Hey Social Media! The Big 4 Is Just Not That Into You…

Relationships are tough.  The ones that require a conversation even tougher.  Embracing the concepts of social media, learning how to use the tools available, can be daunting.  

I was telling Tom Hood this morning, (@TomHood on Twitter along with his colleague at Maryland CPA Society @BillSheridan) accounting professionals are one of three types when it comes to their use of technology and social media/social networking tools:
1) Young professionals that have grown up around iPods/Phones, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and similar tools.  They are not only comfortable with these tools but expect these tools to be available in their professional life to keep them connected, keep them informed, and keep them up to date with their friends in other professions.
2) Mature professionals of all ages who, although most often conservative and risk averse in their professional life are nonetheless closet geeks, ubersexuals, and technology early adopters, either because they just like Star Trek or they see their kids using these tools. They have always kept up with new and exciting things, at least in their personal life.
3) The middle ranks, or those who are conservative, risk averse, and paranoid about change in their professional life as well as their personal life.
Tom and I also decided that lawyers are adopting technology and social medial as tools of their trade more rapidly than accountants not because they are, as professionals, more technologically inclined but because marketing has always been more of a way of life for them than it has for the accountant in a Big 4 size firm.   Lawyers are generally more comfortable with self-promotion, showing their expertise, and taking personal credit for it. They market on an individual basis as often as on a firm basis and this is acceptable in the legal environment, more so than in the Big 4 environment.
There’s quite a community of accountants and related organizations like Tom Hood’s Maryland CPA Society on Twitter, for example.  There are also some official firm Twitter IDs, as well as individuals who Tweet a hybrid form which combines their personal and professional interests.  
Some examples of strong Twitter presence:
Suzy Tonini @infosourcer who does Internet research for Deloitte
Ami Chitwood @achitwood who works in social media at Deloitte

Dave Gombka @dg Research Manager at KPMG. Audit, Tax, & Advisory
Rithesh Nair @rithesh Executive Researcher IT Ops, National Research Team KPMG 

Elias Liako @liako Internet strategist – PwC Intrapreneur – Chartered Accountant – DataPortability founder – Silicon Beach Australia creator
There are many other individuals from all of the firms who may or may not want to be identified with their firm all the time.  I feel responsible for recruiting many professionals to Twitter just because they start by following me and then realize the power of the tool.
You can also find Edith Orenstein @EdithO from FEI,  Adrienne Gonzalez @adrigonzo and Roger Philip @RogerCPA from Roger CPA Review, Ohio CPA Society @OSCPA, many tax professionals, lawyers, @MarkFeffer from JobsInTheMoney.com, Jack Ciesielski @jciesielski, Rick Telberg as @CPATweets, and Ron Silberstein @ronscpa, CPANet.com @cpanet, James Carroll @jamesuccpa
I’ve written before about Deloitte’s introduction of D Street as an internal alternative to Green Dot Life.  However, the firms themselves have really not adapted to the brave new world of social media and D Street will never replace Green Dot Life or this blog.  
One word: Freedom
Maybe the firms just don’t get it.  But I doubt that’s truly the problem given all the bright, ambitious, open-minded, change agents at all the firms who use the tools on both a professional and personal basis.  
The focus for the audit firms from an external perspective seems to be either on recruiting or pushing out press releases. That baby-steps approach is really not that different than the one at most large bureaucratic global organizations.  They are afraid of losing control of their message.  Even though we are seeing change in areas such as Investor relations as detailed on Broc Romanek’s blog today, it’s still just a drop in the bucket.
What they fail to see is that social media tools like blogs, forums, Twitter, photo sharing, video, etc. are not only essential in building a brand for the new world we live in, they are essential for enhancing and explaining that brand for different constituents (employees, clients, vendors and regulators. ) But when the going gets tough, as all the firms are experiencing with the ongoing cuts or “layoffs,” as well as regulatory and litigation pressure, their control of the message is already lost.  Social media is now also necessary to defend their brand, to defend their precious way of life.
Finally, we can see from this example agreement sent to me by a new hire at one of the Big 4, the constraints on the use of the internet, intranets, social media tools, blogs, and similar medium is significant.  I have no hope that social media tools can flourish in the current risk averse, security conscious environment that forward thinking professionals are currently living in.  These Terms of Service (TOS) pretty much ban anything useful about social networking i.e. no applications or linking/sharing from other resources: 
[Intranet Page] Consent & User Agreement  

Note: To access [Intranet Page], you must first read this consent and agreement, then click on “I accept” at the bottom of the page.

