What is Blockchain and Why Should Accountants Care?

Digital strategist, Dan Tapscott, posed the following question in a recent TED talk:

“What if there were not only an internet of information, what if there were an internet of value – some kind of vast, global, distributed ledger running on millions of computers and available to everybody?”

This internet of value already exists and it is called blockchain.

Blockchain Interest is Exploding

If you haven’t heard about blockchain, you are probably not alone. However, interest in blockchain has exploded recently especially when you look at what is trending in internet searches. Google Trends for searches on “blockchain” show that the number of searches for blockchain have doubled in the last 6 months and have quadrupled in the last 18 months.

So, why is interest in blockchain exploding?

What is Blockchain?

A lot of blockchain’s interest is being driven by its connection to the electronic currency bitcoin, but blockchain is more than bitcoin.

According to the Strategist’s Guide to Blockchain, blockchain is “used broadly to refer to any distributed electronic ledger that uses software algorithms to record transactions with reliability and anonymity.”

Blockchain uses peer-to-peer database technology spread among millions of computers for managing and recording transactions with no middleman, bank or clearinghouse involvement. Blockchain reduces redundancy since every transaction is only recorded in once and increases security because every transaction is encrypted and added to a “chain” of other transactions stored on multiple computers which makes the data virtually immune to tampering.

Why Should Accountants Care about Blockchain?

Throughout time, accountants have been the historical keepers of transactional ledgers even as they have transitioned from paper-based books to electronic digital records. Since blockchain is just a distributed global electronic ledger that contains information and business logic about transactions, accountants have the natural advantage to be the masters and gatekeepers of this technology.

Accountants need to pay attention because blockchain will transform their industry by:

  1. Enabling real time accounting – Blockchain will let accountants monitor financial performance and business inflows and outflows in real time which will free up accountants for higher value activities such as advising businesses.
  2. Reducing accounting errors – Blockchain will reduce the number of errors associated with data input, transpositions and reconciliations. Many of the routine accounting and clerical activities will also be replaced by automated processes which will lead to changes in responsibilities and duties of your accounting staff.
  3. Increasing data security – Every blockchain transaction is encrypted and the involved participants are identified by a string of characters. After a certain period of time has passed (which may vary depending on the blockchain) all of these new transactions become part of the block. When the block has been finalized, it is broadcast to all parties associated with that network and any changes to the block in the future will be identified with a timestamp. Blockchain technology will drastically reduce the time to confirm or verify balances and will change how financial audits are performed.

How Can I Get a Quick Intro to Blockchain?

To get a quick and engaging overview of blockchain technology, you should watch Don Tapscott‘s TED talk from the 2016 TEDSummit. Don’s 20-minute talk provides a great overview of what Blockchain is and how it will transform business and the economy in the coming years.

Where Can I Learn More About Blockchain?

Some additional resources on blockchain are summarized below:

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How Advanced Technologies are Impacting Financial Reporting and Auditing

I spent the first five years of my career as a CPA/Auditor with KPMG in Minneapolis, so a recent research report from them caught my eye. It was especially interesting to me because I was on the cutting edge with using advanced technologies in 1984 when I was leading one of the first teams to use Apple Computers for audits in our office. I also have memories (not necessarily fond) of lugging 3 large cases containing the computer, monitor and printer through the airport on our way to an audit in Fargo, ND.

The Digital Transformation study was conducted in April 2017 in conjunction with Forbes Insights and included interviews with CFO’s, controllers and other financial executives. They found that virtually all of the executives believe that advanced technologies can enhance financial reporting and external audit, but that many organizations still have a way to go since only 26% said that advanced technologies are a “must-have” within the next 1 to 2 years.

The top advanced technologies used in the finance function and the percentage of respondents using them are:

  • Predictive analysis (78%)
  • Workflow automation (75%)
  • Robotics (38%)
  • Natural language processing (35%)

The study also indicated that the key implementation benefits for advanced technologies for financial reporting are:

From an auditing perspective, organizations want their auditors to be using advanced technologies and see value in the following areas:

The report concludes by acknowledging that “harnessing advanced technologies is key to remaining competitive in the digital age.” Given the accelerating pace of technological advancements, financial executives should also reconsider their sense of urgency for applying advanced technologies to improve or streamline their processes.

