Doing business on Facebook

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two years ago, Eclipse Coffee and Books owner Cheryl Patton joined the social networking Web site Facebook to attract business.

It’s a decision she doesn’t regret.

Eclipse’s Facebook profile has 1,514 friends who are regularly updated about events and menu specials. Patton said customers communicate compliments and complaints through Facebook, and she’s grateful for both types of feedback.

“You make connections with people that you cannot do with (business) Web sites or e-mail,” Patton said. “It feels like a relationship instead of bombarding people with e-mails.”

On Wednesday, Patton and Tiffany Bunt of University of Montevallo Public Relations led an early morning seminar about Facebook at Eclipse. The Montevallo Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.

Patton said more than 3,000 people in Montevallo have Facebook accounts. Though Facebook initially targeted college students, the Web site’s fastest growing demographic is people over age 30.

Patton and Bunt gave Chamber members a Facebook tutorial, and showed them how to open an account and post events. The women also taught members how to invite Facebook friends to conferences, luncheons, meetings and other business engagements.

Bunt said the University of Montevallo’s admissions and public relations offices have Facebook accounts. She believes the Web site allows the university to better interact with current students and draw in prospective students.

“(Students) are never not connected to Facebook unless they’re in class,” Bunt said. “They have it on their computers, and even on their phones.”

Bunt said the university is so convinced of Facebook’s reach that a Facebook link will appear on the school’s revamped Web site, which is set to launch later this year.

Patton said Facebook has caught on with area businesses, including Electric Frenzy and the Shelby County Reporter. She even says the Web site has filled a communication gap with her college-aged staff.

“There’ll be a flyer about an event posted right in their face, but they’ll find out about it on Facebook,” Patton said.

Patton and Bunt emphasized joining Facebook is absolutely free. They encourage business owners to play around with the Web site to determine if it suits their interests.

“It’s been really, really effective,” Patton said. “It’s changed the way we do business.”