MIDLOTHIAN — Amanda Miller is connected. The president of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce stays connected with the business community not just through traditional face-to-face networking, but through a balancing act of business and personal relationships that intertwine into a cyber-reality existence.
“I’ve always been a tech geek,” Miller said. “We (the chamber) got into it a couple of years ago when Facebook was starting to get popular.”
Before working for the chamber, she worked as a presentation coordinator and desktop publisher in commercial and real estate design. She dealt with design, communication and anything computer generated.
“I just sat down and played with it (social networking sites) and taught myself,” she said. “Two years ago the chamber didn’t have a Facebook page.”
Through her exploration she found there were a lot of business professionals online in that venue and there was an immediate meshing of professional and personal networking.
“I found that people were contacting me through Facebook that would not contact me through traditional avenues because of the hours and ease of use,” she said. “They could instant message or send a private e-mail and have immediate contact.”
Business is based on relationships – social media venues allow business owners to build relationships with potential customers on a level that no other networking venue allows them to.
Miller said that the turning point for her from a simply personal use to professional use was when she was contacted by a prominent business person through Facebook. She realized there was a real need for this for chamber members. Within an hour of setting up the chamber Facebook page, they had 15 friends.
“It was like a lightning bolt,” she said. “Our members were out there and we had this to use as a tool to communicate with the community and businesses. It just took off after that.”
Now it has just become one of the steps she uses throughout the day and it doesn’t take up a lot of her time. She spends maybe 30 minutes a day on social sites.
The chamber Web site has links to both Facebook and Twitter.
“I see the use of twitter – it’s more on the go but Facebook allows for interaction,” Miller said. “I follow a lot of people (on Twitter) and scroll though the posts. If something looks interesting I can read more.”
Miller has about the same number of followers on Facebook as Twitter, but says they are a completely different group of people. Tweeters want to follow and get information, but not necessarily respond. Facebook users want to engage with others.
“Businesses exist to create value and to attract a market to engage in a transaction with the premise of marketing to reach a customer base,” she said. “The methodology has changed with social media. It’s no longer push marketing – it’s pull marketing were businesses engage readers and pull them into their business.”
For the chamber it is all about relationships and creating conversations.
Even after working on the computer all day – searching sites and networking, when Miller goes home the first thing she does is get on the computer.
She said her iPhone is a wonderful invention and her favorite techie toy.
“I have a lot of apps and don’t really even have to check the computer at night – everything goes right to my phone,” she said. “I can’t live without it (the iPhone).”
Miller advises those who are intimidated by using social networking to not be scared by it.
“It’s all about baby steps – and baby steps will get you there eventually,” she said. “Don’t get overwhelmed and don’t be afraid.”
Small businesses need to look at what social media can do for them because relationships are important to their success. The chamber offers help for members to set up a Facebook page.
“Keep in mind that social media cannot take the place of all marketing and advertising,” Miller said. “Don’t abandon the business plan, this is a complement to everything else. It’s a new way to capture a market, but it is all about being well-rounded.”
Contact Rebecca @ firstname.lastname@example.org or call 469-517-1451.