Aspen businesses finding friends on Facebook |

Aspen businesses finding friends on Facebook

Katie Redding
Vail, CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Facebook isn’t just for friends anymore.

In the last several months, more and more Aspen businesses and nonprofits have joined the popular social networking site ” in most cases, assigning management of the site to a young staff member.

While the site isn’t a replacement for traditional advertising, local marketing representatives say it’s yet another tool to reach their audience. And because posted updates immediately appear on a fan or group member’s page, Facebook can be an effective way to make sure people receive a message.

“With Facebook you can be friends with your community. You get your message out to the community,” said Ellen Winter, the GrassRoots TV marketing and communications employee who helped the nonprofit join Facebook about a month ago.

Joining Facebook may be an obvious move for businesses. In just five years, the social networking site has grown from a Harvard dorm-room experiment to a phenomenon, with more than 175 million active users throughout the world.

Many Aspen institutions ” like Aspen Skiing Co. and GrassRoots TV ” say they had a MySpace page first, but now are phasing it out because of the site’s declining popularity.

Institutions usually join as a “group” that allows Facebook users to join, or as a “fan page” that allows people to become “fans” of the company or nonprofit.

However an institution joins, it gets a page on which to post photos and updates, as well as the option of creating a network. People who see a company or nonprofit they like on Facebook can join its page. And because everyone in a user’s network receives an update when that person joins, Facebook groups tend to grow exponentially.

For the Aspen Historical Society, joining the site last summer was an attempt to reach a younger demographic.

“It’s becoming a really effective way for us to get the message out that we’re not the old quilting bee kind of thing,” said Kip Hubbard, deputy director of the organization. “Strategically, we know we have to embrace a much younger audience for sustainability.”

The society has also begun posting wedding pictures with “tags” that will help brides looking for a wedding site find them, he said.

Having a presence on Facebook gives the ski company “a very direct way, almost an immediate way, of reaching people,” said Meredith McKee, public relations coordinator for the ski company. Every morning, she posts snow reports on the Aspen-Snowmass page ” as well as any other relevant information throughout the day.

And while several marketing representatives said they joined Facebook to reach a younger demographic, many also note that Facebook is rapidly gaining popularity among a post-college demographic.

“I guess I’m surprised every day at the number of baby boomers who are joining it,” said Winter.

The Aspen Historical Society’s Hubbard may be a classic example. Upon joining, he was hooked.

“I’m a Facebook lunatic now, but I wasn’t a week ago,” he said. “It’s trickling up.”

Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s: An American Restaurant and Bar (which joined Facebook six weeks ago), also noted that he uses Facebook to keep up with what is going on in the restaurant and bar industry nationwide. Using his personal Facebook page, he joins other restaurant sites to scout for information.

Still, businesses will have to watch out not to fall into the trap of sending “updates” just for the sake of keeping in touch, lest Facebook updates go the way of e-mail spam.

What’s next may be micro-blogging. McKee said the company has just joined Twitter, a site that allows the company to post tiny updates of 140 characters all day long. Guests can subscribe to a constant “feed” through the ski company’s Website, and receive instant access to Skico news ” via phone ” as it happens.

“We see that as almost the new Facebook,” she said.

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