As a media tool, your Facebook local business page is a powerful way to increase sales, expand your customer base and build brand loyalty.  Facebook allows you to interact with your customers on a more intimate, personal level, with near real-time response and results.  You can cultivate a relationship with local customers who are looking to do business with a locally-owned enterprise rather than a large, faceless corporation.

Because of the nature of social media, items you post on your Facebook page have the potential to be seen by tremendous numbers of people if they are deemed interesting or noteworthy enough to be shared.  This creates a powerful opportunity for virtually free marketing, for those who are thoughtful, creative and willing to put in a little time.  Here are eight excellent ways you can leverage your Facebook local business page.

1.  Reach Customers on Mobile

More and more customers are searching for your local business on their mobile devices, and Facebook is an excellent platform with which to do so.  Facebook allows users to search for people, places and things, negating the need to resort to an outside search engine.  Optimize your local Facebook presence by encouraging customers to check-in, provide reviews and interact with you on your site.  This will increase your showing in Facebook’s Nearby results.  Including a phone number on your page will make it easier for your mobile customers to contact you for more information.

2.  Announce Promotions and Giveaways

Facebook feeds are a great place to announce your local business’ promotions, grand opening events, giveaways and more.  Promotions and giveaways make for exciting, newsworthy feeds and will bring in new customers as well as keep regulars coming back.  Consider offering at least a weekly or monthly special and promoting it with interesting posts.

3.  Use Hashtags to Attract Local Customers

Just like Twitter, Facebook allows you to include hashtags in your posts, which will help people find you.  Connect with customers who care about shopping locally by including hashtags with the name of your town, city or county, along with hashtags like #shoplocal and #locallyowned.  Customers who follow these types of hashtags are generally committed to shopping locally and are terrific prospects for your business.

4.  Connect with Other Local Businesses

Connect with other local businesses through your Facebook page in order to reach more customers in your area.  Select businesses who are either nearby, compatible in nature with your business and/or share your standards of quality.  Comment on their posts, follow and/or friend them and they will likely do the same.  Mutual Facebook business referrals are a great way for like-minded businesses to help each other increase their customer base.

5.  Build Brand Loyalty by Engaging Your Customers

Consumers who spend a good deal of time on Facebook are people who enjoy engaging with others, from friends and neighbors to those with whom they do business.  Let them know you’re not just another faceless corporation by posting pictures, anecdotes and announcements of a more personal nature.

Encourage customers to comment and provide feedback on products and services, and to vote for whether a product or service should be kept or discontinued.  Customers who feel like they have “buy-in” to your business decisions will be more likely to become loyal fans who will return again and again.

6.  Promote Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert

Facebook is a great way to share informative news articles and research.  A good business owner stays up to date on the latest products and breakthroughs in their area of expertise.  Share these tidbits of information with your customers to show them that you stay on top of your field, and when they’re looking for answers, they’ll come to you.  It only takes a moment to post a link to an interesting article or news feed onto your local business Facebook page.

7.  Introduce New Products and Services

Every time you get in a new product or introduce a new service, you should make a point of promoting it on your local business Facebook page.  This will keep content fresh and timely, and keep your customers checking in to see what’s new.  Add photos, links to the product manufacturer’s site and more.  Not only will it help you sell more of the new product or service, it will impress upon your customers that you’re always expanding and improving.

8.  Run a Contest

Contest are fantastic for generating buzz around a business, and will add new and exciting content to your page.  Whether you get customers to vote for something or to compete against each other for bragging rights, the competition can really heat up.  You can run a friendly competition between your employees, or get your customers to test their knowledge about your business or their powers of observation — the possibilities are endless.  Just be sure to make it fun, and offer plenty of prizes and rewards.  Offering a discount on a service as a prize is a win-win for both you and the customers.

By using these eight suggestions for maximizing the potential of your Facebook local business page, you will realize a considerable amount of return for little investment!