Chamber members learn benefits of new style networking

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2011



LAPLACE – As social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others continue to grow in popularity, many business leaders are beginning to see the value in devoting quality time to the sites to further grow their business.

About a dozen local business leaders from the River Parishes recently received a crash course in social media management courtesy of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, which hosted a “Lunch and Learn” seminar on the topic by popular demand.

“A lot of our members understand the value of these websites, and they always want to learn more to grow their online presence,” said Chamber Executive Director Chassity McComack. “We always get good attendance for social media seminars.”

The lunchtime meeting was led by Metairie-based social media consultant Michelle Cullison of Daystar New Media. Cullison explained that it is becoming increasingly important for potential clients to get to know the person or business they are dealing with.

“You need to know where your audience is before you spend time delving into social media,” Cullison said. “There are several sites out there, and you need to have an understanding of who is more prone to use them. You also need to know if the majority of your clientele is comfortable using social media.”

Cullison said it is becoming much more important for businesses to expand from a website to a web presence across multiple sites. She said people who become more familiar with what businesses have to offer by looking them up on Facebook or Twitter makes them more likely to share information with other friends.

“People trust what their friends have to say,” Cullison said. “Times are changing. People don’t turn to the phonebook to find what they are looking for. They pose a question to their friends on Facebook to see what they have to say.”

Cullison added a social media presence isn’t all about selling a product or a business. She explained people like to be engaged by others and develop relationships.

“It is important to communicate what you offer, but you need to be more personal about it,” she said. “People don’t want to be bombarded by sales pitches and advertising.”

Cullison explained networking sites have become more popular than traditional websites because they offer users the opportunity to provide a large amount of information with little work and lots of exposure – and in most cases this exposure is absolutely free.

“There is little or no financial risk and a high level of reward in using these networks,” said Cullison. “It all comes down to picking and choosing the most viable options and finding the right connections.”

Cullison showed participants how to create successful business profiles and how to search the networks for a target audience that may have a need for a particular product or service.

“The goal is to use a Facebook group or Twitter account to steer traffic back to a main website where potential customers or clients can gain more information about what your business has to offer,” said Cullison. “There is really no limit to what can be posted on these networks.”