Remember when Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” was published in 2013? There were many tips for advancing one’s career, but one of the top five, as selected by Forbes, is to form a lean-in circle with one of the book’s online “circle kits.” In essence, it encouraged finding a group of other professional women with whom to share best practices and professional stories.

For women who work in commercial real estate in the Phoenix Metro, that group already exists as Arizona Commercial Real Estate Women, more often referred to as AZCREW.

From its monthly luncheons to its Black and White Affair, golf tournament and mentorship programming, AZCREW encourages its male and female members to build a community within the industry that’s welcoming and fosters a gender-neutral equality.

Decades before the dawn of social media, a professional network could only be built within the workplace and through networking groups.

AZCREW is one of the first such groups that catered to all women in the industry regardless of trade. AZCREW, which is celebrating its 30th year as part of the global CREW Network, hosts annual and monthly events where members can network in a professional environment.

The landscape of networking and professional awareness is changing with the increased adoption of social media, and members of AZCREW are looking more seriously at how this can integrate into existing promotion.

The Greater Good

Without visiting your company’s website, can you recite its mission statement or slogan? Can you pull its logo’s shades out of a color wheel? How about sharing some history behind your company’s origins?

Most employers have made it a policy to familiarize employees with their branding — what the company does and is working to project to potential clients.

However, in a day and age where some networking is moving to social media outlets, it begs the question of just how important it is to brand yourself as an individual?

In 2012, CREW Network surveyed 234 members and 16 executive level women using the Leadership Potential Indicator assessment tool by MySkillsProfile. The objective was to find the leadership strengths and deficiencies of its members. On average, members ranked highest in “monitoring quality” and “focusing on business.” Its lowest ranked categories were “taking risk” and “relating and networking.”

Strengthening its membership’s skills in the latter categories are a focus of the organization’s recent white papers.

Face Time Versus Facebook

AZCREW members seem to be immune to the status quo. Members of AZCREW say a perk of joining the organization is its in-person networking.

When Lincoln Property Company’s Krystal Dill was accepted to AZCREW four years ago, she joined the PR/Outreach committee. It allowed her to promote herself with a microcosm that could be applied to her business environment and the larger industry.

“Being involved in this reputable organization can provide countless direct and indirect results of self-promotion in combination with growing your network of high-quality colleagues,” she says.

Dill says in-person networking comprises about 80 percent of all professional connections, while digital networking is the remaining 20 percent.

AZCREW President-elect Christie Veldhuizen, vice president of operations at DTZ, says the split is more 90-10 for her.

“Personally, I prefer in-person networking…but I do like that through LinkedIn I am able to stay connected with people I am introduced to,” she says.

It’s more important, she says, for her company to have online promotion.

“For DTZ, online promotion through our company website and social media is very important and something we continue to expand,” Veldhuizen says. “However, I understand that with company success there are more opportunities for individual success, so promoting one is not mutually exclusive to promoting the other.”

Dill, who handles marketing for LPC says there is room for improvement.

“I greatly support social media outlets as a marketing source, communicator to the masses and promotional tool for professional purposes,” Dill says. “Personally, I have not yet utilized them to their fullest. While the outlets serve as a great supplement for networking and promotions, the in-person touches and interactions will always be essential.”

Tuned in, Linked up

According to Pew Research Center’s Internet Project Survey in 2014, half of all LinkedIn users have college educations. This is the first time such information has been reported. More than half of all adults who use the internet are active users of two or more social networks. While Facebook is the most popular of the social media sites, Twitter and LinkedIn have seen jumps in usage by adults year over year since 2012. In fact, according to the study, LinkedIn is the second-most used social media network after Facebook.

“The thought leadership in CRE on social media seems male dominated, so room exists for female voices in the conversation,” says Barbi Reuter, COO of Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, and Tucson CREW and CREW National board member. “I’m surprised not to see more, as we are typically connectors, and engagement is key to success in the social sphere. I do see a higher presence for women in LinkedIn than Twitter. Women’s voices are more predominant in Twitter in the retail and marketing spheres, than in finance and pure brokerage.”

It may just be about getting it right.

“Some users abuse social media by utilizing the outlets to post content that is not ‘public worthy,’” says Dill. “Unfortunately, these spammers affect the overall perception of social media in today’s culture. This has led to misunderstandings that using social media is ego-driven and selfish. Social media should be used to be promote confidence and personal publication via meaningful content.

“One of the best aspects of this industry are the incredible women mentors at our fingertips,” Dill says. “Their counsel and expertise has been invaluable as I’ve navigated my way through my career thus far. With their guidance, I have successfully asked for raises and/or modifications for my position. Social media has served as the communication tool to inform the market of my promotion and/or title change(s). These days, I believe this is how most of our network is informed. It creates community and a sense of place among the industry. I should have done those things sooner!”