Download the entire Digital Transformation report from KPMG’s website.

Examples of B2B Blog Posts

From July 2015 through January 2017, I wrote 48 blog posts for Vision Internet as a function of my Product Marketing role. Vision creates and hosts websites for cities, counties and other government agencies, and we used the blog to drive awareness and provide great content for our social media and email campaigns.

Here are a few of the my most recent posts and you can find the other posts on the Vision website.

How UX Transformed One Louisiana Parish’s Website

by Tom Humbarger

01/12/2017

User-Experience (UX) driven approachto website development requires shifting discussions about the website’s key content and layout away from the perspective of internal staff and focusing on the perspective of resident-customers. What makes sense to them? What information do they seek? Usability.gov summed it up well when they said:

“User experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.”

5 Trends That Will Drive Digital Government Services in 2017

by Tom Humbarger

01/04/2017

When you’ve worked with local government IT and communications leaders every day for more than 20 years, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict the major trends that will impact local government in 2017.

Top 10 Vision Blog Posts in 2016

by Tom Humbarger

12/29/2016

As 2016 wraps up, we want to take a moment to share the top 10 most viewed blog posts from our Vision Blog. Overall, we shared 44 blog posts in 2016 covering topics including: Best Practices, Usability, User Experience, Content Strategy, Analytics and Accessibility.

Enjoy the walk down memory lane, and stay tuned for more great content and thought leadership content from Vision in 2017! And best wishes for the New Year.

24 “Evergreen” Topic Ideas for Local Government Community Engagement

by Tom Humbarger

12/07/2016

“Improving engagement” is a goal we’ve often heard from local government staff, yet many struggle to know how to go about making it happen. This issue was top of mind as we met with staff from coast to coast over the last year in preparation for the launch of our community engagement tool, visionPulse.

Introducing visionPulse – Community Engagement for Local Government

by Tom Humbarger

11/16/2016

We are pleased to announce the availability of visionPulse, the latest addition to Vision’s product family. visionPulse is a community engagement platform that enables local governments to gauge the public’s opinion on important issues and turn that feedback into actionable results.

 

What Are You Doing About Cybersecurity Threats?

by Tom Humbarger

10/26/2016

Last week, the Internet was jolted with an unprecedented cybersecurity attack that affected many of the leading brands on the Internet. It is ironic that October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and one of the largest attacks occurred in a time of heightened awareness.

 

Congratulations to Roswell, Georgia for Winning a 2016 NAGW Pinnacle Award

by Tom Humbarger

09/28/2016

We would like to congratulate our customer, Roswell, Georgia, for winning a Pinnacle Award at the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) annual conference in San Antonio, Texas last week.

11 Vision Customers on MONEY’s 2016 Best Places to Live

by Tom Humbarger

09/20/2016

MONEY Magazine announced their Best Places to Live in America list this week and 11 Vision customers were named in the top 50 cities.

See You at the NAGW 2016 National Conference!

by Tom Humbarger

09/19/2016

The National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) is hosting their 14th National Conference this week in San Antonio, Texas from Wednesday, September 21st to Friday, September 23rd.

 

City of Eden Prairie Hosts Vision’s Innovation Academy 

by Tom Humbarger

08/29/2016

The City of Eden Prairie, Minnesota hosted Vision’s second Innovation Academy of 2016 on August 25th at the Eden Prairie City Center.  User ExperienceContent Strategy and Analytics were the key themes of the Academy.

Do You Know The Most Popular Pages on Your Local Government Website?

by Tom Humbarger

05/05/2016

Everyone expects the top content on a local government website to be about jobs, events or police – but for many of our customers, the results are quite surprising. In this post, we highlight several “surprising” pages that broke into the top 10 recently illustrating why it is so important to understand the uniqueness of your community and dive into the analytics for your own website.

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Local Government Website Accessibility

by Tom Humbarger

04/19/2016

Digital accessibility is important for many reasons. How would you access the Internet if you had difficulty seeing your computer screen, strained to hear sound, or had trouble using a keyboard or a mouse? In the U.S. today, 1 in 5 citizens has a disability and many struggle to visit their local government websites to pay utility bills, register children for Parks and Rec programs, and weigh in on community issues.

