I’ll admit, at times, I feel a bit addicted to Facebook. Personally, it’s my way to stay connected with family and friends all over the world. Professionally, it’s a way for me to learn about new trends, keep fresh within my industry and network. What I love most about this social media platform is that it levels the playing field for businesses of all sizes. Facebook is for everyone, even the small business owner. Facebook is a place where we can all compete for that piece of the perverbial pie.

Last month, I presented a Facebook workshop for small businesses (http://www.slideshare.net/MelissaHarrison/using-facebook-to-promote-your-business-12671710), providing ideas and examples of how to use Facebook to grow your small business. Setting up a small business Facebook page gives you access to reach an untapped audience with eye-popping graphics and pictures, personalized icons and milestone markers to share your small business’ triumphs.

Below are my top three tips for using Facebook to grow your small business:

1. Announce yourself

Tap in to all Facebook has to offer by using graphics, photos, apps and milestones. Tell your story through visual elements to engage your community. Determine what your brand identity and brand voice is—make those apparent to all who visit your Facebook page. Facebook business page timelines give you plenty of options to showcase the birth and progression of your small business. Your cover photo and about section should really make a statement about your business:

Cover photo - make it bold! Use pictures from events. Capture emotion. Your organization’s purpose and objective is upfront and center. Need ideas? Check out 1-800-Flowers, Athleta and Caribou. Note there are guidelines on what can and cannot be featured on the cover. Another key piece: change it up now and then, based on season, event, or message. Keep your fans interested in coming back.

About section - be specific and brief. It’s a perfect place to put your organization’s mission, tagline, purpose and Web address. Nike uses this spot to inspire and support their target consumer.

2. Go beyond the “like”

It’s not enough to set a numbers goal of “x” amount of followers. It’s about quality, not quantity. Go beyond the “like” and start having engaging conversations with your followers. Provide meaningful information on your Facebook page that will keep people engaged, interested and coming back for more.

Milestones – share them. Where did the idea of your organization begin? What hurdles did you overcome? Successes, funny stories, new team members. Create a familiarity, a persona.

Featured Apps – create energy! Icons draw the eye to this space. Topics encourage the click. Pictures, blogs, promotions, new ideas, membership sign-up, or even an online store. Livestrong uses apps to call action: share a story, listen live, vote, view photos.

Stars, Pins, Highlights – put it at the top. Just like the post-it notes I put on articles, documents, or maybe even a candy bar that I’m giving to someone saying “Check it out” or “Way to go,” these “add-ons” are your way of telling viewers “Hey, listen up! Big news!” Starring or highlighting posts draws special attention to a topic, expanding it across the top of the entire timeline. Pinning puts a topic at the top for seven days. These features are perfect for special offers, new photos, and links to recent PR articles.

Posts – be consistent. Keep them short, specific and pertinent. Being “liked” on Facebook builds your stage for your message. Sort of like a music concert: audiences stick around when the act is entertaining and beyond expectation. Use caution: just because you have a stage doesn’t mean every performance will be stellar. Make your posts informative and interactive.

3. Track your successes (and failures)

Don’t just post for the sake of posting. Have a goal that relates back to your full business plan and track the success of your Facebook page. Use Facebook analytics to get a sense of what type of content is most appealing to your audience, when they’re most likely to be active online. The goal is to create two-way engagement that results in ongoing interaction. By analyzing the interaction and sharing of posts, links and followers, you will understand your audience’s interests and habits.

Facebook is the perfect medium to share your brand’s story visually and literally. Share links to your website, promote events, create online contests, but be real and engaging. Most importantly: Forget about push marketing. Using Facebook is like being invited into your customers’ home—use the space wisely and respectfully and you’ll reap great rewards.

Melissa Harrison is CEO and chief strategist at Allée, a marketing and creative services company outside the Twin Cities. Melissa’s areas of expertise include content management and strategy, branding, PR and social media. Melissa is a national speaker on topics of branding, content marketing and strategy. Connect with Melissa online at www.alleecreative.com, on Twitter (www.twitter.com/alleecreative), Facebook (www.facebook.com/alleecreative) or LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/melissaaharrison)