With over 1.49 billion active monthly users on Facebook, you may have heard that social media marketing is now a crucial part of any marketing strategy. It’s true. Your prospects and customers are already online, and they’re spending more time on social media than any other online activity – including email.

If you’re not present on social media you’re giving away an opportunity to be seen and heard by your audience. 8 out of 10 small to medium businesses use social media for their business to drive growth and 3 out of 5 of small to medium businesses say they have gained new customers through social media.

You may ask, “How does posting silly pictures and telling people what I ate for lunch help grow my business?” Facebook is indeed rife with its fair share of frivolous posts. But let’s look past all that and focus on the people behind those updates. Who are these people? They’re existing and potential customers.

Facebook provides the perfect environment for you to build relationships with these people, increase exposure for your business and attract ideal prospects. Facebook can be an important source for growing your business and nurturing fans into your best advocates.

Not convinced? Chew on this: Of all the major social network platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+, Facebook is by far the most popular based on sheer number of users. Over 890 million people visit the site every. single. day.

Still not sure if Facebook is right for your business? How about eight more reasons?

1. Strengthen Customer Relationships

There is great potential in a Facebook Business Page to strengthen customer relationships. Those businesses that are “out there” strengthening customer relationships are the ones that personalise a brand, establish a reputation, and build a tribe around their vision. According to a report published by Texas Tech University, brands who engage on social media channels enjoy higher loyalty from their customers.

With a Facebook business page, you can interact with customers in a way that they’re already familiar with in a place they already frequent. You are able to connect with your audience by opening up a channel for conversation, to hear what they like and get valuable feedback of their experiences.

People share their interests and activities on Facebook, and with your Facebook page they are able to stay up to date with your business through photos, videos and special offers and potentially share these with their friends. When someone “likes” your page or “comments” on a post, they’re showing that they are interested in your business and what you have to offer. This engagement can also potentially expose you to their friends. You have the opportunity to show customers what you are all about and attract your ideal prospects.

2. Increase Brand Awareness

While you’re making new connections and deepening existing relationships on Facebook, you’re also automatically generating awareness for your business free of charge. How’s that possible, you ask? Well, every user’s action on Facebook could be published to the News Feed as a story for more of the world to see. So anytime people “like” your page and/or any of your posts, this action could get published to hundreds, of their friends. This is a great reason to get out there and promote your great content, new product/service, special offers and events. Every post is an opportunity to get in front of tons of new potential customers.

For example, a person eating at a restaurant loves her meal so she posts to Facebook with a photo about how great it is also tagging the restaurant. She has 300 friends Facebook friends, and now that restaurant just been exposed to a portion of those friends with great praise, without spending a single dollar.

Then, of the friends who saw it, a few of them commented on the post with things like, “Great place!,” “I loved it too!” and “Their chicken wings are amazing!” It just so happens that collectively all of those people had 1,000 friends. A good portion of these friends could now be exposed to this post due to their friend’s engagement. Now you can see how these actions could generate a ton of buzz, and still not a cost a cent.

3. Drive Traffic To Your Business

People like to share on Facebook the products and services they like and purchase, thus advertising to their friends. There’s no better endorsement than the proof that your friends have actually bought it, used or liked your product. Because your friends trust you and have similar interests it is very likely that they will too will be interested in what you’re all about and will “like” your page. Also the “check in” feature on Facebook allows people to share when they physically visit your business, which is added exposure!

For example, that same restaurant customer “checks in” using Facebook and all of her friends now know where she is. Her friend Sally just so happens to be shopping at a store down the street, so she swings by the restaurant to meet up with her, which equals more business for the restaurant! Either way it is additional marketing for your business as generally speaking it is thought, “if my friend is there, it must be a great place as we have similar taste”.

4. Gather Insights

Facebook offers a great tool called Facebook Insights, which can be your new best friend. Built into the Facebook admin interface, Facebook Insights gives you lots of information about your fan base. It gives you a breakdown on where your fans are located, what cities and countries, what language they speak and the age groups of your audience. This allows you to target your content to suit your audience’s age group and interests.

Facebook Insights also gives you a breakdown of your “likes”, when they increase and when you lose fans, this allows you to see if you are losing fans and exactly when so you can investigate the types of posts you were posting around this time and perhaps this has an impact. There is a plethora of data in Facebook Insights that allows you to listen to your audience and understand more about the content your followers enjoy, so you can create more of what works.

There is a whole heaps of data just waiting to be found and analysed to help you build a successful presence for your business on Facebook, so be sure to go check this out if you haven’t already.

5. Gauge New Products and Services

Since happy customers make the best advocates, why not ask for their opinion on new ideas? Facebook is perfect for this. You can ask questions and solicit feedback, or do a quick survey. Not only will you find some great new ideas, you also get another opportunity to show your customers that you value what they have to say and have their best interests in mind.

For example: The restaurant owner thinks that Sunday brunch is a total waste of time and money, but his employees feel differently. He asks the question on Facebook and gets an overwhelming response from customers: We want brunch! He decides to keep his brunch offering, and posts a special discount on Facebook for all the fans.

6. Facebook Is Good For Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Having a Facebook page for your business can be an effective way to direct traffic to your business website and blog. Your posts, links and other activity that are contained on your public Facebook page can also give you an SEO boost if they are indexed by search engines.

With the speed of social media and new weight being added to information shared through social channels, having a Facebook page that is filled with rich content that is relevant to your business can help you boost your search engine rankings.

7. Your Competition May Already Be Here

I wouldn’t recommend taking action in any area of your business simply because your competition is doing it. However, when it comes to social media, not having a Facebook page or presence on other social networks can cost you opportunities, especially if your competition is using social media and using it well.

8. You Can Put Your Business In Front Of Your Customers Every Day

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of having a Facebook page for your business is the ability to have status updates, photos and videos, and other information appear in your fans’ news feeds once they “like” your page.

With more than 1.49 billion active monthly users on Facebook, an increasing number of consumers are using the site to find products, services and brands to solve their everyday problems. Facebook and other social networks now make it easy for potential customers to find you. And when they do, they are often more likely to remember your brand and share it with their own connections.

Ultimately, a branded Facebook page for your business can be a powerful and cost effective way to expand your reach, build relationships with customers and increase awareness of your business.