Pavilion to host social networking primer

Mindy Byers and Leah Wattree are teaching small businesses how to use social networking. - Charlie Bermant
Mindy Byers and Leah Wattree are teaching small businesses how to use social networking.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant

The economy has turned up the heat on small businesses, forcing equipment and technology updates in order to compete. With this in mind, two local women are seeking to educate businesses about how they can use social networking as an effective—and free—promotional tool.

“Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn help businesses build relationships with their customers,” said Mindy Byers, a Kingston resident who works promoting businesses and causes. “You rely on your personality and even your quirks to start dialogues with other people, which can lead to sales and referrals.”

Byers, along with Port Orchard Pavilion Manager Leah Wattree, will present their own seminar, “Launching and Maintaining Your Social Networking Sites,” from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. January 14. It focuses on setting up a networking site to support a business, while warning people about the potholes they will face in dealing with new technology.

Both women have overcome the same obstacles, and developed networking sites recently to support their businesses. They seek to pass on this immediate knowledge, so others can avoid the same mistakes. And since neither of them are technology geeks, they speak the same language as the prospective attendees.

“There are a lot of ways to approach this depending on your needs,” Wattree said. “You want to use this to the degree where you feel comfortable, and put as much or as little of your personality online as you want. But it is all about building relationships, in the same way that you used to exchange business cards at an event. Today, you ask if someone is on Facebook, and then send them a friend request.

“If someone has a hard day they might post something online and their Facebook friends can leave a comment that supports them,” Wattree said. “It brings everyone closer.”

While social networking novices might not know how to behave online, Wattree advises that people act the same as when they do during face-to-face contact. For instance, most people would not interact with anyone without some kind of recommendation, brag endlessly about themselves without listening or repeatedly ask others for favors in real life.

The amount of personality—or what Byers characterizes as “quirks”—is also an individual choice. The seminar will outline the difference between a personal page, where people talk about parties, politics and family, and a business page that is meant to draw customers and increase contacts. It is acceptable to steer potential “friends” from one to the other, or to decline friend requests from people with which you don’t want to share more personal information.

While some will choose a separation of business and personal, there are others who blend them to great success. As an example Byers mentions Stacey Nelson of Bremerton, owner of Chico Towing, who puts a lot of personality and humor into her posts. “People get to know her by being her Facebook friend,” Byers said. “And the next time they need to get their car towed they will call her company.”

“Facebook is a great way get to know people throughout the community and to let them know who you are,” Nelson said. “You create relationships and networks in a timely fashion. It’s a good way to reach out to people, and you don’t have to actually find a place to meet them.”

Wattree and Byers hope to refine the presentation and offer it to other groups. This particular event is sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, and costs $10 for members and $15 for non-members.

“A lot of people charge a lot of money to present this information,” Wattree said. ”We just want to share what we’ve learned, so businesses can learn to use these tools.”

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