Special Report: Facebook your business

THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - While social media websites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter were originally created for young people, these days you may even find your grandmother online.

But while millions do still use these sites just to share pics from their trip to Jamaica, millions others are utilizing them for free advertising.

Some young entrepreneurs use technology and social media to help their business.

Four years ago, Scott and Katie Chastain purchased The Bookshelf. "The thing about owning your own businesses is I think we are both idea people, and so we love to play around ideas, and it almost becomes kind of an addiction," Katie said.   "You know where oh we can do this and you can do this and than it sort of keeps rolling on to itself and keeps perpetuating. So now three businesses later it's going well."

And just last year Scott created Everfan. His company sells collegiate super hero costumes in bulk to college towns and individually through the website.

"We really try to find products that create experiences and I think that's what's cool with what Everfan is doing cause it's a product, but the idea is the kids get this cape and they wear it for awhile, but it's really this imagination tool and it's getting them involved in creative play," Katie said.

Another successful small business in Thomasville is Sweet Grass Dairy. Current owners Jessica and Jeremy Little took over the business from Jessica's parents in 2005. "Since 2005, kind of doubled production. We're in about 40 different states. We distribute to about 40 different states right now. And Sweet Grass Dairy is in pretty much every Whole Foods in the southeast right now,"  said Communications Manager Matt Willey.

The store currently has 3,000 Facebook friends and 2,000 Twitter followers. "Through the Sweet Grass Dairy Twitter, through Sweet Grass Dairy Facebook, that's where we do a lot of our advertising. That's where we do a lot of things, give-aways, and entries, and prizes, and things like that. It's just where we found the people are."

Willey says these days small businesses can not exist without online advertising and social media. "I'm not going to say old advertising is dead, cause it's not true. But more and more, I think something like 50% of adults have bought something online now and if there's 300 million people in the country, that's a lot of people. That's a huge amount of people we can't ignore."

The Chastains agree. "We feel like it's important to not only build relationships up with stores, but to also build relationships up with people who enjoy our product. And I think Facebook is one of the best ways to do that," said Scott Chastain.

Entrepreneur Bunny Byrne of Thomasville Townie connects people with downtown Thomasville through her website and blog. "I'll put in little things like "Did you know?"

"Did you know you can have your picture made across from The Big Oak? Did you know there is a secret courtyard downtown where you can gave lunch? So you fun and interesting things about Thomasville that people may not know even if they're from here," said Byrne.

Byrne and downtown Thomasville were featured in last months Southern Living. According to a study done by Merchant Circle, 70% of all businesses are on Facebook.

"I mean it's great free cheap advertising. You know there's $1.99 e-book deal, here it is. It might only be $2, but it's reaching 500 people. Where as you sell a $2 book in the store and it may reach five people," said Katie.

Byrne says business owners in Thomasville all understand shopping local. She says they're all happy to support other people who are doing the same thing, even if they're not downtown. Local business, is local business.

Until now, Scott Chastain has sold to five schools in the southeast, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and Florida State. He says because of the immediate success Everfan is having, he's been awarded licensing for an additional five schools.

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