Don’t write Facebook off as one of these flyby social networking sites that’s used exclusively for attention seeking teenagers running the popularity race. Facebook is not just for keeping tabs on friends, filling out quizzes or playing FarmVille – it is increasingly being used as a highly effective business tool.

It’s great for marketing your products and connecting with your customers. Above all, Facebook makes your company approachable and gives it a personal voice – essential for today’s ‘real-time’ prospects.

Done properly, Facebook is a brilliant tool to earn trust – just remember to read the Facebook rules regarding business accounts. You can even build your Facebook presence by adding applications to integrate feeds from your blog and other social media accounts into your Facebook profile.

You can create friends lists such as ‘Work’, ‘Family’ and ‘Limited Profile’ for finer-grained control over your profile privacy, as well as post professional or business casual photos of yourself to reinforce your brand.

That’s the easy part over. How do you grow your Facebook fan base?

Fundamentals: Add basic information to the fan page such as links to company site, newsletter subscription information and newsletter archives

Create a resource: Post upcoming events including webinars, conferences, white papers, and other programmes/events

Join groups: It’s not all about you. Make sure you network with industry and alumni groups related to your business

Update: Make sure your fan page is updated on a regular basis with helpful information and answers to questions

Promotions: Run exclusive promotions on Facebook, such as discounts and package deals. Remember to link to your Facebook page from your company’s main site – this is free advertising

Contests: Giveaways and competitions are a guaranteed way to get more fans because they include participation – and help to promote your company and its products along the way. Some examples of things to offer: Coupons, free shipping, free products, weekly deals, factory tours etc.

Twitter: Tweet a few times about the fan page and watch for early spikes in fan numbers

Facebook widget: Add a widget to your company’s main site/blog sidebar so readers can easily and consistently become fans

Tools: Apps like HootSuite, which lets you publish tweets to Twitter and your Facebook page simultaneously, or NetworkedBlogs, which pushes blog posts to your Facebook page, help you keep your fan page fresh – that gives people a reason to become fans and keep checking back

Awareness: Add your Facebok URL to your e-mail signature and any marketing collateral (business cards, etc.)

Similar to Twitter, the whole point of Facebook is to generate more traffic (and allegiance) for your Web site and company. If your business is serious about blogging and tweeting – or social marketing in general – Facebook can account for a large proportion of incoming links to your site.

Many companies lack this level of dedication, expecting their consumers to find them automatically on Facebook. However, that’s not usually the case. The downside is that sometimes your Facebook page won’t grow. This can be a side effect of Facebook’s demographic. There are just some brands that will not have a strong presence on Facebook.

Above all, remember not to lose sight. Creating a Facebook fan page is simple, but getting it to work well takes time, dedication, and planning. Don’t expect to create a page and then have a huge following instantaneously. Build good content, make it easy to share, let people know about it, and over time the community will grow.

If your business has just created a Facebook page, why not list it below so readers on this site can let you know what they think… You might get a few new fans too, : )