This morning, Facebook became a publicly traded company. CEO Mark Zuckerberg rang the opening bell for the Nasdaq and trading of Facebook stock began at $38 per share, then rose as high as $43 per share before settling down (presently) at $40.

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. This week we’ll take a look at the Facebook IPO and survey the news from this morning, then share what we think it means for businesses and brands trying to connect with customers through social media.

Facebook Stock: Providing Context to the Numbers

As we said, Facebook peaked at $42 – 43 per share today, and it’s unlikely to fluctuate much for the rest of the day.

That values the social network at $116.6 billion, 5 times as much as Google at its initial public offering. Granted, Google is now worth $200 billion — much more than Facebook — but Facebook is coming out of the gate with the biggest tech IPO valuation on record.

Facebook going public has placed Mark Zuckerberg’s personal worth at somewhere around $21 billion, and it has made billionaires of many investors — including U2 frontman Bono, who is now the richest musician in the world.

How the IPO Events Went Down

Zuckerberg had the honor of ringing the Nasdaq opening bell from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA in front of a crowd of cheering employees. A video feed of the event was live-streamed online and recorded for posterity. As soon as Zuckerberg rang the bell, his Facebook status was instantly updated with him listing Facebook on the Nasdaq.

This was a fun trick put together by Facebook engineers, who spent two days devising a contraption that would update Zuckerberg’s status automatically the instant he rang the bell. The plan was approved by the CEO himself.

However, even though Facebook trading was expected to begin at 11:00 AM EDT, but it actually began about 30 minutes later. Once the ball started rolling though, everything went smoothly. The stock has been more or less stable between $38 and $43 all day so far.

What Will the IPO Mean for Brands Using Facebook?

Though it’s difficult to predict the long-term effects this will have on Facebook’s user experience or its offerings for businesses and brands, the two things we’re sure you can count on are more services for business users and more opportunities for advertising.

Facebook has demonstrated many times that it considers businesses and brands its customers, and consumers and their data its product — not the other way around. The company’s business model is to use the personal data it has on individuals who have profiles on the site to offer powerful marketing and advertising tools to businesses. Most Facebook users don’t look at it that way, but it’s the reality.

We don’t know what these new features and opportunities will look like yet, but shareholders will definitely put the pressure on Facebook’s management to seek new ways to create revenue — and that revenue mostly comes from businesses, not personal users.

Was this tip helpful? Do you have any more ideas for getting the most out of Facebook? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credit: bfishadow]