[Intranet Page] is provided by [Big 4 Firm] LLP (U.S.) (“[Big 4 Firm]”) for your business use as part of your [Big 4 Firm] workplace, and your use of [Intranet Page] is subject to [Big 4 Firm]’s Code of Conduct and other applicable policies, such as those set forth in The Risk Management Manual.

[Intranet Page] is intended to promote connectivity between all users
at [Big 4 Firm]. [Intranet Page] serves as a point of contact for other users in [Big 4 Firm] to find information about you and your skills and interests.

Your Personal Information
Whatever you post can be seen and downloaded by other [Intranet Page] users, and will be monitored and archived by [Big 4 Firm], so be careful what information you publish about yourself. For example, do not leave your personal contact information on your resume or other documents that you may upload.

As part of this User Agreement, you are specifically consenting to the
use of any and all information, including personal information, you upload, post, transmit, share, store, link or otherwise make available
on [Intranet Page] by [Big 4 Firm] and [Big 4 Firm] personnel, including, but not limited to:

Your Photo (or any likeness)
Your Resume
Your Resume Photo and
Any personally identifiable text or images.
Appropriate Use and Content
Your use of [Intranet Page] and the content of your site must comply with all applicable [Big 4 Firm] policies, and you should familiarize yourself with the policies in their entirety. These policies include the following important guidance:

Do not post confidential or proprietary information belonging to [Big4 Firm], its clients, or other people.

Do not post personal information about others.

Do not post content of a third party, such as photographs, essays, articles, etc., on [Intranet Page] since posting such materials without a prior written consent from the owner could constitute a violation of applicable copyright, trademark, trade secret or other intellectual property law.

Do not use [Intranet Page] to solicit, advertise, promote, market, or conduct business other than the business of the [Big 4 Firm].

Do not make commercial, political or charitable solicitations on
[Intranet Page] without prior permission from the office managing partner or appropriate practice leader. These include, among other things, asking for donations, selling tickets, or placing orders or requests for merchandise or services other than for services provided by [Big 4 Firm]. Solicitations on behalf of a charitable organization must be also be done with the appropriate acknowledgement of the charitable organization and with the employee(s) conducting the solicitation providing appropriate notification that the charity is not affiliated with [Big 4 Firm]. Individuals not employed by [Big 4 Firm] may not solicit or distribute literature in the workplace, on [Intranet Page] or on Firm property at any time for any purpose.

Do not ever use [Intranet Page] for betting, sports pools, or other gambling related activities.

Do not download any material you find on [Intranet Page] onto an external Web site.

Do not use [Intranet Page] in any unlawful manner or in any other manner that could damage, disable, overburden or impair [Intranet

Do not use automated scripts to collect information from or otherwise interact with [Intranet Page].

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, store, link or otherwise make available any content that could be deemed within the [Big 4 Firm] community to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.

Do not impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself.

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, link or otherwise make available
any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, solicitations, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation.

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, store, link or otherwise make available on [Intranet Page] any private information of any third party, including addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers.

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, link or otherwise make available
any material that contains software viruses or any other computer code, files or programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer software or hardware or telecommunications equipment.

Do not use [Intranet Page] in a way that could intimidate or harass another person.

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, store, link or otherwise make available content that would constitute, encourage or provide instructions for a criminal offense, violate the rights of any party, or that would otherwise create liability or violate any local, state, national or international law.

Do not use or attempt to use another’s account, service or system without authorization from [Intranet Page].

Do not upload, post, transmit, share, store, link or otherwise make available content that, in the sole judgment of [Big 4 Firm], is objectionable or which restricts or inhibits any other person from using [Intranet Page], or which may expose [Big 4 Firm] or it personnel to any harm or liability of any type.

Your use of [Intranet Page] in violation of the terms and condition set forth in this User Agreement is unauthorized.

As a general rule of thumb, if you aren’t absolutely sure that your content is consistent with [Big 4 Firm]’s policies, don’t post it on [Intranet Page].

Failure to comply with [Big 4 Firm] policies could result in disciplinary action.

