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Visa Inc. today announced the launch of its social networking Visa Business Network, which is a group on Facebook designed to connect the 80,000-plus small businesses that are members of Facebook, a social networking site also used by 80 million individuals worldwide. Small businesses can join the network for free and do not have to have a relationship with Visa to connect and interact with other small businesses. Network features include a search function and such business tools as Google Calendars, document creation and management with Google Docs and Google Sites, which allows businesses to set up their own Web sites. The network also will have dedicated articles based on members' interactive discussions from Entrepreneur magazine and the Wall Street Journal, Alex Craddock, Visa's head of small business marketing, tells CardLine. Visa chose Facebook because of the large and growing number of small businesses using the Web site for networking, according to Raghav Lal, head of small business at Visa. Visa wanted to go to where small businesses already were present online, he says. Visa is marketing the network using television, print, radio and online advertising, including on Facebook. Visa also is running a promotion to give the first 20,000 U.S.-based businesses that join the network a $100 credit for Facebook ads.

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