Facebook business page owners are well aware that their content is getting little to no organic exposure these days.

Without promoting posts or using Facebook ads, only a fraction of an audience will see content there.

But the question many small business owners are asking themselves is: “Do Facebook ads really work for small businesses?”

We asked around and found out what small business owners had to say about their experience with them so far.

Facebook Ads: The Backstory

Like any other business, Facebook needs to make money—and they way they do that is through selling advertisements.

Therefore, unless your posts are promoted, Facebook’s algorithm (that determines who sees what content and when) makes it so that your posts show up in very few of your audience’s feeds—thus encouraging businesses to take advantage of Facebook's advertising features.

The way the algorithm now works can be demonstrated like this: If you have a page with 10,000 likes, your average post may only be seen organically by about 300 people on average.

As of 2013, there were about 1 million small to medium sized businesses advertising on Facebook, with an average $0.27 cost per click (not too shabby, right?)

But how effective are Facebook ads for lead generation and actual sales conversions? It seems to depend on a variety of factors. Here’s what a few small business owners had to say.

Facebook Ads: Do They Work?

Not Best for Every Industry

For some industries, Facebook ads aren’t as effective as other channels. Joe Flanagan is a digital marketing director with Rank Easily, and said that for a plumbing company he works with, Facebook ads weren’t a good fit—due partially to the fact that users here weren’t in the right mindset to buy this type of service.

“Facebook ads only brought us a 1% conversion rate for this company, in comparison to the same landing page and copy as our Google AdWords efforts, which had a 3.5% conversion rate,” he said.

Part of a Bigger Strategy

Louise Hendon says that Facebook ads work well if they’re part of a complete sales funnel and don’t ask the audience to buy right away by directing them to a sales page. “It requires a whole strategy—not just bits and pieces thrown up,” she said.

Instead of trying to get a user to buy directly from your Facebook ad, Hendon explained that getting new people into your marketing efforts via an email opt-in means you’ll likely have a higher lifetime value—because you can nurture and develop the relationship over time.

Must Use Dark Posts

Kyle Reyes from The Silent Partner Marketing says that Facebook ads are extremely effective—but they must be done right.

'One of the best tips for running social media for a business is Facebook dark posts. I'm not talking about ‘boosting’ a post. I am talking about a way to highly target the niche market that you are going after. Facebook dark posts allow you to target consumers based on actual behavioral data,” he said.

Dark posts are ads that don’t appear as a typical post on your timeline—they are ads that only display to your highly targeted audience. Using dark posts, you get access to many more targeting options such as buying habits, behaviors, interests, financial data, charitable donations, and more to create an ad that is extremely specific.

Don’t Use Baseline Settings

Life Floor’s Director of Marketing, Dan Wade, says their startup has been diverting their previous Adwords budget into Facebook ads to take advantage of the high quality images, crosstab and geo-targeting features available with Facebook ads (and has dropped total digital ad costs by about 30% so far.) However, he says that a small business owner that’s not experienced with creating smart Facebook ads might struggle to see ROI using basic settings.

“We can experiment with Facebook ads because we have a dedicated marketing person. Simply using the baseline settings isn't likely to open the floodgates, unleashing a torrent of money on the average small business owner,” he said.

The Verdict: Do Facebook Ads Work for Small Business?

From what we heard from small business owners, it appears that yes, Facebook ads can be an effective means of leveraging your otherwise-quiet business page. But only when it’s used as part of a larger strategy and by someone who understands how to craft effective, relevant ads.

If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have the time to invest in really understanding how to use the full features offered by Facebook ads, hire someone who can.