Are Chambers of Commerce Still Relevant in the Era of Social Media?Ive been active in several chambers of commerce over the last six years, and Ive evenserved as a board member for three years. I believe that chambers are still relevantand that they still have a great deal to offer. While people continue to think of chambersas the venue for mixers and social events, in recent years they have been taking a moreactive role in advocacy, especially for small business. They are also working hard toprovide additional member benefits like offering discounted group insurance, which isespecially important to companies with small employee groups. (It will be interesting tosee what role chambers choose to play as more provisions of the Affordable Care Actgo into effect). As utilities continue to deregulate, chambers are offering discountedrates for member firms that purchase through their cooperatives. One of our localchambers sponsored several candidate forums during the last election cycle.While advocacy and member benefits are important, chambers still play a role in helpingpeople connect. I attended a joint mixer earlier this month which was co-hosted by thefive Franklin County chambers of commerce. I was able to connect and spend time witha couple of dozen people, many of whom I hadnt seen in months. While I amcontinually amazed at the reach social media affords, there is no substitute for shakinghands, sharing a bite to eat or hearing about family vacations when it comes toreconnecting with old friends, colleagues, and business partners.What became clear in the days following the mixer is that social media, especiallyLinkedIn, can play a role in creating synergies between your traditional networks andyour social media networks. Where I might have sent a follow-up email to someone Isaw at a mixer, Im now beginning to send those follow-up emails in LinkedIn. (Im alsomaking an effort to log in to LinkedIn daily during the work week to check for newconnection requests and emails.)While I do not believe that social media can take the place of developing and leveragingpersonal networks - especially in the B2B world, LinkedIn can play a more prominentrole in staying connected, reconnecting and prospecting. Ive taken an active role inintroducing friends and networking partners at traditional networking events, but I havebeen far less active engaging in this behavior in the virtual world. This sounds like itcould be a very powerful New Years resolution. Are you making any networking orsocial media resolutions for 2013?Edward D. Warren is marketing director at Smith Elliott Kearns and Company, LLC.Smith Elliott Kearns & Company, LLC is a regional accounting firm with offices inHagerstown, MD, Carlisle, Chambersburg and Hanover, PA. With over 150 employeesfirm-wide the firm offers a variety of accounting and consulting services for small andclosely held firms, non-profits and local governments. Learn more about the firm byvisiting our website or by visiting our LinkedIn company page.