By Dave Pelland

With more than a billion average daily users, Facebook offers an effective, free (or low-cost) platform for small businesses to promote their products and services and to connect with customers and prospects.

More than 45 million small businesses include Facebook in their marketing initiatives, and although Facebook shouldn't be your primary promotional vehicle, it can be an effective complement to your existing marketing and social media efforts.

"About" Your Company

As you're creating or updating your small business page, one of the most important tabs is the "about" section of your Facebook page. That's where you'll enter a description of your business and its products or services. Be sure to make your company as personable as possible by describing your neighborhood, how long you've been in business, and other information that goes beyond what you offer, to provide insights about the people behind your company.

The About section is also a great location to insert the appropriate keywords that will make your page (and company) easier to find.

Targeting Businesses

Facebook has made a number of changes recently to make the platform a more effective tool for small businesses. Recent additions include, for example:

• Dedicated tabs that allow small businesses to highlight their products and services
• A mobile-friendly layout that's configured to be read easily on smartphones and tablets
• Call-to-action buttons that invite page visitors to call or message a business, shop, book an appointment, or take several other actions with a single click.

Together, these tools can make Facebook a more effective way to engage with customers and prospects.

It's important, though, to remember Facebook will complement (and not replace) your company's website. Relying on Facebook alone means you're ceding control of your online promotional efforts to another company, and leaves you vulnerable to Facebook policy changes that can make your page harder to find.

Promoting Your Page

Of course, for your page to provide the most value to your business, people have to find it. Some effective ways to promote your page include:
• Inviting in-store customers to "check in" or "like" your page by mentioning the page in your store signs, fliers or menus
• Including links to your company's Facebook page in your email newsletter, invoices or other promotional efforts
• Liking the pages of nearby businesses, which could encourage their customers to visit your page.

You may also want to consider investing in Facebook ads or promoted posts, which can provide a low-cost way to target customers and prospects who match very specific demographic or geographic criteria.

Include Photos and Videos

Because people tend to scan Facebook pages instead of reading every word carefully, it's important to include images that can capture their attention quickly.

For example, your profile picture can highlight you, your company's logo, your storefront, or another image that conveys your company's essence at a glance.

The cover image, which appears at the top of your page, can serve as an online billboard. Along with the image, you can provide text about upcoming events, promotional offers, or other information about your company that visitors could find interesting.

Similarly, it's a good idea to include plenty of images and videos in your newsfeed. You can provide pictures of your products, neighborhood attractions, behind-the-scenes images of your team members, seasonal messages, or other types of visual content that can attract attention and increase engagement.

Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates.