Lydia Schuster believes in Facebook.
The photographer, and owner of Studio Seven, started her business solely on the belief Facebook would work for her.
"I decided to use Facebook because I had to," Schuster said. "I was looking at my friends list and I had 600-some friends. I've always gotten a lot of really good feedback from any photos I posted on Facebook on my personal page, so I talked to my husband and decided to take it to the next level."
The next level was the decision to start her Facebook business page.
"I started to do little incentives here and there, like the first person responding getting a free sitting fee," she said. "As soon as I put "free' in anything, people responded."
A baby contest really got Schuster's business going, though.
"I probably had 700 fans on my page when I started the contest," she said. "I don't even know how many I have now. It's well over 1,000. I had 75 baby entries and thousands of votes.
"That was overwhelming - just an overwhelming response with all that."
Facebook is not only a way for Schuster to grow her business, but it's her portfolio.
"Facebook is personable enough to where people are really nice when they are on your page," she said. "But it's impersonable enough for where people don't have a problem going to the page and looking at your photos."
Schuster said she thinks people look at Facebook pages for photographers now instead of their websites.
"It's definitely worth my time and effort," she said. "I have a website, but I don't update it. I don't update it ever. I set it up originally where a portion of my pictures were there, but with Facebook, it's so nice to upload and post to my wall, and then everybody looks at it.
"If it wasn't for Facebook, I would have probably an eighth of the business I have now."
Schuster isn't the only one in Fulton using Facebook to grow business. She's just one of many who are using the social networking tool. Businesses and organizations from churches to not-for-profits to restaurants are using the site.
For example, American Family Insurance agent Megan Holterman uses her Facebook page to update customers on tips for fire safety provided by American Family.
Virginia McCoskrie, owner of Smockingbirds on Court Street, started a weekly giveaway on her Facebook page.
"People have to comment on the photo to enter their name into the drawing," McCoskrie said. "Since I started doing the drawing, I've had more people become fans of my business page and ask to be friends on my personal page. I've seen it grow dramatically."
McCoskrie also said she's seen familiar faces in her store.
"I've started to see people in the store who I saw on Facebook and I knew were visiting the page," she said. "I hadn't seen them much in the store before, but now they're here."
Jody Paschal, owner of Gidley's Shoes, agreed Facebook has helped his foot traffic.
"I get a lot of comments on the Facebook site, and it has helped a lot," Paschal said. "It really helped modernize the store and bring people in."
And bringing in people for holiday shopping motivated businesses such as Center Court Office Supplies to ramp up their use of their Facebook page.
"We use it to update our customers on what is new in the store and promotions we are having," said Constance Oliver, owner. "I like it because we can react quickly. We can decide in the morning that we want to do a promotion of an item. You can be flexible any day that you feel like you want a little more business."
Oliver said the networking aspect has helped the store.
"If I become a friend of our page, then my friend sees it and goes to look at the page. That person might not even know about our business," Oliver said. "Plus, it lets us reach out farther than we would normally. This town isn't that big, so we're always looking for a new way to reach out."
The Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce uses its Facebook page to promote other local businesses.
"The advice I got was that PR and media is no longer a one-stop shop," said Kristen Zeimet, public relations and membership director of the Chamber. "You have to do multiple things. You can't just send out a press release and expect it to reach everyone anymore.
"There is an entirely different generation out there using Facebook. You still use newspapers and radio and television, but this new generation wants their news fast and at their own convenience."
Zeimet said she hopes this helps the Chamber stay relevant.
"The Chamber of Commerce is all about networking," she said. "And this is where social networking is headed, so we are doing it to keep up and stay up-to-date."