Do You Need a Better Way to Manage Your Social Media?

by Tom Humbarger

05/10/2016

Vision is constantly updating our CMS system based on feedbacks and suggestions from our customers. We have heard that doing a better job with social media is at the top of our customers’ minds, and we just released visionSocial to simplify social media management for our local government customers.

Should You Use the LinkedIn Publishing Platform?

Should You Use the LinkedIn Publishing Platform?LinkedIn opened up their publishing platform to all users in the beginning of 2014, and since then more 2.5 million posts have been published, including 27 posts from me.  With more than 320 million users, you would think that publishing on the LinkedIn platform would build your reputation as a thought leader while generating a ton of views and engagement, right?

Is LinkedIn Publishing Worth It?

I have enjoyed using the LinkedIn Publishing Platform and find it easy to use.  I also like how the posts tie directly into my LinkedIn Profile and can be discovered by anyone who views my profile.

However, I have some reservations about the ultimate reach my posts are getting on LinkedIn.  Of my 27 posts in the last 18 months, only two have been “picked up” and promoted to a wider audience on LinkedIn.  One post on appreciating your employees generated 12,885 views, 764 Likes and 105 Comments while a post titled “Did You Do Your Power Pose Today” generated 10,617 Views, 126 Likes and 50 Comments.  But it has been nearly a year since I had a post promoted on LinkedIn.

Even with over 1,500 Followers in my network, my other 25 posts have averaged about 100 Views and 2 Likes.  This does not seem like much visibility and unless you are one of the named LinkedIn Influencers or one of your posts gets promoted, I would guess that your results are similar to mine.

Why is Visibility So Low?

My premises for the relatively low visibility of LinkedIn Posts include the following

  1. Too much content – There is a lot of content posted every day on LinkedIn in the form of status updates from individuals, company pages and sponsored posts.  LinkedIn statistics say that more than 40,000 posts are added to their publishing platform every day which means that it is hard for even good posts to get much notice.  Published posts are not grouped into any easy taxonomy or topic, so many posts get buried or lost in the noise.
  2. LinkedIn is not a go-to content source – I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but my belief is that many people are not using LinkedIn in the same manner as I am.  I am in the habit of checking LinkedIn every day and have a routine where I scan my newsfeed, see what the companies I am following have posted and view any notifications or connection requests.  But I feel that I am in the minority in this regard and even though you can do a quick LinkedIn scan in less than 5 minutes, I believe that most people don’t take the time to visit LinkedIn let alone perform any daily scanning ritual.
  3. No easy way to discover my content – The LinkedIn newsfeed provides a list of posts from your network and followed companies on the day they are posted. One of my followers would have to see my post in their newsfeed or notifications on that day, and I have no way of reaching others on LinkedIn unless my post gets promoted.

How Do People Discover My Posts?

While thinking about why visibility is so low, I decided to think about the problem from the angle of how people actually discover content on LinkedIn.  People can discover my content by viewing a status update, checking their notification flag at the top of LinkedIn, by visiting my LinkedIn profile and through the periodic LinkedIn email that provides network updates.  When someone visits my profile, only the last 3 published posts are displayed and a “more” link has to be clicked to see the other posts.  I also post links to my LinkedIn updates in other social media channels like Twitter and Facebook which can also point people back to LinkedIn.

My two questions have to do with how people will discover what I have published on LinkedIn after the day I publish the post.  I know from my blogging experience that many of my posts have quite long tails and that they are still receiving views more than 5 years after I originally wrote them.

  1. How do I find old posts on LinkedIn?
  2.  Is Google indexing the posts and can they be found via a Google search?

Actually, I answered the first question myself when I just “discovered” that you can search specifically for Posts using the search bar at the top of the LinkedIn screen.  When you select Posts from the drop-down Search menu, only posts are displayed in the results and you can sort the results on Relevance, Date or use the advanced options to search for specific authors or date ranges.  While it’s great news that you can search for old posts, it is not so good if your post is deemed to be not so relevant and is buried deep in the list of results.

As far as my second question, I Googled the specific title of several of my posts and was pleased to see that the LinkedIn version of my post was generally in the top three results.  I generally cross post my posts to my social media blog and sometimes to another site such as Social Media Today and Slideshare, and these sites would usually appear above the LinkedIn version.  What I don’t know is the impact of any long tail impact of my posts as LinkedIn does not offer an easy way to track views or other metrics like I get with my WordPress blog.

