Austin Chapter Member Jack Cook files this report.

CPAs are the shepherds of small businesses. They advise businesses toward profitability; help them avoid financial pitfalls, and provide guidance to the most profitable sectors of their enterprise. As a result, it is extremely important for us to be educated on multiple disciplines ranging from the hard knowledge of tax to soft science of personnel. But one area that most CPA firms lag in, is marketing. We can have vast knowledge and skills, but if we don’t have the client base to support our own enterprise, then our business is not fulfilling its potential.

One area of marketing that is being significantly overlooked is the technological integration of social media and the use of “Bot” programs. In computer lingo, a “Bot” is the nomenclature for a robot program that looks for and reacts to certain parameters of peoples’ questions. It’s what the Russians used to affect opinions on Facebook, by posting and reposting incendiary political messages. Rather than using the Bot to inflame passions, it is possible to use a Bot to reach out to potential clients.

The two easiest, and most useful Bots to make/use are: 1) an SMS textbot, and 2) a Facebook Chatbot.

SMS Text Bot
An SMS textbot is a bot that operates over text messaging. A textbot uses a dedicated subscription phone number with a set of “keywords” it will respond to. For example a client sends a text to the dedicated cellphone number of the textbot that says “Does your firm do corporate tax returns?” The textbot will read a keyword “Tax Return” and can then respond with a preprogramed message such as “We are a full Service Accounting firm and can handle your tax issues.” If a client texts asking “Is my Tax Return completed?” The textbot can pick up the keyword “completed” which will then respond with a message such as “For security reasons we do not give out tax information via text please call us direct at 555-1212.”

I personally programed a textbot using limited coding skills and about 2 hours of research, having never done it before. I used Twilio and Diagflow. It cost less one dollar per month for the subscription phone number.

Facebook Chatbot
A Facebook Chatbot is essentially the same as an SMS textbot, but it operates on a Facebook page. For example if someone comments on your firm’s Facebook page, and uses the key words described above it can similarly respond.

However what makes the Facebook Chatbot so powerful is that if someone “likes” your Facebook page, the Bot can proactively reach out to that person. For instance the Chatbot could reach out and ask the following; “The deadline for filing 1099s is fast approaching. If you need more information or help, just type ‘1099’ in reply and our algorithm can begin helping you with most of the information you need.”

The easiest platform to program these Chatbots with is Chatfuel. After you have programed a Chatbot using Chatfuel, it will prompt you to connect it to Facebook. Once you have decided on the message and appropriate key words, the actual programing process is quite simple. Remarkably, Chatfuel is free for the first 1,000 messages.

Using these type Bots can boost your Social Media profile, which in turn boost your client basis with very little expenditure.