Using Social Networking Sites Like Facebook and Twitter to Promote Your Business
Facebook is primarily a social networking site where people can setup personal profiles to share information, photos, and interact with friends online. Businesses are not allowed to setup a personal profiles, but they can setup a "Facebook Page".
As Facebook describes them Facebook Pages help you discover new artists, celebrities, businesses, and brands as well as connect with those you already love. Not only can you connect with your favorite artists and businesses, but now you also can show your friends what you care about and recommend by adding Pages to your personal profile. Please note that only the official representative of an artist or business is allowed to maintain a Page for that figure.
What types of Businesses Would Benefit from having a "Facebook Page"?
If you are a musician or band that plays shows you would likely benefit from having a Facebook Page. Destinations like bars or restaurants might benefit if they are popular enough to generate enthusiasm from Facebook users, Similarly, if your company hosts events, or has a lot of sales -- a "Facebook Page" could be a great way to communicate that information with users of Facebook. If you already have a personal page as an individual and have lots of supportive friends and relatives, you can suggest that these people become a "Fan" of your business page.
For all the positive elements of having a page on Facebook, you should also be aware of the risks and limitations. Facebook is not geared directly towards businesses. People can't become "Friends" with a business -- they can only become a "Fan". Having a Facebook Page is unlikely to improve your Google pagerank as Facebook content requires a login and thus is generally not spiderable by Google. You should be aware that you could potentially have negative comments or complaints posted to your page. Additionally, you also have little control over how a "Facebook Page" looks and feels. Note, unless you have a dedicated following in real life, you may have some difficulty getting "Fans" to join your Facebook Page. Facebook is a great way of communicating with existing customers, but not such a great way to get new customers -- since they are not likely to become a fan of something they've never heard of.
Finally, if you have a website or web based business -- you should focus your attention on getting updated, interesting and informative content on your primary website first -- and focus on Facebook second.
Twitter is a social networking site where people share short information and news about themselves - there is 140 character limit on Twitter updates. Those updates get posted to your Twitter page, and they may also get sent automatically via text messages to the cell phones of people who are signed up to receive your Twitter updates (depending on their own Twitter preferences).
Having a Twitter page could be very useful for a business that wanted to send out updates about sales or upcoming events.
You should note that unless your business has valuable updates to provide, such as sales or real events, there may be little value to setting up a Twitter page. Text messages may get generated to the cell phones of customers (potentially generating a small fee to the cell phone user), so you definitely want to avoid sending out non-essential information of little value that might potentially annoy your customers.