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Friday, May 18, 2012

Your Chamber of Commerce – an off-line version of LinkedIN

I was at a well-attended wine tasting event sponsored by the Milford Rotary Club last night and noticed that I knew about 1/3 of the people there, mainly through my Chamber of Commerce activities. That keyed of the thought that being involved with the Chamber is sort of like an off-line version of LinkedIN. Or maybe, said a different way, social media sites like LinkedIN are really an on-line version so of what people have been doing for a long time in organizations like the Chamber. The social media site allow for a longer reach, but at the sacrifice of the face-to-face time that events like this morning’s Coffee Club gathering provide.

I’ve had an account on LinkedIN almost since it began, although I run hot and cold on how often I visit or what things I participate in on that site. Like Facebook it has grown and morphed quite a bit from its original implementation. I kind of got away from LinkedIN a bit when I started using the ActiveRain site, which is a forum for Realtors.  The relationships that one might forge through LinkedIN, that could do you or your business good, is the same value that one gets at a smaller, more local level out of Chamber of Commerce membership. For some more local business people, like Realtors, plumbers, bankers, local store owners and others the value of the Chamber may be much greater than an account on LinkedIN.

The value of a Chamber membership probably varies quite a bit, based upon how active and how successful the local Chamber of Commerce is, in terms of on-going programs and member support. Here in the Huron Valley Chamber area we are blessed with an extremely creative and active Chamber staff and a very active membership. There are weekly events and networking opportunities sponsored by our Chamber – Ribbon cutting ceremonies at new businesses; Coffee Club gatherings every other Friday at one of the local Chamber-member businesses; after hours social mixers on a monthly basis; local referral groups that meet bi-weekly; and many other events throughout the year. Of course all of the events in the world wouldn’t lead to success unless the Chamber members actually participated and the members of the Huron Valley Chamber do.

I’ll admit to having been complaisantly ignorant of the benefits of the Chamber until a couple of years ago when I started attended Chamber events on behalf of The Digital Document Store, a local company for which I was doing some market development consulting. I joined on my own dime as a Realtor late last year.  The people I’ve met and the relationships that I’ve forged in those two years have been great. Many more people in my market area now know that I’m a Realtor and some have already given me business referrals. Not only that; but, I now know to whom to refer my friends and clients for most of the local goods and services that I get asked about.  I certainly can’t say that about people I’ve met through LinkedIN or ActiveRain or even Facebook.

So, I’ve become an Ambassador for the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce with the mission to reach out to non-Chamber members and explain the benefits of membership to them. I also get to greet new members and help host some of the Chamber events. It’s a fun way to expand my local network even further. I can wholeheartedly endorse our local Chamber and recommend that you at least check out your local Chamber. You may be pleasantly surprised. Think of it as an off-line version of LinkedIN. Maybe that will help you understand some of its value.

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