As a small business owner, you probably have heard that Word of Mouth can be the most powerful form of marketing strategy. But do you know that, in today's highly connected world, Internet referrals - a.k.a "Word of Fingers" - can be even more powerful?

Before technology became prevalent, word-of-mouth was one of the best ways to bring in new customers.  Nowadays though, verbal communication is harder to come by because everyone is so “plugged in.”  From Facebook to Twitter to Linkedin, it seems like people spend more time online than not.  Which brings up an important thing to consider as a small business owner:  your business’s online presence.

Investment News ran an article with four major points (paraphrased and expounded upon below).

Business websites helps in Internet word of mouth
  • What’s your website like? Does it fit the flavor of your business?  If you’re running an ice cream shop, you don’t want it to look drab and boring.  Take the Baskin-Robbins website (not a small business by any stretch of the imagination); It’s bright and colorful without it looking like the inside of a highlighter factory.  It has fun content in the forms of fun facts, videos, and a special tribute to the retired flavors.  On the flip side though, if you have a law firm, you can’t have your site looking like a preteen’s Tumblr page.  Is it easy to find?  It doesn’t help you much to have a great site that is on the second page of Google (we’ll touch more on this in point four).
  • Do you use social media?  Your current and potential customers are.  It can be challenging to know the right way to post on social networks, but once you nail that… it’s magical!  It’s a great way to get feedback directly from your customers and do away with any guess works.  You could offer a small “freebie” for clients who “check-in” using social media (i.e. some restaurants offer free complementary add-on for checking in).  This basically turns your customer social connections into ad-space for you.  This is a great example of a small custard shop that successfully uses Facebook.
  • Do you have personal profiles online?  Make sure to utilize the privacy settings on your accounts, because your customers will find your online profiles if they look for them.  It’s a good idea to shy away from things that could be taken out of context.  Be choosy about what you post online.
  • What happens when you Google your shop’s name or your field of business?  If you run an ice cream shop, what happens when you Google “ice cream [your city]”?  Do you even pop up as an option?  What else comes up?  An iffy online review?  An outdated menu?  This is part of why having a website that is search engine optimized (SEO) is so important.  We will touch more on how to become more SEO in a later post (stay tuned!).

Your online presence should be an important part of your online marketing strategy.  Many of today’s customers will judge you (poorly or well) based on it alone – you don’t want to risk it!