Facebook Inc. visited downtown Minneapolis Thursday to offer social media marketing tips to small- and mid-sized business owners.

About 400 people attended a morning session of the “Boost your Business 2015” event. Facebook expected about as many people to attend the afternoon session.

Facebook Director of Small Business Jonathan Czaja (a Rochester, Minn. native) and a panel of Twin Cities small business owners and executives offered advice on using the social network giant’s tools to boost sales and draw customers. Czaja said:

  • Tell an authentic story. Czaja pointed to a plumbing company owner who wanted to promote the trustworthiness of his staff. He focused on humanizing his employees, partly by using Facebook post to highlight their hobbies. In one case, he touted a worker who does needlepoint work in in his spare time.
  • Focus on people you care about. Businesses can use Facebook’s tools to reach specific demographic groups or to market to previous customers. A geographic targeting feature also lets businesses push ads to people who are — or were — near a business.
  • Measure results. Facebook offers conversion pixels that let businesses track how many people came to their websites through a Facebook ad and how many made a purchase.

Panelists also weighed in with tips and stories.

  • Take advantage of private groups. Amber Gunn Thomas, founder of The Patchery, used a private Facebook group to get feedback from family and friends on products before launching the startup. The group has since expanded to about 600 people, many of whom are big now advocates for her brand.
  • Engage with your audience (and find opportunity in a Jimmy Fallon slam). The Herbivorous Butcher got some attention last year from the late night host when he criticized the store’s meatless-meat concept. Fallon never called out the business by name, but company officials found a way to make the most of the joke. Ryan Strandjord, Herbivorous Butcher’s chief marketing officer, posted a picture of Fallon to Facebook that called the host “too scared to try” vegan meats. The posts activated the “vegan swarm,” Strandjord said, and generated a lot of press coverage.