So, my questions have been answered (sort of).

Comparing LinkedIn to Other Publishing Platforms

If you have a post that relates to a specific industry or targeted audience, then you will probably get more traction with your content by posting on an industry-specific site.  Most of my posts fall into the social media space, and I have been fortunate to twelve articles published in Social Media Today over the last several years.

For example, I published a new post at the beginning of May on both LinkedIn and Social Media Today.  I have included a comparison of the results between both platforms below.  The Social Media Today version of the post has received over 1,100 interactions in less than 3 weeks (shares, likes and tweets) and the Slideshare presentation embedded in the post has been viewed over 19,000 times.  By comparison, the version published via the LinkedIn publishing platform resulted in just 68 views and 4 likes.  If I had only published this post on LinkedIn, it would have been like the plant that didn’t get any water and it would have died a slow (and very quiet) death.

What Are My Publishing Suggestions?

I have a couple of suggestions for those who want to publish articles to build up their reputation as a thought leader and subject matter expert:

  • Continue to publish on LinkedIn – I like the idea that the LinkedIn posts are tied to my profile and having posts in your LinkedIn profile does show your interests and can establish your thought leadership.  Being in the habit of writing and sharing your expertise will set you on a path towards being a thought leader in your industry.
  • Find and use alternative platforms – To get the most traction for your reputation, you will need to find and use alternative platforms for publishing your content.  Look at the top sites that are followed by your industry and see if they accept user-generated content.  Some sites will accept nearly all content, and others are more selective in what they accept.  And then just be diligent and resourceful about getting your content published.
  • Cross post your content – You should also cross-post your LinkedIn content to your primary social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.  If you have a personal blog, you should also re-post the content there as well.
  • Check your stats – It is also important to check your stats to see what posts or topics are successful for you and which posts did not perform as well so you can make adjustments in the future.

Good luck on your publishing career and building up your reputation as a thought leader.

6 Tips For A Better LinkedIn Company Page

6 Tips For A Better LinkedIn Company PageLinkedIn Company Pages are a great way to brand your business, and share key content, information and updates with a targeted audiences.  All employees who list your company on their profile are automatic followers of your company, and others may choose to follow your Company Page at their option.  When you post great content to your Company Page, your followers engage with the updates and share it with their networks which amplifies your reach and serves to build your following even more.    People who follow your Company Page tend to be very ‘sticky’ too.  In fact, statistics have shown that:

64% of followers will follow your company forever.

However, most companies fail to take advantage of the full value of Company Pages.   This article provides you with 6 tips to unleash the potential of your Company Page, and make it more attractive and useful to your followers.  By taking advantage of these suggestions, you can begin building and enhancing high value relationships with your LinkedIn followers.

What Do I Know About LinkedIn Company Pages

I managed the AppleOne LinkedIn Company Page from January 2012 to June 2014, and this page was named one of the 10 Best LinkedIn Company Pages of 2013. Under my stewardship, the number of followers grew by more than 7x to over 28,000. In addition, the page was averaging 100,000 impressions per week and was on target to hit 5 million impressions for 2014 when I moved to another position.  I was constantly testing new approaches and ways to build engagement, and the tips outlined in this article are based on my direct experience.

10 Best LinkedIn Company Pages of 2013

 Click here to read the blog post on the top LinkedIn Company Pages for 2013

1. Post Regular Status Updates

The more content you post on your Company Page, the more you will keep your company’s name in front of your followers and in the LinkedIn Newsfeed. My best practice suggestion is to post status updates on a daily basis which means you will need five great posts each week to drive awareness, engagement and traffic. Once you get in the habit of posting regularly, your audience will come to rely on your ability to engage, educate and entertain them.  Some larger companies may post several times per day, but beware that you do reach a saturation point point of sharing too many updates.

2. Post Interesting Content

Be Useful, Educational and InterestingIt is important to post interesting content that followers will find useful for their every day job or career, or that educates or entertains them in some way. You do not want every message on your Company Page to advertise your products or services because that would only serve to annoy or turn off your followers. For instance, out of five weekly Company Page posts, only one or two of the posts would be a link back to the company blog or website. For the rest of the Company Page content, I use Feedly’s RSS feeder to keep track of more than 75 different blog and news feeds. I scanned the headlines on a daily basis, and select the top 12 articles to post on two different Twitter accounts. From this subset, I selected the best articles to share on the LinkedIn Company Page.

