I didn’t sign up for Myspace when it was at the height of its popularity, and since I’m not a professional musician or a teenaged girl, I really don’t have any use for it now. I held off on Facebook until I realized that my aunt had a Facebook page, and I wasn’t about to get technologically lapped by the previous generation. I don’t blog, and I refuse to tweet. As a techno-geek, I’m somewhat of a failure.

However, if I was the president of my own business, and I wanted to find a good and free way to communicate directly with my customers, the Internet has a wealth of opportunities. I’m not talking about having your own Web site, as everyone should have one of those by now. Even the idea of an online store is expected for anyone with a product to sell.

An e-mail database and a newsletter is a good start to reach out to consumers, though newsletters are prone to getting stuck in spam filters and never reaching their intended targets. If you’re running a retail store, a clipboard next to the cash register with a note to get people to leave their e-mails will help, as will a sign-up form on your Web site. The ones I receive tend to be weekly e-mails with news, new products and the occasional coupon, which comes in handy.

A Facebook page and a Twitter account is an extension of that idea, only instead of sending something once a week, you can send a short message to your customers several times a day (not that you should; once a day or every couple of days is sufficient). If you’re running a store, sending a Facebook notification or a tweet about your daily special is a great way to steer customers into your store. If your batch of smoked turkeys turned our particularly good today, brag about it online.

If your business lies in primal cuts, ground product or RTE products, you can send recipes, meal ideas or news about your company. Take time to promote your products’ health benefits if it’s all-natural or organic, or tout your humane animal-handling practices.
Will this lead to increased sales? Not necessarily. However, it’s another avenue to get your message across, and all it requires is a little Web savviness and a little effort.

Incidentally, if you want to follow along with our Twitter account, go to twitter.com/natprovisioner and stay up to date with industry news, features and, if you ask National Provisioner editor Andy Hanacek nicely, fantasy football advice.