Last updated: February 19. 2013 2:24PM - 125 Views

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It started with an injured rescue dog, $125 in cash and an old silk-screen machine.

Inspired by the dog, David, Donny and Darren Hendrickson used the money and the machine to launch an online skateboard and apparel company that donates a chunk of its profit to animal causes. To raise awareness for their endeavor, the 25-year-old brothers -- they're triplets -- turned to Facebook.

Hendrick Boards managed within a year to accrue more than 28,000 likes on the social media website and has expanded to dozens of designs on t-shirts, skateboards and accessories. Facebook has enabled the Fullerton, Calif., company to find 150 shelters to donate to across the country based on its customers' ZIP codes.

It's the driving force behind our outreach, David Hendrickson said.

Using social networks to connect with customers is nothing new, but it's continuing to grow. It seems like nearly every business, from Wal-Mart to the mom-and-pop shop on the corner, has a social media presence of some sort.

Nine out of 10 small businesses surveyed recently by online business directory Manta.com said they were dedicating time to networking online. More than 11 million businesses maintain personalized pages on Facebook, according to the Menlo Park, Calif., company, which introduced them five years ago. And new social media outlets keep appearing for businesses to figure out.

For those that aren't savvy on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other small-business organizations are holding workshops to get them in the know. In addition, a cottage industry of consultants has sprung up to guide them.

Facebook has a digital classroom to help businesses develop eye-catching advertisements and promotions and build up their online community of followers.

We know time is one of the most limited resources that small business owners have when they're trying to run their small business, said Dan Levy, director of global marketing solutions at Facebook. But at the same time, word of mouth is the most trusted source of referrals, and we think that providing word of mouth at a much larger scale can be a really effective way to grow a business.

Checking into a business through a social media site, such as Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, is the modern equivalent of talking about it with friends. But now the conversation includes feedback from the company itself.

Businesses have a lot more to think about on social media sites than just likes and check-ins. There are tricks of the trade, such as how to word tweets, time posts and reveal attention-grabbing giveaways.

For Hendrick Boards, figuring out the best way to use social media was a bit of a rough ride until the Hendrickson triplets received one-on-one training from Facebook employees about best practices on the site after winning a contest from Facebook and American Express.

We've grown up with Facebook and, yes, we are social media savvy, David Hendrickson said. But there's so much more to learn.

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