As a small-business owner, you probably don't have the resources that a large corporation employs for online advertising campaigns, but social media consultant and author Brian Carter says that even solopreneurs with limited funds can gain the competitive edge in this vast cyber-arena.

"For years the Internet has provided us with the wildest opportunities that haven't been very competitive or expensive," says Carter. And with all of these options available to us, Carter is most passionate about Facebook advertising.  "It provides us with the biggest opportunities—it's a great place to profit," he says.

"Advertising on Facebook is the biggest opportunity for businesses large and small," Carter says.  "What Facebook advertising does, which is great, is to allow you to reach a TV-sized audience, locally, nationally and even internationally, and still target it the way you would in any internet marketing campaign, yet start with just five bucks a day. To me it’s revolutionary because businesses can reach an audience they couldn’t have ever reached before."

If you've jumped into the Facebook frenzy, like millions of business owners, by creating a Facebook page: congratulations—but that simply isn't enough. "There are a lot of problems with pages," Carter claims. Recently, he combined efforts with EdgeRank Checker and found that the average page across 4000 pages is only reaching 17 percent of their fans. So if you have 100 fans, you may only be reaching 17 people with all of your hard work! "The downside of the page is that you're not visible to all of your fans," says Carter.

Like any marketing campaign, it's apparent that you need a strategy before you launch your page. So how can a small business benefit from what Facebook has to offer? Here's what I learned from my conversation with Carter. And I'm learning much more from his most recent book release, The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook.

  • Combine your Facebook marketing plan...
    ....with the strategies that you are best at. If you're good at e-mail marketing, for instance, use Facebook ads to get more e-mail subscribers. If your website converts traffic really well, use your page to drive traffic there. Always plug into what you already know works well for your business.
  • If you're growing fans through Facebook advertising...
    ...get people to click "Like" right on the ad. You will get a lot cheaper fans that way than if you send them to a fan page through your ad. If you run an ad that sends people to a custom tab because you want to get an opt-in, that's the same thing as sending them to another website, and you may not want to do that. Not everyone will put in their e-mail and click like so you are dividing your efforts. Decide first if you want fans or e-mail subscribers. If you want fans, don't send them directly to a custom tab.
  • Think of your page as a social e-mail.
    There's a chance that followers will see your updates in their feed, but you have to really capture them within your first few posts. There are parallels to e-mail in this strategy; not everyone will open them. If you get a 30 percent open rate, you're doing great. On Facebook you can use the same strategies to do really well. The difference is that with e-mail marketing you don't want to send out e-mails everyday or you will lose your subscribers.
  • If you're not sure...
    ...whether the greatest benefit will come from sending people from your ad to your site, your Facebook opt-in page, or gaining fans through prompting them to click "Like" right on the ad, test them all! See how much it costs you to acquire a fan, and how much traffic you get from those fans, versus the cost of acquiring an e-mail and the ROI on that e-mail address.
  • Engage with your fans in your posts.
    Don't make every post a call to action. You want to turn the folks who like your page into true fans of your brand.
  • Boring Facebook pages won't get you far.
    If your business isn't something that most people would consider exciting, like culture, lifestyle sports, animals, dating, kids – or anything that people get gushy about—go the opt-in route rather than the fan marketing route.  If your business is attractive to many consumers, use pictures in your ads to entice them to click like. If your brand allows you the creative freedom to toss in a picture of a puppy, cat or baby, you’re golden! People will click on your ad.
  • Remember one of the key differences...
    ...between using AdWords and Facebook advertising. That is, in order to generate revenue through online advertising, you must reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time, with the right offer. It's possible to do this with AdWords and Facebook ads. The main difference is that AdWords is about fulfilling demand: finding the small set of people who are ready to buy, or very close to it, and capitalizing on finding people at that stage of the sales funnel. With Google you are targeting people by what they are looking for. With Facebook  you are targeting them by who they are and what they like. These are people who are likely to buy from you at some point which is a larger group of people. There's more sales potential overall. But be careful not to spend too much money on people who are going to wait three or four years to buy, unless you have a sales cycle that is naturally that long. But you may be able to get them to buy sooner than they would have by posting enticing posts or with compelling conversion practices on your website.
  • Facebook page insights...
    ...can be a great resource to learn about your audience. You'll find this tab on your admin panel on Facebook in the left hand column. Look at the graphs that tell you how many people are liking you per day, how many people are talking about you, sharing your posts, etc. Notice what type of posts get more engagement than others and create more like them. Know your audience, put yourself in their shoes and engage them!

In light of Google's new Search Plus Your World, I couldn't resist asking Carter if he thought Google+ will give Facebook a run for its money anytime soon. "Google+ can become big if it becomes more sticky—if we can enjoy using it more," Carter says. "Right now it's all the early adopters on Google+. It's not really an opportunity for most marketers because there is not enough of a general audience there. Google+ has to be more fun to use to attract that audience. Search Plus might be a strong-arm tactic to try to force it to happen faster."

He continues: "It certainly could be a big deal at some point but there are phases of adoption of something new—like Facebook was in 2009. There aren't enough people on it in this phase to do any real marketing. But once it reaches enough adoption the network effect happens. You can reach more than half of the United States with Facebook ads, and Google+ is just not there yet."

 

Join me on Monday, January 23 on Toginet Radio, where Brian Carter will join me to talk more about how small businesses can make money on Facebook. If you can't make the live Million Dollar Mindset broadcast at 2pm eastern, download the podcast anytime after 4 p.m.