‘Big 4’ accounting / professional services firms on Twitter

One could say that 2011 is the year that the ‘Big 4’ accounting / professional service firms (in alphabetical order: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC) really ramped up their use of Twitter as a tool to communicate with people interested in what they might have to say.

That is not to say that they didn’t already have Twitter accounts previously, but the number of Twitter accounts, and use of Twitter has increased significantly this year, including in many cases, separate accounts appearing for each country (often in local language).

This growth however doesn’t always appear to be centrally managed, or connected to a clear strategy to using Social Media (rather appearing in some cases to be the result of decentralized, local decisions, indicated by inconsistent avatar graphic uses and unusual timing of appearance of new accounts).

Below I comment on the types of accounts, what is being said, and provide links to Twitter lists where you can (with or without registering for Twitter) observe what the firms are saying.

Content

As some readers will already be aware, Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters (not that much, requiring focus around message preparation So far, there seems to be several principal ‘styles/approaches’ adopted by these firms, roughly in order of my perception of frequency:

  • ‘Thought leadership’ updates (typically a headline, and a link to an article online, related to insights into a specific sector, commentary on developments in the accounting and advisory services world, services offered to clients, etc.)
  • Other ‘announcements’ (events, awards, etc.)
  • Job announcements / recruiting
  • ‘@mentions’, reflecting communication between the account owner and other Twitter users
  • Informal / casual remarks and observations
  • App announcements (news of Apps for iOS and other operating systems)
  • ‘Direct’ messaging (private one-to-one messages, not for public viewing)

The first three are relatively formal, seemingly covering the vast majority of all of the firms’ tweets, and are just another way of communicating information that might otherwise be sent by email, or shown on their homepage.

I’d personally like to see more use of the @mentions, with greater interaction between the firms and their followers.

Only a few of the accounts tend to include informal / casual remarks and observations, which would appear to me to carry a higher risk of inappropriate language/communications (important for such firms to avoid such risks for confidentiality reasons, as well as damage to reputation).

Lists

From these accounts, I have created a number of “Twitter lists”, collating the tweets for these accounts (over 230 accounts in total, at the time of writing):

At risk of stating the obvious, the first of the lists above shows all tweets for all ‘Big 4’ related accounts (ie, in alphabetical order: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC), while the other lists respectively show the tweets for each of the respective firms.

Of all the accounts that I have identified, some are ‘official’ accounts, while others appear to be unofficial, perhaps by employees. I have generally not included twitter accounts of individual people who, for example, work for the firms covered (albeit, I have included accounts which aim to give “day in the life” insights into working in the firms).

The links above take you to the Twitter.com pages for my lists (note, if you are using a smartphone or tablet computer you might be automatically taken to a ‘mobile version’ of the pages, but you can view the original web-layout by scrolling to the bottom of the webpage and clicking on ‘Standard view’). The Twitter.com pages are very effective way of perusing what was recently tweeted for a chosen list. If you have a Twitter account, you can save/follow these lists (to include a link to them from your own Twitter account/pages).

As far as I can tell, these lists currently provide the most comprehensive overview of what the ‘Big 4’ firms are each communicating to the market, as well as allowing one to get an overview on trends of what they are focusing on (individually, and together as a reflection of the market).

Alternative ways to follow ‘Big 4’ twitter accounts, and browse their thought leadership

If you want to more regularly monitor what is being said in the different lists however, you might want to download TweetDeck (a Twitter ‘client’ which displays tweets in a tabular format, whereby each twitter list can be shown in a separate column.

One of the most effective ways to peruse the Twitter content from the above “lists” is to download the Flipboard app (currently only available for iPad, but I understand that there may be developments underway also for other devices and operating systems). Flipboard is particularly good for easy browsing of the linked articles (in an excellent ‘newspaper’ article style), as well as quick browsing of a longer backlog of tweets, if you are not regularly monitoring the lists (which I would assume is probably the case for most people).

Other references to ‘Big 4’ accounting / professional services firms on Twitter

Of course, these accounts tend only to tell you about what they want you to read about (ie, mostly good news, and ‘approved’ marketing!) – for a broader perspective, including also subjective remarks (potentially however less accurate) one can also search Twitter for other references to the firms’ names:

(the ‘%’ characters and numbers in the “Ernst & Young” link allow for the ‘&’ symbol and spaces in the names – searching for ‘EY’, which people sometimes use to refer to Ernst & Young, gives search results covering many other irrelevant topics, since many other words contain ‘ey’)

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