For what it's worth, I turned to Twitter because I wanted a recommendation from my network (people I know and beyond) since all the research, trialling and phone conversations with service providers didn't yield much differentiation. They all say they're great and easy to use. They all cost about the same.
Although there may not be a typical twitter user, I made a calculated guess that those who a) used twitter and b) responded to those particular key words or the question I asked would be more like me in terms of their overall usage of web apps, remote financial services, and so on.
And it paid off - I had three recommendations for Maslins (two in public on Twitter, one via direct message from someone I actually know, which boosted the recommendation to the top of the list).
I also received a handful of direct (not referred) approaches by accountants who either saw the FreeAgent retweet or were monitoring mentions of the word "accountant": a few via Twitter, which felt a bit pushy, and a couple via email (from people who followed the link in my Twitter profile to my website, then used the contact form - points for initiative!) which gave a much better introduction than can be managed in 140 characters, and which I followed up with emailed questions.
So, in order of how likely I am to trust and follow up on each recommendation or referral:
- Digitally-literate accountant, recommended by someone I know (on or off Twitter)
- Digitally-literate accountant, recommended by several people I don't know, but who also use FreeAgent
- Digitally-literate accountant, self-referred but approached via my site in response to an appeal (shows they can use twitter and figure out that contact directly on twitter probably isn't best)
- Digitally-literate accountant, self-referred on Twitter (as long as they weren't annoying)
- Accountant with a website, accredited by FreeAgent
- Accountant with a website, via a web search
It's worth saying that I wasn't specifically looking for an accountant that used Twitter, but I do increasingly feel more comfortable with services which appreciate that is the world in which many of their clients operate every day. If you're a consultant operating in the digital realm (like me), you want an accountant and financial management services which understand the digital world.