By Mario Thomas, Managing Director, Chapter Eight Ltd

With over 500 million members and growing, Facebook is home to a lot of potential new customers for your business. Like any form of social media, you must remain 'social'. Using sites like this for the hard sell will not improve your business so it's vital you engage with your fans to build brand loyalty.

Ultimately, you are using these tools to drive traffic to your website and increase sales, so read up on the rules and be prepared to put the time in. Employ an experienced agency to handle your social media if you feel you don't have the time. As the work is effectively managing your business reputation, make sure all your staff are on board too. The more interaction the better!

A guide to using Facebook to improve your business

1. It's true, Facebook certainly isn't for everyone and that applies to business too. The first consideration should be, what do you hope to achieve from a Facebook group or page? If you are just starting one as you feel you should have one, it's best to look more closely at how you can use it to your advantage.

2. Always keep the communication two way, respond to those who give feedback or join in a conversation, encourage debate and opinions or use special offers exclusive to Facebook fans.

3. Forget the hard sell as Facebook isn't the place for it, your page should inform, educate and share experiences, helping people trust your brand and your services.

4. Always link your Facebook page from your company website and newsletters, maximum exposure and link backs are key and really help your search rankings.

5. Competitions work brilliantly on Facebook and are great for engaging with your readers about your brand. Encourage people to post pictures or videos of them using your product. We recently ran a 'win a pair of cuff links everyday' for our client Paul Costelloe, encouraging fans to state where they would wear their cuff links. This encouraged some entertaining answers!

6. The demographic for Facebook leans towards young people, teenagers in particular. This should be considered in your expectations about the return you will get from the activity you choose to do. Anything geared towards young people can be expected to perform faster and better.

7. Don't expect an instant following, these pages take time and effort to set up and maintain. Less fans but loyal ones are much better than thousands who don't care about your brand.

8. The aim with your fans should be to create 'brand ambassadors', you want people to really buy in to your brand and in turn tell their friends all about it. This word of mouth marketing is a fantastic tool but should be handled with caution — as quickly as good news spreads, bad news spreads twice as fast.

9. Make it personal. Get your staff involved in contributing to the page and interacting with customers. People appreciate this much more than a faceless customer service number.

10. Keep marketing messages to a minimum, people will soon switch off if it's all 'me, me me!' Make it about them and the rewards will come flooding in.

To discuss a social media strategy for your business call Chapter Eight free on 0808 208 0888

Chapter Eight is a full service digital agency, specialising in consultancy, web design, software development, hosting and emarketing. Co-founded in 2002 by Mario Thomas, Brian Lees and Andy Atkinson, the company is one of the fastest growing digital agencies in the UK and has an impressive track record of delivering more than 2000 digital, software and emarketing projects to date and processing more than £100 million ecommerce sales in 2009. Clients include Sock Shop, The Co-operative Motor Group, Berry’s Jewellers, Gulf Oil International and Charities Trust. For further information please visit www.chaptereight.com