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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Social networking -- SMPS on Facebook

Liz O’Rourke Kupcha of Cameron Engineering & Associates in Woodbury, NY (Long Island) recently started a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) group on Facebook. Within a month, 14 other SMPS members -- myself included -- joined. This is of course a fraction of the total SMPS membership; I think more than 5,000 in chapters in most major U.S. cities, but is just the beginning of something that I think will be truly interesting.

In fact, I'll be writing about Social Networking in the February issue of The SMPS Marketer -- and am compiling notes for my Dec. 15 deadline. Of course, I called Liz to learn more.

Liz says with one exception, she doesn't presently know any of the 14 SMPS members who joined her group. Nor did she seek (or need) permission from SMPS headquarters in Arlington to start the group (though I expect Facebook would shut it down pretty quickly if SMPS objected -- after all the organization owns the trademark and logo, not Liz!)

Liz says she cannot track business that has come directly from Facebook or the perhaps much more relevant business networking site,, but she sees some value in both sites. And she (like myself) are using our participation in these sites to help out on some personal marketing -- she is having an article published in Building Long Island -- obviously relevant in her community. (Obviously, I am also gaining some credibility here -- SMPS Marketer editor Randy Pollock has asked me to be one of a group of contributing editors; this means my words (and image) will grace the pages of the magazine several times in the next year.)

She says that the social networking sites can never be a substitute for real personal contact. "You need to be able to see people, shake hands, exchange cards," she said.

She says local SMPS chapter activities are also truly important, and described the real challenges in establishing the Long Island chapter. Several members who had belonged to the New York City chapter thought that a Long Island group would be viable, but the project started and stalled for several years before the core group reached critical strength and a proper chapter started (it has been in operation about five years, she said.)

As I noted in my last post, SMPS membership is really helpful if you are looking for credible Joint Venture partners or consultants to build a credible presentation. In Liz's case, Cameron Engineering knows the lay of the land in Long Island, so if you are trying to co-ordinate or bid a project there and need engineering services, would it make sense to call Liz? I think so. Her practice's principals will have the depth of knowledge, local contacts, and understanding of the dynamics of the Long Island market to ensure a competitive and compliant proposal -- and I'm sure that local authorities, knowing their competence, will increase your chances of success.

In this case, the social networking sites then will I think serve as an expanded membership directory for special interest organizations. Say, you are a SMPS member and wish a connection in another market -- you can of course use the conventional directory, but you are calling cold. Or you could work through your existing contacts and relationships, to connect with Liz or her counterparts in Long Island. This works, as well, but takes time and some luck. Or, you can see that she too is on Facebook or, verify that her practice's credentials match your needs, and gather enough personal information about her (and she you) so you can be comfortable working together right away. In essence, I think, the Social Networking sites can speed up and simplify what comes naturally -- but they will never replace the traditional approaches to relationship-building and communication.

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