Facebook business pageOK, you’ve done it. You’ve started your small business. You have a great product. You’re making sales. Things are going well. But you can always use more customers, right? How can you continue to grow your reach? Wait, what? Your business isn't on Facebook. Insert head in sand reference here. But it's OK. We can deal with this.

Increasingly, social media, and Facebook in particular, is becoming a great, low-cost way for businesses to grow and find their next customer. The number of businesses that say Facebook is critical or important to their success has increased by 75%. Your business needs to have a presence on Facebook. “Why?” you say. “How?” you say. Just read on, my friend.

Why Facebook?

One of the keys to successful social media marketing—or any type of marketing, really—involves figuring out where your target market is and then going to them. With approximately 1.15 billionactive members, Facebook is the biggest party on the block. Still not convinced? Here are 5 facts that will convince you of the business value of Facebook.

  1. Internet marketing research firm EMarketer estimates that approximately 51% of all internet users visit Facebook at least once a month.
  2. 47% of Americans active on social networks say that Facebook has the greatest impact on their buying behavior. Last year that number was 24%.
  3. 23% of Facebook users check their accounts 5 or more times daily. Break out the abacus and let’s do that math. 23% of 1.15 billion is… carry the 5… oh yeah, that’s 264,500,000 people accessing their account. Every. Single. Day.
  4. 80% of American social networkers listed Facebook as their network of choice when they connected with a brand.
  5. In 2012, 77% of B2C companies acquired a customer through Facebook.

So, now you’re convinced, right? Of course you are. You’re ready to get started! It’s go time! How do you get started, though? Here are 5 steps to get you on your way.

Step 1: Create your business page.

Make a Facebook business page. Please don’t post your business material on a personal page. A Facebook business page has a number of advantages.

  1. It looks much more professional. Your credibility will suffer when posts about your business prowess are sandwiched between a picture of your dog and, well, a sandwich.
  2. Search engines index content on Facebook, helping search engine optimization.
  3. Fans can “Like” your business page.
  4. A business page gives you free analytics tools from Facebook. These tools will allow you to track your post progress and will give valuable marketing statistics.

If you haven’t already created a Facebook business page, you can do it here.

Step 2: Know your audience.

Now it’s time to think like your customer. Who will make up your target market? What do they like? When are these people active online? You can find this information through trial, error and research. Use Facebook’s Insights, the free analytics tools I mentioned earlier. Experiment with your audience to see when they are online and what they like. Be sure to measure the results so you can track your progress and develop your goals.

Step 3: Develop your goals.

Nice segue, huh? You’ll never be successful without first defining success. What is your overall goal with Facebook? If you’re trying to increase traffic to your website, think mid-day, mid-week.  Link-shortening service Bit.ly saw substantially higher click-through rates for links posted between 1 and 4 pm EST, with the highest rates coming on Wednesdays at 3 pm EST. If you want to grow your page through social sharing, consider posting on Saturdays. Marketing blog Kissmetrics found that Facebook shares increase on Saturdays at noon ET and 7 pm ET. With your team, come to a shared goal and then experiment to find the best way to meet those goals.

Step 4: Develop and implement a plan.

After finding a shared goal, it’s time to create a plan to help you meet that goal. Determine the type of content you will post and when you will post it. Find a voice for your business and stick to it. Map out your plan and decide who will implement which parts. Then put your plan into action. Monitor the results of your efforts in real time and make tweaks when necessary.

Step 5: Look good while doing it.

Show a little skin. Wave your little hat around. Sing a little song. Dance a little… well you get it. Show some personality. This is a chance to put a face on your business. Try to be helpful and entertaining. Ask questions and encourage conversation. Reply to comments to show you’re paying attention. While you still need to be professional, this is a network and an audience that won’t mind if you loosen that tie and let your guard down just a little bit.

OK, so as you I think you can see, Facebook offers a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to easily advertise to the masses. Now, I’ve got to get out of here and get this blog posted on Facebook.

(Image: lev radin / Shutterstock.com)