You are probably thinking, as a plumber, is there any benefit to my being on Facebook, or any other social networking site for that matter?

According to a study from O’Reilly Media, there are 140 million people who use Facebook, a social networking site that invites users to connect and share.

Of that incredibly large number, more than half are out of college, and will, at some point, be in need of a plumber.

Social networking sites have become a key component in business marketing, as more and more people share life events, opinions and service recommendations on the web. And, while there are a host of social sites on the Internet, Facebook has proven to be a powerful middle road between the youthful, personal MySpace, and the high-end professionalism of LinkedIn.

Making a Facebook “Page” is the easiest and most effective way to establish a presence on the site. Even though there is an option to establish a Group, visitors must join Facebook in order to see your information, potentially limiting your audience. While Groups are great for personal use or smaller scale communication, Pages are better for brands and businesses that want to interact with their customers. Pages are customizable and personalized, and fans of your Page will be automatically updated when you make any changes.

Facebook Pages are indexed by search engines, such as Google, so that your company and name will appear when searched online and people will be directed to your Page. This searchable Facebook listing will also increase your online visibility as a whole.

Step by Step
Like a personal profile on Facebook, a Facebook Page allows you to provide information about yourself, your company and your services. You can have fans, pictures and a space for you or your fans to write comments (called a “wall”). Your “wall” can also be used for company news, promotions, sales, updated hours, services or contact information.

To start this process, go to Select “Home Service” under the “local” banner. You can then name your Page, most likely the name of your business. It is helpful to post pictures of the work you have done, if available. Before and after pictures tend to be the most effective in showcasing your work. Another great way to enliven your Page is to ask for testimonials from satisfied customers. Asking them to write a quick positive note on your wall, or even on their own, can direct more fans to your Page.

Find Your Fans
Growing a fan base for your Facebook Page is the only way to grow your identity on the site. Fans grow virally. Once a person becomes a fan of your Page, their fan status is shown on their Page and also suggested to their network of friends. This can lead to an expansion of fans on your site.

Once you have established your Page, be sure to join Groups in your industry and invite customers, acquaintances, friends, family: anyone you can think of to become a fan. Another way to gain fans for your Page is to announce your presence on Facebook by placing your affiliation on your business card. Invite clients to be a fan when you perform a service. You can also offer special discounts and offers to Facebook fans, such as an extra 5 percent off their bill or a free extra service, so they are more likely to become fans and attract others to your Page.

Take caution to not hard-sell your fans with too many updates and messages, as they always have the option to block you. It’s better to establish a regular schedule of updating your Page with useful information for your customer base. The frequency of updates is up to you and can be as infrequent as monthly or quarterly or as often as weekly. Updates can cover new promotions, quick, do-it-yourself tips, or even ideas for a seasonal service that may become necessary as the weather changes.

As online marketing becomes the main venue for business growth, joining and marketing your company through Facebook is a free, effective and easy way to gain more exposure for your business. Once you become well versed with Facebook you can also evaluate their paid advertising options as well. You shouldn’t expect Facebook to be your next great source for leads but it is one piece of having an effective online marketing strategy.

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