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Topic: Marketing
Featured Expert: Shelonda Stokes 
Question: Should I use Facebook to market my business?

  The keys to marketing success are basic - define, promote and distribute your product while maintaining a good relationship with your clients.  And with 200 million active users, Facebook allows you to do all of that - FREE.   So, should you use it to promote your business - absolutely.  But like all marketing tools, you should be smart about how you leverage it.

The two main fears in using Facebook are audience and exposure.  The original Facebook audience was college students.  There has been a significant increase in Facebook users over 25, with ComScore reporting an 181% increase in users in the 25-34 year old demographic and a 98% increase from those 35 years and older. So the paradigm is definitely shifting to a more business/career minded audience.  As for exposure, understand that everyone you allow to connect with you on Facebook can see all of your postings and pictures.  So keep the secrets, private photos and unflattering information off of the site.

If you do decide to use Facebook for professional networking, here are 5 suggestions on how best to utilize it:

1. Create a Page for your business. Your Facebook profile for you as an individual user has a limit of 5,000 friends.  With a page, you collect Fans instead of Friends, and the number of Fans you can have is unlimited. Pages allow you to post events and keep all your Fans informed.  

2. Build relationships. Engage in conversations with your prospects and customers.   Learn about their likes, dislikes and goals.  Adapt your marketing and business services to meet their needs.

3.  Increase Visibility. Consistently post relevant information and present yourself and your business a thought leader.  Becoming the resident expert on a topic can increase visibility and credibility in your area.

4. Target your niche. Facebook members volunteer vast amounts of information about themselves that you can readily access. These kinds of demographics, psychographics, and technographics would previously have cost fortunes to access. Harness this information to do targeted marketing.

5.  Use the resourcesLeverage the Facebook tools and applications to support your business direction.  If you sell goods, the Marketplace allows you to sell your products to your network or if you're in the event industry or use events to promote your business, use the Events Application to advertise and promote special events to your network.