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Is Facebook Really Important To Your Business?

There are probably many business owners out there who are still asking whether the hype around Facebook is worth paying attention to, or whether it's just the next fad.

Let's turn that question around. Is having direct access to hundreds of millions of potential customers important to your business? If you answered yes, then yes, Facebook is important to your business.

In case you've missed the global phenomenon that is Facebook, let's first define what it is. Facebook is a social networking platform. It's an online software application that allows people from around the world to connect with each other, for free, and share information, photos, events, and ideas. Because it's free to use, it's also gained a huge global following in the few short years that it's been around, and it's become as important to advertisers and business people as it is to the people who use it for social networking!

The first step in using Facebook to market your business is to sign up for a free profile. This is recommended whether you're new or whether you already have a free profile, and here's why: many people share personal information, stories, or embarrassing photos on their personal Facebook profiles. If you're using Facebook for business purposes, you don't want your clients, colleagues and compatriots to see those less than flattering items, so it's always best to have two profiles - one for work, and one for play!

Once you have a profile, you're going to want to start using the networking potential of Facebook to your advantage. The first step will be to find and 'add' your existing customers, suppliers, colleagues and other business associates. That way, you can start posting information in your status updates.

Next, it's a good idea to look for groups and pages that are related to, but not competing with, your core business. This will mean that you can post links and information from your website on the group or page's 'wall' without being guilty of spam, or annoying your competitors. You might want to add friends that you find on those pages and groups too, that are interested in whatever it is you're involved in making or selling.

By now, you should have a fairly substantial network of friends, colleagues, acquaintances and associates, and it's time to set up your own pages and groups. Pages and groups are essentially a little like a mini site or blog for your company that appears within the main Facebook platform. You can post information on your business there, links to your site, interesting news stories, and anything else you want to share. You can also start discussions, run competitions, and do all kinds of other promotion. As the page and group administrator, you also have control over who is a member of your site, and whether they can comment on your news items, and you can remove any offensive members or comments.

I'm sure you're starting to see the value of having a Facebook marketing plan already, and the best part is that all of this, up till now, is free. You won't pay a cent to join Facebook, connect with people, groups and pages, or start your own.

There is, however, another advertising option on Facebook, and that is the paid advertising. Unlike pages and groups, this works on a pay per click basis - every time a Facebook member follows your link, you pay a small fee to Facebook for hosting your ad.

However, there are still benefits to this type of advertising. The first is that you can set your budget. If you're just testing the water, this can be as little as a few dollars, and as you progress, you can increase the amount. The amount you pay will determine how often your advertisements come up every day.

The second, and more important benefit to pay per click advertising on Facebook is that unlike search engines, where you only control the geographic area and keywords that determine who sees your advertisements, with Facebook, you can target your ads to a particular city, gender, age group, marital status and other target markets. So, for instance, if you're selling clothing aimed at young woman from a store in Chicago, you can target your advertising so that only women aged between 15 and 35, in the Chicago area, see it.

It's this kind of specialised service that has made Facebook so popular, and it's this type of targeting in terms of advertising that has allowed Facebook to become a multi billion dollar company.

Whether you opt for the free advertising and marketing methods that Facebook offers, or choose a paid for service, there is no doubt that Facebook connects your business with exactly the people you want to connect with, and every business owner should be paying attention to the social networking revolution!