3. Write A Catchy Headline or Intro

The headline is the most important part of any writing.Readers are bombarded by countless messages every day so your posts need to quickly grab the reader’s attention from among all of the content they are seeing on all of their social networks or information sources. Ask a thought-provoking question, tease the readers with a snappy tidbit or give them some reason to want to read the post. Don’t forget to include a shortened URL at the end of your headline to link to your content (my favorite is Hootsuite’s ow.ly URL shortener, and there are several other options to chose from as well).

4. Upload Your Own Image

People Like Bigger Images

By default, if you paste a URL into a status update, LinkedIn will suggest a clickable postage stamp-sized photo from an image at that page. Alternatively, I have found that it is far better to upload my own image which usually with the content’s title superimposed over the picture. Sometimes I use an image from the actual article or other times, I create my own using Canva. An uploaded image will be about 350×210 pixels compared to the standard 180×110 pixels which is a difference of nearly 4x. In an experiment I conducted this year, we were able to gain 87% more Impressions, 132% more Clicks and 39% more Interactions on identical posts.

Click here to read the blog post on how to use larger images to get more from your LinkedIn Company Page

5. Emplower Your Employees

Follow. Like. Share.Most companies are still struggling with empowering their employees to engage regularly with their LinkedIn company page. At AppleOne, we had over 1,500 employees on LinkedIn, but only a small percentage were engaging with our content. We averaged 41 interactions on our status updates during the first 6 months of 2014 which would be less than 3% engagement per post assuming all of the interactions are from employees. Companies need to do a better job of explaining to employees that they are an essential part of the marketing team and highlight how critical their participation is to the overall company success. Training employees to Follow their company page, and regularly Like and Share content will greatly boost interactions and engagement.

6. Monitor and Analyze Your Statistics

Follow the Numbers

It is always important to monitor your results to see what is working and what is not working, and then adjust accordingly. The Admin Analytics page for Company Pages provides a lot of great information. Generally, I would check the Analytics several times per day and I kept very detailed weekly trend data. From January to June 2014, I know that the AppleOne posts averaged more than 19,000 Impressions, 192 Clicks and 41 Interactions each. I also determined that the best engagement occurred from Tuesday to Thursday, so I always posted what I thought was the most powerful content on those days.

Slideshare Version

Here is the Slideshare version of this post if you want to save it or download it for later use.

10 Steps To Improving Your LinkedIn Brand

10 Steps to Improving Your LinkedIn Brand

Over the last several years, I have looked at thousands of LinkedIn profiles. I have seen a few great profiles, but the majority of them did not do a very good job at presenting the individuals in their best possible light.

Personal branding is a hot topic today and the situation is nicely summed up in aForbes article by Shama Hyder with tips for building an awesome personal brand:

The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf.

The good news is that LinkedIn offers a fantastic platform for cultivating your own brand and that it does not take a great deal of effort to go from an average LinkedIn profile to an outstanding LinkedIn profile.

I have helped many professionals update their LinkedIn profiles, and have developed materials and delivered courses to improve how people brand themselves through their LinkedIn profile. I have compiled a distillation of the LinkedIn best practices I have discovered through my experience into a Slideshare presentation titled 10 Steps to Improving Your LinkedIn Brand and embedded below. These tips will provide you with the route and directions needed to supercharge your LinkedIn profile today.

Good luck going from average to awesome with your personal brand!  Let me know if you have any other great LinkedIn branding tips.

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I am Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist experienced in both B2B and B2C arenas, and have proven expertise in multiple industries. My strengths include: developing and implementing marketing and social media strategies, generating brand awareness and demand, crafting marketing positioning and collateral, managing social media properties on a daily basis, curating content and writing blog posts, developing training materials and instructing associates on social media best practices, engaging with customers and prospects, analyzing marketing performance to determine effectiveness and evangelizing stakeholders and customers.

Contact me by email via tom@humbarger.com or check out my blog or LinkedIn Profile for more information on how I can help your company achieve your social media goals and objectives.