MerchantCircle is reporting that 70 percent of small businesses surveyed are now saying that they are jumping on the Facebook bandwagon in 2011. This is compared to 50% for 2010. That puts Google (66%) behind as an online marketing channel for the first time in this annual survey.

The fact is that Facebook (once you familiarize yourself with it) is cheap and easy to use. Although with the recent changes taking place there have been cries of despair with people begging Facebook to bring back some old features. (Chronological wall posting is a big one).

So how do you make this work if you are challenged with time and budget as all small businesses are?

First, decide how you want to use it. Don’t just get into it without thinking about what you want out of it. This is way way easier said than done. You actually have to stop and think. Just ask yourself what the best possible outcome could be and work from there.

Second, decide if you have the kind of employees or support system to make it happen and build some momentum. You can get started by attracting friends to your page but the problem with that is they are not your customers. If you have a decent email list you can put a link to Facebook on every email you send and ask for a Like. This may also be the time to consider Twitter and a blog. Twitter is a different animal for customer acquisition and you can leverage it to push those people onto your Facebook Page. The blog matters because it gives you another outpost for content and allows you to go beyond short messaging. Anything that can help your customers in terms of informing, inspiring and entertaining is what you are after. You have to think like a media company. That is what we all are now.

What About Facebook Ads?

We know for a fact that they work very well for the right business. If you are in a business that is driven by relationships, like the jewelry business (think weddings, valentines day, anniversaries), we know it works. Because you can drill down into a target group within your buying radius that is either engaged or married, you can advertise to them very effectively. We have seen jewelry stores generating on average 80-100 qualified leads per month using Facebook ads. And sales are coming with those leads.

Managing a Facebook ad campaign is simple, affordable and flexible. You can turn the ad on and off at any time and set a daily budget.   Creating an ad is easy too.  Although it does require some creativity and some things work better than others.  If you have the right business you can make it work.  If you need help with Facebook or would like more information on how you can leverage social media to build your business click here.