There's been a lot of nonsense talked about Facebook's new Promote button, about how Facebook is now stopping you your reaching your followers – whether personal or professional – unless you pay the newly publicly owned (and therefore now evil) company all of your hard-earned money. Here we cut through to the facts and show you how to use it successfully to better promote your business - or yourself to your friends if you're some kind of egomaniac.

“Facebook is now requiring business page owners to pay to have their status updates read by every subscriber. If we don’t, status updates only show up in less than 10% of newsfeeds, even though you have “liked” the page indicating you want to see posts from this page."

You may have seen this message shared by friends and those running pages you subscribe to. As someone who runs their own Page, it's worrying to think that suddenly your followers won't be seeing your posts – leading to lost commissions, less sales of your work and the like.

The thing is, nothing's changed. You haven't been reaching more than a select group of your followers since Facebook introduced the Top Stories mode as the default view for News Feeds. Aiming to make Facebook more useful to people who don't log on 10 times a day, Top Stories mode uses complex algorithms to filter posts that have happened since the user last visited, plucking out what it considers to be the most important updates.

What Facebook considers to be most important is worked out based on who and which Pages the user interacts with most – such as by clicking on links that you post, liking your posts, and posting on your Wall themselves – who and which Pages your friends interact with and the popularity of a page overall. If users haven't been interacting with your posts or page much since Top Stories appeared, chances are they won't be seeing your updates – and haven't for a while now.

Facebook's new Promote system essentially allows you to pay to force your updates onto the News Feeds of people who Like your page but otherwise wouldn't have seen the post. How much you pay depends on how many additional views your post will get, but from our experiments with pages across our parent company IDG UK, it's a modest amount. It's not a pittance, so you're going to want to choose which posts to promote judiciously – focussing on things that will deliver the best ROI, for example, higher-priced products you want to see or high-profile projects you want to tell everyone about.

So how do you use Facebook's Promote button?

At the bottom of your posts is a new drop-down menu called Promote. Click on this, then select how much you want to spend on the Promotion (you can change the currenncy shown under More options). You'll generally have a choice of three options based on how many extra people you want to reach. You may be surprised to learn that you can't just select to post to all people who like your Page – Facebook offers estimates that max out sometimes below your full quote, and sometimes above. Intelligently Facebook offers promotions up to an estimate of the maximum people it thinks your post can reach in the next three days once it discounts people who don't log onto Facebook that often or have manually selected not to receive updates from your page – and adds on the friends of those who have chosen to share your post that it'll reach in time

After selecting your budget, you need to pay. If you've bought Facebook ads before, your payment details are already set up, so hit Save. If you want to quickly pay from a PayPal account of credit card, hit Save then plug in your details. If you want to set up your payment system allowing for things such as VAT, click on the cog and then select Change payment method...

There are lots of options here, including the ability to limit which of your Page's administrators – if you have more than one – can access your credit card/bank account/etc to pay for promotions. It's a useful set-up if your admins include people you don't trust not to run up massive bills by promoting everything to all and sundry (or just posters from outside your company).

When you're finished, set your promotion live and watch the traffic/commissions/business come rolling in. Or perhaps not.

How to use Facebook's Promote button successfully

With such a new system, there's little evidence for or against the usefulness of Facebook Promotions. One train of thought is that for such a modest amount of money, using Facebook Promotions is a no-brainer. However, if they delivers no results, any use is a waste.

Contrary to this is the opinion that Top Stories is doing a pretty good job of ensuring people who are interested enough in your products or services to buy something or commission you get to see your posts – and you'd be better off spending the money on Facebook ads to collect new Likes or sell directly. However, as Facebook's algorithms take overall popularity into consideration, unless you have a huge number of followers – like Photoshop's over 1,000,000 Likes, for example – you'll always be at a disadvantage.

With each Promotion costing relatively little, it's actually quite easy to find out for yourself if Facebook Promotions work for you. Experiment, measure, then iterate (or stop). Try a few over the course of a month, then use Facebook's Insights and your own site's Analytics to see if it gets you more business (plus asking new clients/customers where they learned about you from). Modify your approach based on what works and what doesn't - or just put an end to it if you get nothing out of it. You might find it's better to Promote when you post get news out quickly, or it might be more successful to wait until some people have shared your post and then Promote to ensure you hit their friends too. Again: Experiment, measure, then iterate.