Last Thursday the BBC revealed a ‘shocker’…

The Conservative Party have been spending around £100,000 every month on Facebook advertising. In September alone last year they paid £122,814.

You could almost hear a collective gasp of surprise across the UK.

Except this isn’t really as shocking as you think. In the new digital era, social media advertising is as much a fact of marketing life as billboards, TV, radio and direct mail.

Like it or not, if you want to get across your message, Facebook is a brilliant way of entering into the daily lives of your prospects. When you get on someone’s Facebook feed, you share the same space as their close friends and family.

Matthew McGregor, a former social media advisor to Barack Obama’s campaign team, told the BBC: ‘The Conservatives are spending their money in a way that gets their content in front of people. The fact they are outspending the Labour Party many, many times over because of the support from millionaire donors is going to have an impact.’

As McGregor says, it’s all about ‘getting content in front of people’.

What he didn’t say was ‘getting adverts in front of people’, although that is possible with Facebook too. But the key to successful social media marketing is delivering valuable and useful information that gets the attention of your prospects.

This is why I’d urge you not to listen to the unrelenting moaning from various eMarketers and online business pundits.

What’s getting them in a tizz is an announcement from Facebook last November. They said that as of this year businesses cannot organically grow their follower base on Facebook without paying for this reach.

It means that even if you’ve built up hundreds of followers, only a fraction will get to see your posts… unless you pay for an ad.

Now we could kick up a fuss about this like the many whining bloggers out there. But the fact is, Facebook is a publicly traded company. It needs to make money for its shareholders. While it can’t charge people to use the platform, it can charge businesses to reach new and existing customers.

That seems fair enough to me. A businesses cannot run on air!

Those same moaning marketers are also claiming that ‘Facebook ads don’t work’ or questioning how effective its ‘reach’ is for small business.

So what should you do?

Well, you could panic and ignore Facebook entirely, or get upset and decide to boycott it forever. But here’s my recommendation…

My panic-free Facebook guide

Look, the Tories aren’t spending £100,000 a month for fun. While politicians are happy to waste money on champagne and first class trains, their teams are very exacting about their marketing spend.

They use Facebook as a tool to develop trust and loyalty with their potential voters – and bring the political story into the personal space of their voters. It’s another element to a marketing mix that includes TV, radio, press releases, direct mail, email marketing, billboards.

So this is how you should approach it too, even if you’ve no budget…

1. Getting your business onto Facebook costs nothing. You could do it right now, for free. You could offer all kinds of incentives for people to ‘like’ your Facebook page and share your posts: try prize draws, free giveaways, discounts, special reports… or simply share great videos, links, articles, photos and stories that tell your business’s story.

2. If you are running a blog, curating information or using other social media platforms like Twitter, it’s not much effort to update your Facebook page. Share the latest fascinating, funny and useful information that you’ve seen. Make sure it’s the sort of thing people will enjoy reading, ‘liking’ and sharing with others in order to stay in contact with your followers.
3. Yes, only some of your followers will get your posts in their feed. But others WILL. What’s more, it’s not as if your page ‘disappears’ because you don’t pay. People can and will visit your Facebook page and be able to read everything. It is, effectively, a second website for you. So it’s not worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater…

4. Think of promoting your online business like an investment strategy. Rather than put your eggs in one basket (ie. ONLY use email marketing or ONLY use Facebook), you should have a digital media mix that includes things like: an updated blog, an email newsletter, social networks like Twitter / Pinterest / LinkedIn / Facebook, plus mail drops, email campaigns, pop up adverts, affiliate deals.

So while everyone’s running around in a panic about the latest Facebook rules, you can carry on with this element in your marketing mix without losing sleep or using much time, cost or effort.

If you have an existing business and want to test out for yourself whether Facebook works for you, then give it a go and see.

There’s no fixed price: it all depends on your budget. You can use the ‘boost post’ button on your Facebook page to get a set of options from which you can pick the one that suits you.

Or you can go to their advertising page and choose an option.

I have no idea what the future will be for Facebook marketing for new and small businesses. They will keep tweaking their business model as they see fit. But for now, anything that keeps you in contact with prospects and customers is a good thing.

I will keep you informed!