Doing business in an online world

Bill Jula of Bradenton started Fast Pitch in 2004 as a business that organized rapid-fire, face-to-face business networking events around the country — essentially, the speed-dating equivalent of a chamber of commerce meet-and-greet.

But the wave of social and business networking sites online caused Jula to quickly change his business model.

In 2006, he re-launched Fast Pitch as, a site where business people locally and around the country can seek out advice and opportunities from among their peers.

"You can reach out to anyone anywhere,” Jula said. “Maybe I’m looking for an accountant or an attorney and I can look them up and reach out to them right there. The biggest advantage obviously is the efficiency of networking.”

More businesses are ditching the newsletters and post cards and taking to the Web to get their message out to potential customers and forge potential business alliances.

Online advertising spending in the United States as a percentage of total media advertising spending is expected to increase from 9.9 percent to 15.2 percent, according to the e-Marketer research firm.

Experts cite greater efficiency and lower cost to reach more potential customers as reasons for the switch.

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