Merchants such as Larrazolo are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online outlets to connect with customers, build relationships and save money. The sites also enable businesses to announce events, sales and specials and get instant feedback from patrons.

“The goal of social networking media is to keep in touch with people who are not here,” Larrazolo said. “It’s about keeping an interaction with them.”

In addition to being a venue to transmit basic information on a product, the Internet has also become a form of interaction, said Sacha Joseph Mathews, assistant professor of marketing at the Eberhardt School of Business at University of the Pacific.

“It’s now a two-way street,” she said.

Facebook’s and Twitter’s potential to help businesses during a dismal economy should be too enticing for many to pass up, Mathews said.

“Companies have to be aware these are opportunities passing them by,” she said.

Social networking sites help streamline event promotion, said Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership. The group’s Facebook page includes photos from a recent farmers market and the “Stuck in Lodi” Car Show.

“For a nonprofit like us with a limited budget, Twitter and Facebook provide us a wonderful way for marketing with no cost,” she said.

However, merchants must be careful not to overload their followers or friends with constant messages.

“Unless a lot is going on, we keep our posts to ….. Please click here to read the entire article.

Guinn writes for the Lodi News-Sentinel.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

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