Bill Sheridan is the Chief Communications Officer for the Maryland Association of CPAs. Bill is an active blogger and produces the association's weekly podcasts. He blogs for CPA Success, New CPAs and Legislative Insider.
What is your prediction about social media in 2012?
2012 will be the year when people start saying, “Enough is enough.” Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter,
Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr, SlideShare, Quora, Tumblr -- there are simply too many social tools out there and not enough hours in the day. Consumers will start retreating to the networks that deliver measured value to them and ignoring most everything else. As a result, I think we might begin to see the early signs of social media consolidation – mergers of and partnerships between social tools, resulting in fewer options but more value for the consumer.
Likewise, I think we will begin to downsize our own personal networks. Once upon a time, we followed everyone we could in the misguided belief that bigger is better – the more people we follow, the more value we’ll receive in return, regardless of who those people are. I believe we’re seeing exactly the opposite: More followers mean more noise, and the more noise we hear, the more we’re apt to ignore it all. Think about it: I follow close to 3,000 people on Twitter, and only a fraction of those add true value to my life. Why? Because I simply cannot digest content from 3,000 people each day. I have a core group that I know will come through with awesome content, and I tend to ignore the rest. I think we’ll start to embrace smaller but more valuable networks as time goes on.
Are there any new social media sites that will impact us in 2012?
Keep an eye on Google+. CPAs and state CPA societies have been slow to embrace it thus far, but
hey, this is Google we’re talking about. That means SEO – our ability to find people of value and, more important, their ability to find us. Beyond that, I love its simplicity. Google+ is centered on the concept of “Circles” – we group our followers into “Circles,” and that lets us share the right information with the right groups of people. Other social networks have similar functionality, but Google+ is built around that concept and makes it insanely easy to use. Plus, its “Hangouts” feature has a lot of potential in the videoconferencing / webcasting arena. If anyone is able to keep up with Facebook, it might be Google.
Do you think any social media sites will disappear in 2012?
I continue to be amazed that Myspace is still around, but I recognize that I’m not its demographic, so I’ll cut it some slack. It recently has rebranded itself as a “social entertainment” site that’s centered on pop culture, and it will be interesting to see if it finds any traction there. Still, I think Myspace might be on its last legs. I love Quora in concept, but too many other social networks offer similar Q-and-A functionality. Just a guess, but I can’t help but think that Quora will eventually be absorbed into another network and provide some kick-ass Q-and-A functionality under a different name.
What are the top three social media activities that CPAs should be doing in 2012?
Without a doubt, No. 1 is filtering. One of the biggest perceived problems of the social era is “information overload.” When everyone shares information, it’s easy to drown. But the real problem is not information overload, says Clay Shirky. The real problem is “filter failure.” Social media is the perfect filter – it lets us focus only on the information that matters to us and ignore everything else.
A close second is learning. Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, has come up with a brilliant formula: L > C. That is, in today’s changing and complex world, your ability to learn must be greater than the rate of change. Social media improves our ability to learn exponentially. In “The New Social Learning,” Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner remind us that most of what we learn these days comes not from classrooms or formal presentations, but from other people. We can’t help but learn via social media – provided we make an effort to follow the right people.
Finally, CPAs should be using social media to share. We learn from others because others have decided to share their knowledge with us. Let’s return the favor by sharing our knowledge with them. We’re all experts at something, right? Let’s share that knowledge with our networks. If we do that, we accomplish two things: We help other people learn, and we build trust. If our followers find value in what we share, they’ll trust that we’ll continue to share valuable information. We will become thought leaders in their eyes. That’s good for us, and good for our businesses.
I’m going to cheat and add a fourth: Engage with the folks you follow. Talk to them. Ask questions, give answers, join conversations. That’s how you make friends and build networks. Social media isn’t social unless we do that.