Facebook's advertising feature allows you to place small display ads in the right sidebar of the social network's pages and profiles.

The advertising platform works somewhat like Google AdWords. You simply bid for keywords based on Facebook users' profiles and compete to get your ads placed.

You can target your ad using a range of variables, including keywords, location, age, gender, education, relationship status and interests. You can also choose between a cost-per-click (CPC) pricing model, where you pay only for clicks, and a cost-per-thousand (CPM) model, where you pay per 1,000 ad views.

To start a Facebook ad campaign, you simply select the pricing model you prefer and then determine a bid per click and set a daily budget. You can choose whether you want people to be directed to your web page or to a page, aplication, group or event on Facebook.

Facebook puts a "Like" or "RSVP to This Event" button right in the ad so people don't have to visit your page to take action, although you can track them better if they do.

There's not much real estate on a Facebook ad. To be effective, the headline, which can be up to 25 characters, must grab attention immediately, and the body copy, which can be up to 135 characters, should describe and entice in succinct language. Select an image to accompany your ad for maximum impact.

With some 500 million active users, Facebook is a key platform for marketing businesses, brands, services, products and events. Facebook ads offer a great oportunity to attract more visitors to your website and to increase sales, membership, subscriptions and inquiries.