A friend of mine asked if I could explain how to use Facebook for marketing purposes. This is an interesting question because you really need to use Facebook for a while before you really get it. But I’ll take a stab at explaining it.

When all is said and done, marketing on Facebook is a lot like marketing anywhere else. If you start trying to interrupt people, you’re going to get lackluster results. Basically, you’re going to get ignored unless you can provide a relevant message or experience.

But, as a company trying to gain some mindshare, there are a few things that you can try.

1. Build a “Page”

Difficulty: Low
Potential for Results: Low

For lack of better terms, Facebook has what they call “Pages.” Users can create a Page about anything, but they tend to mainly be about companies, products, movies, musicians, and sports teams.

After you create a Page, Facebookers can “Become a Fan” of your company or product. Depending on how much effort you want to put into this, you can push updates to Fans and allow for discussion and some other items to be posted.

In my eyes, this is pretty ineffective unless you have a really popular brand or if you’re willing to put in the elbow grease to create a lot of great content for your Page. Is your brand a religion? If not, then you’re going to have a Page best described as a “ghost town.”

2. Build an Application

Difficulty: High
Potential for Results: High

This is probably the best way you can get Facebook users’ attention, but this is the most difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

A Facebook application is a program that you develop on your own web server that allows for a richer experience on Facebook. Usually, the best applications tie into the social nature of Facebook itself. For example, iLike has a Facebook application that automatically shares what users have recently listened to in iTunes. Users can also dedicate songs to each other and meet people who are going to concerts in the area.

The first difficulty is in first coming up with an idea for an application. Let’s face it: your brand may or may not be a good candidate for this sort of thing. A great place to start is to brainstorm if there’s a way to mimic your product or service on Facebook. If your product already has a social nature to it, then it should be easy to figure out a good way to represent it.

The next difficulty is in building the application. You’ll likely need to hire a talented web programmer to build something for you, and then you need to maintain and improve your application over the long haul.

A word to the wise. An ideal Facebook application will bring attention to your brand, but it also shouldn’t intrude on or annoy users. Think of a Facebook app as a passive entity that subtly keeps users thinking about your brand. Or it extends a service that you already offer. In other words, it probably won’t make the sale for your business, but it does buy attention.

3. Socialize on Facebook

Difficulty: High
Potential for Results: Low

The last approach is to create a personal profile on Facebook and reach out to people in the network that you build. You can’t create a profile as a company, so you’d need to be a representative of your company.

The problem is that Facebook is a haven for people that don’t like to be interrupted. If you take this route, expect to work hard for few results. Most Facebook users are not interested in wasting their time on people that they don’t know.

There is even a term for it: Facebook whores are people with massive friends lists, filled with relationships that are either nonexistent or very shallow to begin with. I don’t think that you want to represent yourself that way professionally. But it is your choice!

Am I missing any ideas? Is your company a candidate for Facebook? Feel free to ask questions or discuss in the comments.