For many years now social media sites have been great for business owners who wanted to have their name shouted from the rooftops far and wide, and all for a very reasonable price compared with more traditional press advertising campaigns.

Sites like Facebook are still great places to advertise, but what if your business is not in the market to attract national or international customers? What if you are a sole trader with a very local physical business, maybe a shop or service that you only offer to local clients?

This is the exact question my friend asked of me last week. This is my friend Claire who has recently embarked on a plan to supplement her family income by taking in ironing at home for a small fee.

Claire has started putting her plans into action, and by simply using word of mouth she has picked up three clients from within her own circle of family and friends. This is great news for her, and as she already knows her new clients very well, they will prove to be prompt paying, reliable and generous customers. However, she still needs to attract a few more regular clients to make it worth her while financially.

She is also lucky that another of our friends is a very talented graphic artist who is busy designing a logo, flyers and business cards for her for free, and Claire also lives on the edge of a new housing estate with lots of 2 bedroomed houses filled with busy workers who commute to Bristol, Gloucester or Cheltenham each day. A few well distributed leaflets will surely bring in more custom for her.

With all these wheels in motion, Claire may not need to step into the world of social media advertising to get her small business off the ground, but maybe further down the line in the future she may have to take the plunge.

What is looking promising is the recent introduction of ‘local awareness’ advertising on Facebook, and if Claire decides to take on more clients in the future as her family become a little less dependent on her, this could be the perfect solution for her needs.

The innovative step will see local business posts being targeted to users wherever they go. For advertisers, the new tool will make it more cost-effective and easier to set up than regular advertising, and their advert will be shown to Facebook users in their area.

This new approach to advertising has already been rolled out in the USA, and is already showing great results, and also shows great promise for the many small businesses in the UK who depend on local custom. Facebook have also tried to keep everything as simple as possible by offering a tool to use so that you can create your own advert, and have made the process very quick and easy to use.

Eventually, we will probably be able to see a complete showcase of local businesses and services that are relevant to us and our particular tastes, and all available on our doorstep. Many social media study groups believe that this sort of advertising will be taking over from small adverts and classified listings in local press, especially when you take into consideration the sharp decline in newspaper sales in recent years.

For many small business owners, trying to market your shop, products or service is just one of many daily duties to tackle, so anything to make it easier to advertise to local people will be a welcome option. Also knowing that you can target your advert to those people who would be interested in what you have to sell will really make the best use of your tight advertising budget. The trouble with blanket advertising in newspapers is that it will often be ignored by a large part of the readership because it may not apply to them, but you still have to pay the same advertising rates as the next person, no matter how different your businesses are.

Looking at my friends new business for example, she may have to spend out on a small advert to go into her local paper to attract four or five new clients for her ironing business. However, she really needs her clients to be within a close radius for easy pick up and delivery as she has to factor in her petrol costs and the wear and tear of her car into her charges. She would be looking to pick up clients from her local town that is on her doorstep rather than someone who lives miles away on the other side of the county.

With the new local awareness advertising on Facebook, Claire can narrow down the area of coverage to suit her needs, and how far she is prepared to travel to reach her clients, for example a 1 mile radius around her house would be good to cover the new housing estate down the road that has lots of potential for busy commuters looking for an ironing service. I am sure that if I were looking for someone to do my ironing for me, I wouldn’t want to put my trust in someone who was based miles away from my home, so it makes perfect sense for clients too.

With the new Facebook ads you can even choose the gender and age of your target audience if you wanted to, so this would be great for a specialist locals shop selling women’s fashion or baby clothes for example, and even the local barber shop could set their target towards men only, offering a discounted short back and sides cut for their first visit! This will also mean that adverts that are not relevant to you will never be cluttering up your timeline.

I like the new way that social media marketing tools are focussing on the individual and local based business. It is a great step forward for Facebook, and shows that they have been listening to their business customers who have been asking for a long while about the possibility of scaling down their advertising options to suit local businesses.