SMALL BUSINESS

Facebook becoming big friend of small businesses

Firms are building fan bases on the social networking website and using it to connect with customers.

Facebook becoming big friend of small businesses

Charles Nelson, president of Sprinkles Cupcakes, manages the Beverly Hills company’s pages on Facebook and other social media websites. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / October 14, 2009)

Reporting from San Francisco – Charles Nelson, president of Sprinkles Cupcakes, the Beverly Hills baker to the stars, doesn’t have a Facebook profile. Nelson, who works seven days a week, has no time for chatting online with Facebook friends.

But Nelson is logged on to Facebook all the time. That’s because more than 70,000 people have declared themselves fans of Sprinkles’ Facebook page, which has its own “vanity URL” at www.facebook.com /sprinkles.

Each day on the website, Sprinkles announces a secret word, such as “ganache,” or “bunny,” or “tropical,” or “love,” and the first 25 or 50 people to show up at any of its five stores and whisper that word get a free cupcake.

“On Facebook, we can ask our customers what’s the next location they want,” Nelson said. “What do they think of our next flavor? It’s an amazing way to communicate with our fans.”

Facebook is not just for friends anymore. The free social networking site — blocked in many workplaces as a potential time-waster — is increasingly becoming an inexpensive marketing tool for small businesses.

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