Let’s make an immediate assumption. You’re already on Facebook, have more than 2,300 “close” friends, and generally know your way around the system. If so, you’re probably already familiar with Facebook Fan Pages – one of the easiest and cheapest ways to promote products and services on the web. In fact, all it costs is your time. You can use them for a whole litany of things. Celebrities, major brands, causes, and organizations all find ways to promote themselves. But, for our purposes today, let’s focus on small local businesses.

It helps if you’re already a member of Facebook and know your way around the system. Because you have to be a member to create a Fan Page to begin with.

Facebook is typically about linking up with friends, viewing each others comments and activities – which you follow in the news feed. A Fan Page is a little different in that it acts more like Twitter, where you can follow or “become a fan” of whatever the page is promoting. Once you become a fan, content posted to the page appears in your news feed. Ready to share!

So, if you have a small business looking for an easy way to stay in the consciousness of those who’ve actually chosen to follow you, Facebook Fan Pages are a great way to go.

The good news is that you can have a page up and running in a matter of minutes. The more challenging news is whether you should have a Fan Page in the first place.

Facebook Fan Pages require a certain level of commitment to be effective. Do you have the time to consistently supply posts to your page? Do you have a group of people who can participate to keep the page active?

Is your business even appropriate for a Fan Page? Example, do you have a small law firm that specializes in personal injury lawsuits involving Wii game accidents? Okay, here’s your first post. “We’re a law firm specializing in Wii game accidents!” Three people become fans. So, what’s your next post? Hmmm, “We have a nice office and friendly staff.” See my point? If you’re going to run out of things to say in a hurry, you’ll end up with a pretty lame Fan Page that no one will want to become a fan of.

What about the sub shop around the corner? Much easier scenario here. They could post daily specials and new menu items till the cows come home. (Where do those cows keep going anyway?) They could even get creative with contests, wish their “regulars” a Happy Birthday, and simply comment on karlsruhe things going on in the neighborhood for entertainment value. The brand of a serious law firm versus the brand of a sub shop are very different, allowing the sub shop to have a lot more freedom with what they do and say on their Fan Page.

So, if you decide to try a Fan Page, ask yourself these questions:

Is a Fan Page appropriate for my business?
Do I (or anyone in my employ or friends) have time to keep it active?
Do I have enough things to talk about to keep it active?
Do I really feel what the Fan Page offers will actually help grow my business.
If I do choose to run a Fan Page, how much interactivity do I want my followers to have? For example, you can control whether or not you want to give your followers the ability to comment to your posts.
If you decide to give a Fan Page a go, here are a few random tips:
Don’t repeatedly post the same message over and over again. Big turn off. Keep your posts fresh and relevant. Ask yourself, “Would I want to be a fan of my page?” Are you posting things people will want to follow?

Don’t make it “all about you.” Give your followers news they can use. Link to interesting articles, post videos, share interesting stories. The better your content, the more likely your fans will share your posts in their own Facebook news feeds. Oh, you can talk about yourself and your offerings, of course. But, perhaps try to keep it to every fourth or fifth post.

Be consistent. Try to post something at least every day. If you’re having a hard time keeping up, give others administrator status to post for you. And, if you’re really adventurous, give your fans the ability to post on your behalf.
The best way to decide whether or not a Fan Page is right for your business is to view some on your own. To find a variety to look at, just go to your friend’s profile pages. Click on the info tab of their profile and scroll down to see if you find a sub-section called “Pages.” If you do, click on the pages they follow to see what’s out there.
Oh… and be sure to connect your Fan Page to your Twitter account, so your page automatically posts to Twitter at the same time. Sweet!