Questionable Material
If you come across questionable material, you must let us know by contacting the [Intranet Page] – Site Administrator. Alternate ways of reporting concerns include:

Notifying your Human Resources Manager
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You may also contact one of these above listed groups if you feel that material you were exposed to or requested to share on [Intranet
Page] made you feel uncomfortable.

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Changes to [Intranet Page] [Big 4 Firm] reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to change, modify, add, or delete portions of this User Agreement at any time without further notice. If [Big 4 Firm] does this, we will post the changes to this User Agreement on this page and will indicate at the top of the [Intranet Page] home page the date on which this User Agreement was last revised. Your continued use of [Intranet Page] after any such changes constitutes your acceptance of the new terms of the User Agreement. It is your responsibility to regularly check [Intranet Page] to determine if there have been changes to the User Agreement and to review such changes.

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Code of Conduct

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[Big 4 Firm] Online Privacy Statement

Appropriate Use of Technology Policy

Your consent and agreement covers your use of [Intranet Page] going forward.


11 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I think it’s ironic that lawyers may be ahead of accountants in adopting social media. Why? Because the verbiage you posted from [Big 4 firm] was undoubtedly written by firm attorneys to protect the firm.

    We’ve agreed in the past that the lawyers now run the firms to a great extent; or, at least, run the risk management side of the house. For the most part, they are the ones holding back adoption of social media under the guise of “protecting the firm” from the risks set forth in the document you posted.

    In the Big 4, risk is a terrible enemy, to be destroyed upon contact. Any risk is to be avoided and/or eliminated, no matter what the cost.

    — Tenacious T.

  2. Krupo
    Krupo says:

    All those end user contracts make me laugh hysterically – ever since I was presented with my first one, way back in high school. I think I would have to ask to see the usage contract before signing with any other company! :p

    I’m quite pleased with our code – basically don’t be an idiot and be ethical – without all this garbage about not sharing your personal info… but supplying your bio – the contract you just posted is a borderline paradox! I would take great joy in demolishing it line-by-line but life is too short. And knowing the world we live in, it’s equally possible that it could belong to a US branch of my company, if not that of another one. :p

    Speaking of contact info, Krupo’s on twitter – because it @PromisedMePie

  3. Richard Young
    Richard Young says:

    In other news, isn’t that film poster wrong? It says:

    “He’s just *not* that into you”

    But doesn’t:

    “He’s just not *that* into you”

    make more sense.

  4. briandrake
    briandrake says:

    I don’t care where you work. Some controls and guidance must be provided to those impacting your electronic system. This is for the protection of individuals (from harassment, discrimination, etc.) and for the protection of firm equities. Lawyers just know something that auditors don’t; no matter what the law says, there’s always an opportunity to argue against it.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:


    I see what you did there. It’s called a “strawman argument”.

    No one’s saying (or said) that “some controls and guidance” are unnecessary. Fran is saying (or, if you will, I am saying) that this is an example of a six sigma deviation from the mean, where the mean is a prudent and rationale set of controls and guidance.

    And the cost of such a large deviation from the mean is also measured in negative impacts on The Brand.

    — Tenacious T.

  6. Boom!
    Boom! says:

    I think demonstrating how social media can be used for networking and for professional development can only really be done by example. I can’t explain Twitter partially because I didn’t get it at all until I started following people within my industry … and Shaq. The best I can do is send people the link tell them who to follow and hope they see the light.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    In a time of unprecidented financial turmoil, and several juicy audit failures, why is usually relevant blog focussing on the ways in which junior staff waste time in the name of ‘networking’ – networking is establishing business contacts, not chatting.

  8. Richard Ellis richardlellisjr
    Richard Ellis richardlellisjr says:

    Don’t these people realize it is a fool’s errand to try to document let alone regulate common sense? This kind of rigidity is what eventually kills companies, nations, etc. (See GM, Penn Central, The British Empire.) Employees should be free to use their own good judgement to decide what to post and what not to. Profitable paths and initiatives are usually discovered by serendipity. Let employes find them. If someone betrays the common trust of the organization, fire them. Years ago I worked for Goldman, Sachs when it was a partnership. I did not have an employment contract. I was never asked to sign anything except to the bonding insurance company stating I promise not to lie, steal or cheat. I was free to speak with the press, and often did, because I was not prohibited and never said anything stupid. I was authorized to risk millions of the firm’s money (in the days before billions). Risk management by the numbers in lieu of common sense hurt that firm badly. Establishment of bureaucracy is why companies have life cycles.

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