What’s XBRL? Start thinking data, not reports

A great history lesson, primer and forecast... all in one.

From Neal Hannon at the Gilbane Group.

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CPAs Get Serious about Twitter

Rule 1: Act professional. The world is watching.

Next, join our survey to find out more.

By Rick Telberg

Like 23 million others, accounting and finance professionals are flocking to the newest internet craze, Twitter, the so-called social media micro-blogging service.

Launched just three years ago, the Twitter phenomenon has swept up celebrities and politicians, wonks and geeks, and casual users as well as businesses. Even if you haven't opened an account (yet), you've no doubt heard of a Twitterland filled with Tweeple Tweeting and Re-Tweeting Tweets. If you still need an introduction, try this popular YouTube video, "Twitter in Plain English."

Twitter could still go the way of the Pet Rock or the Hula Hoop, but a lot of serious CPAs are taking the craze seriously.

Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter?

What are CPAs doing on line?

How and Why?

Join the survey; get the answers.

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CPA David Feil may be typical. (Or, is it "twypical" ?) A financial analyst for a Texas manufacturer, he signs in as "musiccpa," reflecting a personal passion. But Feil uses Twitter just as much for keeping up with the pulse of business.

Chad Bordeaux, for instance, shares an accounting practice with his wife, Donna, in Lake Wylie, S.C. He reports picking up a couple new clients for tax season after they found him on Twitter. He talks about "online presence" like any business person might talk about highway billboards or a nice office location - it's just another place to do business.

CPAs Jeff Elliott and Shane Eloe, meanwhile, represent a new legion of blogging Twitterers sharing what it's like to confront the CPA exam and start a career in the profession. Their experiences are informative and even inspiring.

The AICPA itself runs several popular accounts, including AICPAnews, Young CPA Network, the Journal of Accountancy, CPA Letter Daily, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy and Feed the Pig.

The Maryland Association of CPAs has been a pacesetter, Twittering as MACPA. CPA and author Diane Kennedy has over 5,000 followers. The St. Louis chapter of the Association of Government Accountants, under chapter president Anita Santiago, uses Twitter as part of its communications efforts.

Eventually, Twittering (or its technological successor) may become as common as faxing and email. But for now, people are still learning about it, and about what it can teach us.

Joey Brannon, who owns Axiom CPA in Bradenton, Fla., made a study of what people talk about when they talk about CPAs on Twitter. His findings are eye-opening. He says on his blog:

  1. If Twitter is still around in five years, a lot more CPAs will be using it. How do I know this? Because there are a lot of CPA candidates tweeting about their progress on the CPA exam. Once they pass, move into the ranks of staff accountants and start seeing clients, you can bet we'll be hearing about their interactions in real time.
  2. Client service may not be the profession's strong suit. Clients don't like it when we're not proactive. More than a few people are upset with their CPA because they owe taxes. There's a lot of comparing going to the CPA with going to the dentist. Not exactly the frame of mind I want my clients in when they show up to meet with me.
  3. Community rules. There is a vibrant community of cool, friendly and helpful CPA's out there more than willing to lend a hand, offer advice or provide that missing nugget of information. For those of us with small, niche practices having a network of like-minded colleagues who walk in our shoes every day is invaluable.

So CPAs might be well-advised to Twitter with a purpose, according to Kristy Short, a veteran public relations consultant. "They have to think of Twitter as a professional discussion forum and not a place to update casual, daily activity," she says. "No one needs to know when they are getting a snack."

So does it make "business sense" for CPAs? I asked on Twitter. Monica Lawver, "TheTaxCPA," wrote back, remaining well within the 140-character convention: "Twitter sense: It provides an easy way to network with other professionals, and easy access to the latest acctg news."