The importance of relationship-building in business has been discussed extensively in the academic literature. But its importance in the business world is often under-acknowledged, especially in contrast to the more specialized skills and expertise involved in running a business. However, effective relationship building is a crucial ingredient in business success, perhaps even the critical success factor.

Academic researchers have studied this issue using concepts and techniques, such as social capital and social networks analysis. They have provided empirical, as well as theoretical evidence of the value generated by different types of business relationships. At the same time, the business world is being dramatically modified by the growing use of the Internet and social media, raising questions about the evolving nature of business relationships and the skills and attributes needed to develop and maintain them.

Such questions are the focus of this article, which examines the traditional role of relationships in business, highlights some key changes resulting from the increasing use of social media, and discusses what firms need to do to adapt to this new business reality.