Aspiring entrepreneurs really "like" Facebook.
More are connecting with customers over the social networking service. In an ever-increasing digital world, Facebook has become a leader in promoting and connecting businesses with hundreds of millions of potential customers of like interests.
Representatives from Facebook have been touring the country to meet with small-business owners and discuss how these entrepreneurs can reach more customers over the social networking service. On Wednesday afternoon, the representatives were in Collinsville.
Facebook Small-Medium Business Associate Bess Yount told the crowd of about 500 who gathered at Gateway Center that social media has become a way to communicate on both a personal and business level. She said 182 million people visiting Facebook across the nation each month and more than 25 million small businesses use Facebook to reach customers. She said those numbers are only expected to increase.
"The world is going digital," Yount said. "It's the trajectory we're on."
Facebook gives businesses an online portal to reach customers through direct market and advertising with a more personal touch. It is free and within a few minutes business owners can upload information and photographs to help promote and then target specific customers.
Belleville entrepreneur David Brandt said exposure over Facebook has been largely responsible for his success. It began when the artists and former corporate sales manager had hosted art parties in his loft apartment. He photographed each event and posted them on his Facebook page.
His posted parties attracted interest from others who were seeking an invitation. That led Brandt to create a new business and eventually leave the corporate world.
He founded Sips n Splatters in downtown Belleville in August 2011. Brandt literally throws a painting party at 15 S. High St., where clients bring snacks and beverages and Brandt supplies the space, supplies and expertise.
He has since opened a second location at 27 Executive Plaza Court in Maryville and a third locale called Splatter Mania at 6 S. Church St., a few blocks from his downtown Belleville venue, that provides art instruction for children.
Brandt said he started with just $50. He said he could not have done it without Facebook.
"We have really grown fast with our Facebook page," Brandt said. "We have three locations and we've grown incredibly fast on Facebook. We have done other kinds of advertisements, but never with the same types of results that we get with Facebook."
Chad Mueller has logged on to Facebook to attract potential clients to his Collinsville boxing and fitness center. He opened Maryville Boxing and Personal Training three years ago. What started as a small cardio boxing class that subleased space in a dance studio has since flourished.
"At the time I had only $300 in my bank account and I was in between jobs," Mueller said. "I saw an opportunity and jumped in and try it."
Since then, Mueller's gym has grown to more than 160 members and has since moved to a larger space at 2541 Vandalia St. He said Facebook helped make it possible. He began with paid advertising to reach clients. From there, he marketed his business. He said that his business increased by 105 percent since last year.
"It definitely works," he said, "if you use it right."
Here are some tips that Facebook representatives shared with metro-east area entrepreneurs:
*Think about the people you'd like to reach. How old are they, where do they live, and what are they interested?
* Ask people to show their support by liking you page, commenting and checking in. This helps more people see your business on Facebook.
* Be authentic and share your passion and knowledge with your customers.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.