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Business use Facebook, Twitter to connect with clients

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WILLMAR -- Jeff Jensen got his first hole-in-one last week at the Granite Run Golf Course.

His employer, Bennett Office Technologies of Willmar, celebrated the event by posting it on the company's Facebook fan page.

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The company also used its page on Facebook last week to remind customers to power down their technology equipment when going home for the day.

Famous Davis of Willmar notified its fans of a new commercial on the air and provided a link, so they could listen to it. The firm provides Web site and software development and video production services.

These are just two of a growing number of area businesses and other organizations venturing into social networking on the Internet.

Both businesses also use Twitter to stay in touch with clients and friends.

Chris Davis of Famous Davis said in his office recently that the networking efforts may not translate into additional business, but "it can't hurt to have a client reminded who you are."

Chris Davis and son Nick Davis said they find their activity on Facebook is a good addition to their business.

He was contacted by at least one new customer through Facebook, Nick Davis said, but that's not necessarily the goal of the page. Like his father, he said it's good to remind people they are there.

They also can take advantage of the Internet version of word-of-mouth advertising.

"If one of my friends comments, all their friends see it," Chris Davis said. "What we're looking for, maybe somebody won't need our service now but maybe in 18 months, and they may feel we have made a connection."

The Davises will often suggest to clients that they consider getting on Facebook or blogging, to expose their businesses to a wider population.

"It's hard to show on the bottom line how it benefits us, but I can't see how it's hurting us," Chris Davis said. Besides, he said, it's free.

When people say that Facebook or Twitter is a fad, he said, he agrees and adds, "There's nothing wrong with that."

Nick Davis contacts clients through Twitter, a free service that allows users to send short messages. "It's almost like instant messaging once you get going," he said.

For Bennett Office Technologies, the Facebook site is a way to let clients know about new products and also a chance to let their fans see a more personal side of their employees.

Marketing Director Sarah Kuglin said it's also a way to offer some information and invite people to the Bennett internet site.

"To me, the value of the time you put in on Facebook and Twitter is well worth it," Kuglin said. "We provide content and information out there, yet we point you back to our Web site, where you can find the rest of the story."

When she writes an article for the company's e-mail marketing efforts, she also puts a link on Facebook and Twitter, she said.

"For us, we wouldn't want to do a Facebook page without having a Web site," Kuglin said. "The more content you have, the better; you're going to be able to be found."

Facebook started as a social networking service on college campuses. It's now open to any person 13 or older with a valid e-mail address. It's popular with all kinds of people, from teens to senior citizens.

And it's increasingly popular with businesses, which can have separate pages where Facebook members can become their fans. Cable news networks, television shows, huge corporations and corner stores have all found a place on Facebook.

The Tribune launched its own fan page a week ago.

Area churches and their youth groups have pages on Facebook. And a number of local businesses do, too, with varying levels of activity.

To become a member of Facebook or to search for pages of interest, go to www.facebook.com

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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