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Published: Wednesday, 7/1/2009

Toledo-area firms join move to networking Web sites

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Casey Pogen, marketing director for Levis Commons in Perrysburg, wanted to make contact with the shopping center's many customers.

She could have stood on a street corner to hand out flyers, but instead she added Levis Commons to the social networking site Twitter.com and will create a Web page for it on Facebook.com, another Internet social network.

As more people - potential customers - gather on social networks, businesses are recognizing that they have to learn about these Internet forums that provide information to the general public.

"What prompted us to do this is to stay current with what people are using in terms of information and to know just what's going on," Ms. Pogen said of the decision to join Twitter. Users of that social cyber-network send messages, known as "tweets" of 140 characters or less, to anyone who wants to see them.

"Our stores appeal to women 25 and up, and we have a lot of family-friendly events. We are using Twitter to promote a lot of those activities," Ms. Pogen said.

Realtor Jon Modene of Re/Max Masters in Perrysburg joined Twitter about a year ago and Facebook about two years ago. He also belongs to Linked In, a business social network, and others.

"I tweet, I blog it all gets a lot of business for me," he said.

"It's getting more and more important to be on social media because my clients are all on it and because they may want to communicate on it more in the future. The next wave, they know e-mail and texting, not voice mail."

Toledo's Jamestown Apartments complex can be found on Twitter and other social media networks, which it uses to market available apartments. Gail Kidwell, the complex's community manager, said the apartment owners, Bell Partners of Greenboro, N.C., decided on the social media sites.

Matt Buchanan, an intellectual-property attorney in Perrysburg, also uses social media networks to drum up new business.

"In the old days, the head of a law firm had a country club membership, and that's where the business came from. But now it's the young guys who are doing Twitter, and they're getting all the contacts," he said.

Even though users of social media tout its benefits, it is hard to find solid evidence that participation on those networks produces added revenue or sales for businesses.

Damian Rintelmann, head of interactive business development for Hart Associates, a public relations firm in Maumee, teaches businesses how to use social media. "Twitter is like a cocktail party. You can't just barge into it. You have to move into it subtly," he added.

The Toledo Mud Hens set up a Facebook page a year ago, but did little with it. The minor league baseball team uses Twitter to provide club and product information, and uses fan feedback to make business decisions, said Nathan Steinmetz, the club's head of online marketing.

For example, a Web page of food prices was made after fans discussed it online. The Mud Hens even held a "Tweet-Up" night for Twitter users and gave them a discount to the game.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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