American Express OPEN recently did a survey of 763 small business owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees and found that nearly 60 percent of their members feel challenged when finding innovative ways to market, but only 10 percent are even marketing through online social networks like Facebook, Twitter and, according to a story on AOL Small Business.

More businesses are finally starting to wake up to the social networking potential. Facebook, in particular, has become invaluable. As The Los Angeles Times recently put it, “The free social networking site — blocked in many workplaces as a potential time-waster — is increasingly becoming an inexpensive marketing tool for small businesses.”

It may sound crazy, but the goal should be interacting with your customers and adding value to their lives, and then the money will presumably come. But if you actively try to directly profit off Facebook users, if that’s your sole goal, you may wind up being sorely disappointed, suggests Jeff Widman, a marketing expert whose specialty is helping clients create Facebook pages (his clients include, and Microsoft BizSpark, and you can follow him here on Twitter). “At the end of the day, if success is interacting with your clients, Facebook is a great way to do that. But if your goal is strictly to make more money, Facebook isn’t a good way to do that.”

Why? For starters, people don’t enjoy being sold to. Facebook is about relationships. Start the hard sell on your Facebook friends, and soon you won’t have any friends left.

Photo by Facebook.

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