From the very first day we swapped our totally unprofessional Twitter account for one with less F-words and started finding accountants to follow, we have been constantly impressed with the concentration of accounting folks in social media. But in the constantly-evolving world of Internet communication, there are always a few bright spots that stand out as ahead of the curve, and the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ communications strategy sets itself apart as one such bright spot.
We were able to get a few moments with NJSCPA’s Don Meyer to discuss their strategy, successes and the drive behind their major social media push of the last three years. Operating with three goals in mind – driving member retention through a greater level of engagement for current me orking and learning opportunities for current members; supporting existing membership acquisition programs – the NJSCPA has learned to use the power of blogs and social networking to reach potential, new and long-time Society members as well as CPA exam candidates across the country. Turns out that we got way more insight into the NJSCPA social media brain than we can share here and were terribly impressed by their varying campaigns, daring strategy and dedication to delivering information.
AG: First things first: let’s talk about your social media campaigns. What sort of things are you heavily involved in and why?
DM: We launched our first blog, NJSCPA Exam Cram, about three years ago to help guide student members and exam candidates through the exam process. We’ve been on Facebook for almost two years and have attracted more than 1,800 fans. We developed our page to maintain contact with student members who sometimes change mailing addresses and emails following graduation, but we now find that the page is a valuable source of professional and Society information for members in all age groups. Our LinkedIn group, launched almost two years ago, serves much the same purpose, providing information for our members and a place for them to connect. We jumped into Twitter about a year ago. We currently have more than 700 people following us. Our Twitter page is linked to our news blog, CPA Observation Post. We use those tools to provide daily professional and Society updates, but we also use Twitter and the blog to help NJ accounting firms promote themselves.
AG: Is there anything you’ve tried that hasn’t worked out as well as you’d hoped?
DM: We tried a financial literacy blog, but we couldn’t generate much interest. I think there may be too much competition out there and we couldn’t find the right niche. Our financial literacy Facebook and Twitter pages have not taken off as quickly as we had hoped.
AG: Anything that really surprised you when it comes to social media?
DM: I was not a believer in Twitter before we started using it extensively last year. Now I think it’s my favorite social media site. I think it’s a great tool for disseminating news and information quickly and easily. I’m also surprised how successful our Facebook advertising has been. I was skeptical that anyone on Facebook would click on ads promoting our page, but it’s played a key role in helping us promote our presence.
AG: The NJSCPA Exam Cram blog has been around for awhile (we noticed it quite some time ago) and seems to get a great response. Can you tell us more about how this came about and how you select exam candidates to participate? Do you follow them after they’ve successfully completed the exam?
DM: Many of us involved in the Society’s student outreach programs have never taken the exam, so we felt we needed to get the perspective from aspiring CPAs who had experienced the ups and downs. This way if a student or candidate asked us a non-technical exam question (e.g. in what order should I take each section, how should I study, how do you feel when you fail one part of the exam, etc.) we could refer them to the blog. We started out with one blogger but soon discovered that work and personal commitments would preclude any blogger from posting as often as we would like. So we gradually added more bloggers. At the moment, we have five CPA Exam candidate bloggers and one staff person blogger, Janice Amatucci. We don’t have a set procedure for how we pick our bloggers. We ask student members who have been involved with the Society through one of our various student programs or simply ask for volunteers via email or at events. The first five bloggers all passed the CPA Exam and continue to contribute to the NJSCPA by writing articles, serving as team leaders at student events or attending other Society events. To date, we’ve attracted more than 72,000 pageviews.
You can find the NJSCPA all over the place online here.
Though it doesn’t get much coverage in CPA exam study guides (for a reason, which we’ll get to later), your ability as a CPA exam candidate to tackle research on each exam section might make or break your overall performance.
When planning out the amount of time you will spend on each exam section (i.e. 45 minutes on each simulation as a general rule), you can rest easy if you save the research portion of each sim for the very end. It is believed to be worth only one point so if you can’t get to it, don’t worry about it too much. Focus on the written communications as those are worth 10 points – or one of them is, and you don’t know which one so take care of both and save the research for last only if you have the time.
As for practicing, newer CPA Review practice software already has this function built in.
If you would like to practice manually, you’ll have to take your active NTS to register for 6 months’ worth of access to the professional literature from cpa-exam.org. With this, you can search through AICPA Professional Standards and FASB Pronouncements to familiarize yourself with accounting regs, though you are still encouraged to take the tutorial CPA exam on the cpa-exam.org website as the research on its own is not exactly representative of the research function in the exam environment.
If that is not enough practice, book a 30 minute test run with Prometric to check out your testing center and the computer you’ll be using.
Anyway, don’t obsess too much over the literature. Like the tax code, a lot of your “answers” will be provided in the questions, it’s just up to you to look into what the questions are asking.
Think about it: CPAs have access to volumes of regs and standards in their careers, it is not imperative that they memorize each one. The CPA exam is meant to test your understanding of accounting fundamentals, not how well you can memorize 200 FASBs and spit them back out.