was, was that everyone stayed for the afternoon session after lunch and also put up with the fact that a whole room of techno geeks hadn’t quite worked out how to get the air conditioning to work!

One point raised by Kevin McCallum of Freeagent - the online providers represented at the seminar probably accounted for something like 250,000 + users world wide -Cloud hasn’t even scratched the surface yet. A lot more needs to be done!

The Cloud …if only

I was struck by a quote from Richard Branson talking about the recent fire that destroyed his house on his Caribbean Island.
Talking about the loss of records that went up in the inferno he says:“……Running a business, we have a meticulous computer backup system so I’d assumed all that was completely safe. But it turns out the backup was also in the house. Everything ……is lost”.

On so many levels, I was astounded when I read this. If a sophisticated business man like Richard Branson can make the fundamental error of having the backup of his data in the same place as the data itself then what hope is there for the rest of us.  And yet I speak to so many people who do just this. Yes they back up the data but no they don’t always take it off premise. And those who do don’t check to see that the backup can be restored …. and it is a principal rule of chance that the time that you really need to restore your data, the backup won’t work.

What is equally surprising about Branson’s quote is that by taking  the most simplest of precautions none of his data would have been lost. Setting up a Cloud offline filing system such as Dropbox or the literally hundreds of other systems that exist, all of his data would have been secure and available the next time he logged on to any computer anywhere in the world.

The problem is that so many so called IT experts still turn their noses up at the concept of the Cloud. Had they got off their high horses and adopted what is the most efficient and secure method of keeping data safe, the loss of Richard’s Branson’s autobiography manuscript would have been one less thing for him to worry about.


A version of this article was first published on