BEND, Ore. - Hundreds of small business owners gathered in Bend Monday for a Facebook "Small Business Boost" workshop.
It was a packed house at The Riverhouse as Facebook representatives and Rep. Greg Walden shared with the business owners the importance of the social media giant.
At the workshop, participants learned how the site is becoming a key bridge between businesses and their customers.
"For a small business, with a potentially small marketing budget, Facebook is the best tool that they can use to really find those people who really matter to them," said Krupa Patel, a small business expert for Facebook.
Walden said he was pleased that about 250 High Desert business owners attended the workshop.
"I think it's really important to help small businesses grow and take advantage of new opportunities that are out there, especially in the social media world," Walden said.
There was also a panel discussion that featured four local businesses who have had recent success using Facebook. One of the panelists was Jacq Smith, the online community manager with JEM Raw Organics.
"The key is just using it more strategically like we did recently, and then we were able to see some growth in sales, and just a more louder, interactive fan base," Smith said.
Another panelist and business owner said her business wouldn't be where it is today without Facebook.
"It has been just a huge avenue for us to let our fans know, not only when we're getting new inventory, but any time we have an event or occasion even going on in downtown," said Katie Schulz, owner of The Blvd.
Even Walden has found the social media site to be an effective tool as an elected official.
"We learn a lot from what people post on Facebook," he said. "We are also able to distribute information a lot, so it's a great two-way communication tool in the modern era of social media."
Both JEM Raw Organics and The Blvd have had a presence on Facebook since 2010, and are looking for ways to continue to improve.
"We know that the future of our marketing is Facebook, and it's using online platforms," Smith said.
"We're always looking to learn new things that can help turn the dollar into two, three, four, five dollars," Schulz said.
Currently there are more than 25 million small businesses using Facebook to connect with their customers. Overall, there are more than 1.2 billion users on Facebook worldwide.