By Jessica Borders
FAIRMONT — In today’s technology-oriented world, many businesses are using social networking as a way to get their name out. Companies are finding websites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to be very useful tools for promoting their services and offerings and connecting with customers and business associates. Many local businesses have caught onto this trend and are taking advantage of the benefits.
“I think social networking is becoming huge in the business community and more and more businesses are relying on it to promote their business,” said Tina Shaw, president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.
Not only are these different sites big networking tools, but they have also become helpful recruiting tools for employers, she said.
In June, the chamber of commerce held a marketing seminar for small businesses focusing on how they could advertise at a low cost or no cost. Out of the session, many questions came up that centered around social networking and the opportunities for business owners.
Because of the interest shown, the chamber is planning a social networking seminar as part of its Small Business Expo in October, Shaw said.
She said a lot of Marion County business people use LinkedIn to set up discussion groups, assist with questions, work on projects and share ideas. Shaw keeps in touch with a lot of colleagues with the help of this tool.
According to www.linkedin.com, more than 75 million people in more than 200 countries are members of this professional network. LinkedIn, officially founded in 2003, allows members “to exchange information, ideas and opportunities.”
Shaw said the Marion County Chamber of Commerce maintains a Facebook profile, which it uses to post information about events and get responses from people. The chamber used Facebook to help promote its annual dinner on Aug. 11, and was able to track the number of people visiting the site and get some positive comments.
“Facebook is a great outlet for businesses to connect and engage with customers,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
This social utility, established in 2004, “helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and co-workers,” states www.facebook.com. The site has more than 500 million active users.
Global Science & Technology has been taking advantage of the social media platforms for more than a year now as part of its communications strategy, said communications director John Dahlia. Dahlia updates GST’s corporate pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube periodically.
YouTube, started in 2005, is an online video community that enables millions of individuals to watch and share videos worldwide, according to www.youtube.com.
“The material that we post varies, but it’s mostly content that relates directly to our company,” Dahlia said. “We post content that relates to the work that we do.”
He said that material could be relevant stories, videos on different products or initiatives, or photographs from recent company events, such as GST’s West Virginia picnic in July. GST attended the chamber of commerce’s annual dinner and served as the Platinum Sponsor, and pictures will soon be posted from that occasion.
Dahlia believes that businesses aren’t using these social networking tools as much as they should.
“There’s no cost to it except for your time,” he said. “You can post info about your company consistently. You reach out to people and people from all over the world can either follow what you’re doing or participate. We see a real value in posting info about GST.
“From a business perspective, you’d be foolish not to take advantage of social media.”
Kerri’s Korner Bookstore, located at 1011 Speedway Ave. in Fairmont, has been using Facebook for about a year. Kerri Childs, who opened the store with her mother Pam Pride nearly four years ago, said the Facebook page for Kerri’s Korner Bookstore has more than 400 fans.
Childs posts items on the store’s profile about three times a week, and the page sometimes gets 400 to 500 views per week.
She makes announcements every time the shop has new releases coming out in paperback or hardback and also promotes and invites fans to events, such as author Majesta Antion’s visit to the store on Aug. 14. In addition, Childs will sometimes post quotes, stories or information about book-related happenings going on in the area.
John Layne has created Facebook and MySpace accounts for CrossFit Intense, the personal training and health club facility that he opened in October of last year at 99 Ruby Drive in White Hall.
MySpace, launched in 2004, is a social networking site that brings individuals together “through personal expression, content and culture,” www.myspace.com states. Across the world, MySpace has more than 122 million active users every month.
Layne said his Facebook page has done really well — with more than 230 followers — and gets more traffic than his website. He began posting information about CrossFit Intense when it was just in the development stages and now uses the site every day to tell members about workouts.
Facebook allows Layne to get the business’ name out and invite members to events, like an olympic lifting seminar that took place on Aug. 14. The site is also connected to Twitter, so the items that Layne posts on Facebook also appear on Twitter.
Twitter.com explains that this tool “is a real-time information network powered by people all around the world that lets you share and discover what’s happening now.”
Rider Pharmacy in Fairmont has had great success with Facebook and Twitter, which are great ways to reach out, said owner Jonathan Rider. The company, found at 303 Merchant St., started as Bennett’s Pharmacy in 1939 and in 1967 became Rider Pharmacy.
Rider Pharmacy’s Facebook page, which has more than 600 fans, provides a lot of information about the business as well as health-related articles that apply to just about anyone. Also, the store will use Facebook to invite people to its open house on Nov. 7 and plans to start posting coupons, Jonathan said.
The business has nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter.
“We mainly use it as a way to get the word out about what we’re about, what we do, and we try to go beyond the borders of Marion County with our Facebook and Twitter to try to drive some of the sales on our website,” Jonathan said.
“If any business isn’t doing social media networking at some level, I think they’re missing out on a huge market.”
E-mail Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org.