Facebook and other social networking sites are without doubt a growing phenomenon, and finally businesses seem to be embracing its potential. There are many ways to advertise on Facebook but we are going to focus on the free methods available for businesses in this article.

Firstly, it is important to understand that there are different ways to feature on Facebook. As an individual, you create a profile. As an organisation, you create a page, or a group. Pages can be added to individuals’ profiles, whilst groups can be joined by an individual to show they are a ‘fan’. This allows you the chance to promote through loyal subscribers, customers etc by appearing as social stories in their profile whenever they take an action on your page, or within your group.

Many businesses are now using Facebook to grow a community of loyal customers and followers, and the viral effect of this interactivity is paying dividends for some. For instance, Coca Cola has wel over 600,000 fans of its page.

A page is like a website; however, pages also have additional features such as allowing your fans to post photos, write on the wall, take part in polls, submit videos, review your company, have discussions and more. Each time an individual interacts with your page or group, a note will be posted into their news feed, which is also sent out to their friends if they have that option switched on. In this way, your page is constantly promoted in ever-widening circles and you begin to grow a community.

Facebook polls are a really useful way of targetting potential customers, as you can target using a wide variety of demographics, eg location or region, interest, age, sex and much more. And polls are always popular with users and can be fun, silly, or for more serious marketing and market research purposes.

Facebook offers users the chance to join “networks”, and hence belong to a community. These can be regional, by school or University, by company and much more. Finding a network which your group or page can join will bring it to the attention to those in that network. If there is no geographical network for your region and it is a region with a sense of ‘patriotism’, it may be a good idea to start a campaign to get Facebook to add that network on its next update. This is a great way of bringing people into your pages and learning about your business or organisation.

You can also create a business network for your business, but this is most successful if you are a large company and/or well-known brand. Otherwise, you may find that your network only has a few members and this can do more harm than good.

Facebook may have been banned from many corporate networks and employees, but there are slowly signs of this changing as businesses realise the benefits of having a presence in front of such a large and dynamic audience.

Promoting your presence on Facebook in other marketing material can also bring it to the attention of your customers who may be curious about Facebook anyway, or already a member.

It is also a good idea to take a look around Facebook and search for complementary groups or pages that you could join, who will then in turn promote you. It really is amazing what you will find and you may discover a target audience for your products who you can engage with by offering a small prize competition or special offers if they visit your website.

There are many millions of potential customers out there waiting to hear about you, and using the free business services offered, there is no reason not to begin to tap into that market for a very small percentage outlay of your marketing budget.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.