Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Praise of Social Media


A recent article on CNN.com discussed the rapid emergence of women as the current “Power Users” of Social Media.  On average, I think women are far more adept than men in developing and maintaining relationships, so it makes sense to me that they excel at Social Media.
After reading the article, I considered my own use of Social Media.  I use Facebook and LinkedIn regularly, but for two entirely different purposes.  For me, Facebook is for family and friends, and LinkedIn is for business.  Of course, I have business contacts that are also friends, but in general that defines my usage. 
As background, I am a CPA with a small but technically demanding practice.  My two primary practice areas are tax and non-profit audits, including OMB A-133.  Tax season is immediately followed by Audit season, and I average 60 hours/week all year.  I have an administrative assistant, but no professional staff.  If I have a technical question, there is no one down the hall to ask – I have to find the answer myself. There is no depth to my bench.  (I‘ve been a sole practitioner since ’05, with larger firm experience prior to that.  I plan to compare the two in a future blog.)
 
My research resources for tax and audit are very good, but I occasionally get questions from clients outside of my areas of expertise that I simply don’t have an answer for, and don’t have the resources with which to quickly find the answer.  For example, a client recently asked a question involving NC sales tax liability on the disposition of machinery in liquidation.  I had a preliminary answer that made sense to me, but nothing authoritative to cite.  I had an audit deadline looming, zero spare time, and needed a correct answer fast.  What to do?
Over the years, I’ve developed a resource network.  We all have to some extent.  Social Media in general, and LinkedIn in particular, has provided a platform to greatly expand that network.  To that end, I’ve consciously cultivated LinkedIn contacts with “Big 4” and large national and regional accounting firms, attorneys, AICPA technical managers, government officials - people who are experts in their (sometimes VERY specific) field.  To be honest, the vast majority of my LinkedIn contacts are people that I’ve never met.  In LinkedIn, any contact request requires me to indicate how I know the person, e.g. former coworker, classmate, someone I’ve done business with in the past, friend, etc.  There is no choice for “I think you are smarter in your specific area of expertise than I am, and I may need to pick your brain at some point, if that’s OK with you”, so I redefine and click "friend".
So, for all you LinkedIn contacts who have no idea who I am, but accepted the contact request anyway, THANK YOU!  I appreciate your contact very much! Please realize that I think you are the best in your field!  Also, please know that I consider this network of contacts a two way street.  If there is ever anything I can do for you, just ask.
Back to the Sales Tax question.  I emailed the question to a LinkedIn contact, Tony Buffkin.  Tony is Senior Manager with Dixon Hughes Goodman’s State and Local Tax Practice in Charlotte, and is a former KPMG National Technical Leader in the Sales Tax Systems Practice and a former Division Director at NC Department of Revenue.  He is a recognized expert in sales tax (among other things).  Within 10 minutes, Tony responded with the answer, including an authoritative citation.  Problem solved. 
Thanks again, Tony!  And, THANK YOU for accepting me as a LinkedIn contact!

1 comment:

Chuck Till said...

LinkedIn is invaluable to me too... an international white pages of tremendous coverage. It can provide insights when I deal with unfamiliar people. It can even provide clues of a company's strategy, based on who they're hiring and where.