When people ask me where to spend their advertising dollars this year I'm usually telling them Facebook.

Sure, there are plenty of other marketing platforms to choose from and lots of other ways to generate sales for your products or services.  Of course, Facebook isn't for everyone.  But c'mon - the social media giant has billions of users from around the world playing on it every day and more than 70 million small businesses owners like me have our own pages. Even if you sell just to other businesses and you don't think those businesses are active on Facebook, I can still guarantee that many of the employees at that business - people who make buying decisions - are.

This is why 2018 will be a big year for businesses advertising on Facebook. The company is making a tremendous push to attract more advertising dollars - particularly from small and medium companies. Advertising on Facebook is relatively inexpensive compared to other platforms and more tools are planned this year to make the process easier and more targeted.  So if you're thinking of giving it a shot, then here are five mistakes to avoid.

Mistake Number One:  Don't just give it a shot.

In business, as in life, you know that you get out of things what you put into them. The world of Facebook advertising is vast, complex and ever-changing. The benefits could be significant for your company but it's not going to happen in a day or after an hour of toying around.  It will take months - maybe even longer - before you've figured out the intricoes of the platform and how to make it work for you. 

You will make mistakes. You will fail. You will adjust. You will try again. You will fail again.  But if you're committed, and tracking the right information (see below) you will come to a firm resolution as to whether this advertising platform is profitable for your business or not. Commit to it long term and give yourself the opportunity to properly evaluate its benefits.

Mistake Number Two:  You have the wrong objective.

I've seen some clients go into their Facebook advertising adventures with the objectives of "creating awareness" or "generating more likes for my page." That's all baloney. Coca-Cola or Proctor & Gamble has billions to spend on creating awareness for their products.  But you're not their size.  You want your Facebook advertising to create only one thing: a sale.

The ideal Facebook ad is one that flashes your product in front of the right person who's ready to buy and who then immediately clicks through to your site and…buys.  Of course, we don't live in an ideal world so you may have to settle for a slightly lesser result: a lead. Regardless, you want your ads to generate a tangible, measurable result: either cash in the bank or valuable contact information from the prospect that your sales team can then use to follow up and try to close a sale.  I know that Facebook can be a powerful tool for customer service and engagement.  But in the end, you have to convert your spend into sales and that should be over-riding objective.

Mistake Number Three: You don't know your audience.

This is the secret sauce of Facebook advertising. There are billions of people using Facebook and you're just trying to target that sliver of prospects who are actually interested in what you sell. Facebook wants you to master this task and so the company provides tools for better targeting your prospects.  The problem is that they give you almost too many ways to do this.

For example, you can advertise to "core" audiences using things like location, interests and other demographic info shared by users. Or you can target "custom" audiences by uploading a spreadsheet of your customers and prospects that you already know with the hope that they can be found on Facebook.  Or you can ask Facebook to find "lookalike" audiences who are similar to your customers and prospects.

Don’t make the mistake of not thinking about your audience in advance. Before diving into Facebook ads, sit and write out a specific profile of your prospect and then be prepared to play with all of the audience choices Facebook provides over the next few months - or years - to determine which demographic is providing the largest return on investment for your advertising dollars.

Mistake Number Four: Your budget is way too low.

Your ad is not going to be just "found." There is no such thing anymore as "organic reach" in the world of social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Snapchat and the rest are publicly held companies that need profits to satisfy their shareholders and those revenues will only come from...you.  Sure, the bang for your buck should be much higher than if you were to be spending your money on television, for example. But you will be spending bucks - thousands of bucks - every month if you expect to reach the audience you need.

Be forewarned: you will be spending even more money on time.  Your time if you are crazy enough to spend the time required to really become an expert at Facebook marketing.  Or the time of a professional who you will instead hopefully employ to be that expert for you - but still under your guidance and supervision.

Of course there's no rule of thumb for how much you'll spend but keep this in mind: a recent study of marketing budgets by large companies found that, depending on the industry, companies spend anywhere from 4 to 24 percent of their revenues on marketing. A benchmark would be 10 to 12 percent of your revenues. That's $100K or about $8K a month if your business grosses $1 million a year. If you want results you better be prepared to spend.

Mistake Number Five: You're looking at the wrong numbers.

Dopey social media "professionals" (and I've unfortunately met my fair share over the years) track dopey things like "likes," "follows," and "impressions." There are dopey tools that can fool you into thinking that your one silly post on your Facebook page that received 6 comments had eight billion "impressions."  It's all nonsense meant to justify their existence and help them keep their jobs. You don't care about any of this. 

You care about sales and you care about leads. If you're using Facebook ads to sell your products (and good for you) then take the time to set up Facebook Pixels so you can track who's landing on your site, whether they're buying and what they bought so that you can retarget them (or people like them) to come back and buy again.  If you're collecting leads then use Facebook's Lead Ads where you can collect contact information for people that are interested in what you sell.  Sure, it's nice to know the "reach" of your ads or even how many clicked on it. But to me, that's all noise. I measure the ad spend vs. sales or leads generated to determine if it's worth it or not.  So should you.

So here's my takeaway: To me, Facebook has become one of the - if not the - best advertising options for small and medium sized companies for 2018.  If you avoid the above five mistakes you can probably make money there, regardless if you're a B2C or B2B business.