Area businesses are increasingly learning to use and take advantage of free social networking services like Facebook to grow and promote their business.
More than a dozen local businesses can be found on the popular networking site. The cost to set up a business page - nothing - also is attractive to small-business owners. Many report seeing big returns after setting up their own page.
Chauncey McCormick, who runs Grandma Millie's Bakery in downtown Gloversville with her son and daughter-in-law, set up a Grandma Millie's Facebook page after attending a seminar at the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the topic. It's been a huge asset to her business, McCormick said.
The Leader-Herald/Kayleigh Karutis
Rick Ruby Jr. of Ruby & Quiri in Johnstown looks at the store’s Facebook page at the store Wednesday.
"It's fabulous," she said. "It's so exciting to have so many fans."
To promote the bakery and draw more fans to the Facebook page, McCormick said she has been updating the page with special drawings and promotional events. She also updates it to keep fans informed about what items will be for sale at the bakery that day.
McCormick said giving out that sort of information can be a good thing. After updating the bakery's Facebook page about what items would be for sale that day, she arrived at the bakery only to have her son, Jason McCormick, inform her that all the items were sold out before McCormick even started baking them.
"It's really great for a bakery because you can put pictures up," she said. "It gets people hungry. We get calls from people saying that they just saw our posting for such-and-such and they'll be right in."
John Lomanto of Chef Lomanto's Market in Gloversville also enjoys the benefits of having a Facebook page. He said his young niece set up his page in minutes.
"It's been amazing for networking," he said. "We can let people know about the classes we have, the specials each week ... and it's free, so that saves us money."
Lomanto called the site a "phenomenon" he initially didn't buy into. Now that he has a page for his business, though, he called it an asset he's glad to have.
Ruby & Quiri in Johnstown, with more than 2,000 fans, has seen its Facebook site grow by leaps and bounds over the past six months, said Rick Ruby Jr., who updates the business's page. He said it's particularly valuable in tracking younger clientele. The store also began a "Freebie Friday" promotion in which fans of the business' Facebook page can be entered into a weekly drawing for anything from a home-entertainment system to free flooring to a new mattress.
"It's a great way to communicate with customers and let them know what we have going on," he said.
The store also has "threshold" contests, in which the 2,000th or 3,000th Facebook fan receives a big prize, like two airline tickets. An "ugly sofa contest" was just launched at the site as well. Fans submit photos of the ugliest sofa they own and the person chosen to have the ugliest sofa of all will win a new sofa.
"It's clearly a really important way to communicate," Ruby said. "It's just the new way of doing things."
Chamber Vice President Terry Swierzowski said she's glad to see so many local businesses using Facebook and other sites, like Twitter, to promote themselves.
"It's just great for networking. You can share information really easily," she said. "It tends to be very viral even in our small community."
Swierzowski said Facebook business pages offer benefits that personal pages don't, like the ability to track who is viewing your page. She praised McCormick for her adept usage of the site.
"Chauncey is a great user of the site," she said. "I get pictures of the different foods every night and it definitely piques my interest. She uses it very well."
Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.