It’s Facebook Friday — each week we’ll offer one tip for leveraging Facebook to increase customer awareness of and engagement with your brand or business.

Some business leaders might wonder if Facebook will continue to be worth the investment as new features raise the cost of doing business there, but there are compelling reasons why your company should consider making room for the social network in your advertising budget.

The clear shift toward encouraging companies to pay for consistent customer outreach has raised some eyebrows. How do you decide which option for promotion is the best one for you? And are you sure that these advertising options are worth the cash? Here’s why Facebook should still be an essential part of your strategy, and some tips on how to best to leverage the growing list of Facebook advertising options.

Uncertainty in the System

In an effort to better serve its general audience, Facebook created an algorithm called EdgeRank to make sure that people see the most important content first. The system judges several criteria — including affinity, weight, and time decay — to decide what gets shown to a particular user. Among other things, that means a post that doesn’t have many Likes or comments might appear lower in a news feed than a post that has generated a large amount of activity. As a result, a company’s posts could get trumped by more popular updates from other people.

Just understanding the methodology of EdgeRank can help your company craft more noteworthy status posts, but there are few ways to double-check that your content is appearing as you expect. That makes leveraging Facebook a challenge sometimes because with so many unknown variables, it’s difficult to accurately assess your engagement.

Facebook’s changes to offer a new suite of paid options aims to help clarify some of the unknowns. For example, a Facebook Ad gives your brand more control over targeting your desired audience. Or if you’re worried that a post announcing a major deal or contest will get lost in the noise, you can promote that status and be sure that it always stays visible.

Money Talks

For better or worse, you’ll need to start amping up the budget for your Facebook presence. Whether you offer deals to your followers or are simply running a Fan Page, social networks are essentially a marketing tool. As with any other marketing venture, you get what you pay for.

The best way to look at the sudden changes is that you now have more opportunities to connect with customers on a well-populated platform. The variety of options for advertising and promoting your brand’s name means that you can adopt a tailored strategy that will work best for your industry, your audience, and your budget.

A counterpoint to consider, however, is that if people notice their News Feeds becoming dominated by one or two major brands, they may start to distrust those companies. Too much emphasis on advertising in your Facebook presence can make your business less relatable and less trustworthy for the people you want to reach. Try to find the right balance between promotion and desperation in your ad volume.

Compare and Contrast

The good news is that there are success stories for brands using Facebook’s new options for paying to connect with customers. The bad news is that it’s hard to know if your company can replicate that success. Depending on your company’s situation, it may require some trial and error to figure out your ideal setup for promoting content without spending too much.

Before you break out the checkbook, make sure to consider your goals for advertising on the network. Clearly define what you want the ad to accomplish so that you can select the right service. Also, make sure you have some hard numbers prior to launching a marketing venture. You’ll want to be able to analyze how well your ads perform, and you can’t get accurate “after” data without the “before” stats for comparison.

Look at whether your audience is responding as you expect to a given advertising push. You will probably find that different types of content need different styles of ads, so if you aren’t sure about the best option, look around. Read some of those success stories or just peruse successful Facebook Brand Pages to see how their customers behave.

It’s In Their Hands

Despite any concerns or complaints people may have about the network’s options for businesses, remember that Facebook isn’t the sole factor in your engagement. At the end of the day, the success or failure of your social media campaign comes down to the customers.

Funny online videos went viral in the pre-Facebook days without any paid promotion. Organic sharing of content is still the goal for most items posted to social networks. Any money your company puts into social media advertising should be aimed at bolstering that natural spread of content by increasing the chance that somebody influential will see your material and pass it along.

While a financial investment can be a huge help, it’s still up to your business to supply posts and statuses that are worth sharing. Make sure you have a voice and style that are appealing to your main demographic.

Has your brand tried out Facebook advertising? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Tax Credits, Ryan, Allison Johnston, Michael Coghlan, Eddi]