18/10/2016 8:07 AM AEDT | Updated 18/10/2016 8:07 AM AEDT

How Facebook Can Help SMEs Grow An International Audience

Top tips for social marketing success.

Getty Images/Vetta
Facebook's new marketing tools can help SMEs grow their business internationally.

Budding global entrepreneurs no longer need to invest in costly marketing campaigns to be able to launch their small business internationally.

Social media platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have made it easier than ever for SMEs to establish and grow a global presence without having to outlay big bucks.

And with 1.7 billion users on Facebook alone, there's a massive customer base just waiting to be tapped into.

It's also the leading social media marketing platform with 92 percent of businesses and more than 82 percent of ad agencies report using Facebook as a marketing tactic, ahead of Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The platform recently launched new resources to help SMEs do business on Facebook, with the Lookalike tool specifically tailored to helping them reach potential customers in new countries who are similar to their existing customers.

Cool-Cabanas founder Mark Fraser turned to Facebook to market his business internationally.

Brisbane-based business Cool-Cabanas used the platform to grow internationally and is now looking to branch out on other platforms too.

Cool-Cabanas founder Mark Fraser said his business page now has 122,000 likes and attributes 95 percent of their success to Facebook.

He said he tried traditional methods of advertising before turning to social media.

"In March 2014, I had missed the Australian summer," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"As a result, I turned to the U.S. market due to its size and similarities to the Australian market. Initially we ran a Kickstarter campaign and engaged PR firms to give it a push along.

"I used traditional print media with the view of eventually wholesaling to retailers. My sales were not as successful as I'd hoped and the Kickstarter campaign, although successful in terms of units pre-ordered, ran at a loss."

By June, the demand was so large I had to stop advertising because the factory could not keep up."Mark Fraser

He said he turned to Facebook advertising in May, 2015 with an initial spend of $30 per day.

"I was hoping to make two sales per day with the objective of eventually growing to 10-15 units per day after 12 months and increasing my advertising spend accordingly," he said.

"I considered it a sideline activity which I'd pass to one of my children, but I targeted the U.S. market for their summer and saw the true potential of the business.

"The result was overwhelming. Each day I increased my Facebook marketing spend and within two weeks it was $3200 per day.

"By June, the demand was so large I had to stop advertising because the factory could not keep up. There was also no way I had time to send orders to the USA in containers by sea so instead used DHL to literally collect hundreds of Cool-Cabanas off the factory floor each day and deliver them five days later to buyers in the USA."

Fraser, who now sells cabanas to the USA, Spain, France and Italy, said he also tried advertising on Google to reach new customers.

"I started with a 50/50 split between Google and Facebook," he said. "I used Google Adwords (where people searching for "beach umbrellas" would potentially see an advert for the Cool-Cabanas website) but this was a "hope for the best" form of advertising.

Cool-Cabanas has customers all over Australia and the US, Spain, Italy and France.

"Being a beach product, my customer base was easily identified through Facebook. I could target my adverts to where the majority of key prospects live (Noosa, Bondi etc.), their interests (beaches) and other social demographics (age, parental status, income etc.) so it was easy to directly identify and reach my first key market which then easily expanded as the business grew."

Fraser, who runs all of his Facebook advertising campaigns himself, said in the first year of business, 95 percent of customers came directly from Facebook.

"In year two, it's around 60 percent," he said.

"The remaining 40 per cent is referrals, repeat customers and people seeing Cool-Cabanas on the beach."

His advice to small businesses unsure about advertising on social media platforms is to just jump in and "give it a go".

"You can start small, stop anytime, it's easy to learn then the longer you run campaigns," he said.

Depending on your spend you'll quickly create a database of prospects to follow up with."

Facebook's marketing tips

Identify key customer segments

For many SMEs, it's important to determine which audience segments you want to reach, and how to best connect with them. By segmenting your audience into distinct categories you can target each segment with tailored posts.

Design for mobile

With more than 1 billion people accessing Facebook on their mobile every day, it's increasingly important for business owners to ensure marketing campaigns are designed to be relevant on mobile devices. Video is proving highly effective on mobile, particularly when it is produced for viewing on mobile, where people often watch without sound and need to be hooked in the first three seconds.

Match overseas prospects with existing Aussie customers

The Lookalike Audiences Tool helps reach overseas customers based on a variety of traits that are most effective for growing your business.

Test posts in different countries

One posting strategy may not apply for all markets. Take time to test different ads and posts in different countries. Always keep an eye on the results, and ensure that these results drive business.

Extend your location targeting

You can target globally or by free trade area. When you select one of these options, Facebook will show your ads to people in the given locations and monitor performance. If your ads are doing better in certain locations, Facebook will then focus more of your budget on delivering ads to people in those locations.