Written by Bill Nunn

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Love it or leave it, Facebook marketing is now an integral part of all businesses' marketing campaigns. Even if you don't personally spend a lot of time on Facebook, your customers do (and not just the 18-34 year olds either!). It's an easy and not too expensive way to grab customers and even get them buying your product right from Facebook.However, it does take some time and planning in order to understand what will engage your customer the most, and in turn, convert them into customers, or encourage them to continue buying.

First things first: Personal page or Fan Page?

Personal Page:

Used only for social interaction with your friends and family. If you are a business owner, you can ask your customers to "friend" you, and then converse with them through Facebook. However, they are now potentially exposed to any personal information you put up there (like your nephew's frat party.) If you are very careful about settings, you can limit who sees your "friend's" posts, but unless you are careful about who you friend on a personal basis, best to use this for friends and family only. Additionally, this page is limited to 5000 friends.

Fan Pages:

This Facebook function is easy to create and was developed especially for business usage. Fan Pages can be very simple, or extraordinarily complex-almost to the point of replicating websites. Fan Pages can feature: Content, Contests/promotions/links to email signup/ e-commerce and much more. Fan pages are also public and aid significantly to Search Engine Optimization. In fact, depending on the size of your website, users may actually find your fan page BEFORE they find your website with Google.

Time does need to be spent to figure out content and posting strategies, but the 30 minutes a day can be worth it. However, Fan Pages are usually not a case of "build it and they will come." Usually, advertising must accompany a fan page growth strategy-and frequently the only way to start getting fans is to offer a free giveaway in order for a user to "LIKE" your page. Driving traffic to your fan page is accomplished through creating an "ad campaign" on Facebook (which is easy to do) and with low level of expenditures. Depending on your promotion, fans cost from $1.00 to $3.00 per fan to acquire.

So now that you know the basics of Facebook, what next? Here are some tips for what to do once you set up your fan page:

1. Logo or Photo - Giving your fans something to quickly identify your brand is always a good idea. Whether we like to believe it or not, a book with a nice cover sells more copies. A logo or a photo will be the first thing that your fans will notice so make it count!

2. Create a landing page - This is a great opportunity for a call to action. It's a good idea to ask your customers to "Like" your page and if you plan on holding a sweepstakes or giveaway, a "Like" is the perfect requirement for them to enter.

3. Information - One of the main reasons that Facebook has been so successful is that it is one of the best information hubs on the internet. Creating engaging and interesting content is key to both getting people to your Facebook page and getting them to come back. An interesting post or link to a good article 2-3 times per day is perfect for staying in touch without saturating.

The ultimate question is whether or not a fan page is worth the time, money, and effort it takes to create one. It can be, but the decision needs to be balanced against company goals and strategies and the time and budget available to manage your page. Facebook continues to prove itself to be a valuable tool for marketers trying to drive targeted leads to a site. It will help keep a brand relevant by consistently engaging with customers which is exactly what every company hopes to achieve. Don't put it off any longer - get your fan page up and running now.