“What’s the best way of getting business?” guests were asked at a dinner on Wednesday evening. “Without a doubt, referrals,” said one of the people round the restaurant table. Indeed; most business owners have known for years that word of mouth marketing, discussions by customers between themselves is the most powerful method of promotion. Even retailers know that if they can get the local community talking about their shop, they will do better than if they just advertise.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this article on what businesses are planning to do online the coming year. It seems that the most useful aspect of marketing that has appeared on the web for a decade, social networking, is the least likely to be used by companies. Now how daft is that?

Social networking provides the online equivalent of word of mouth marketing – acknowledged by businesses worldwide as simply brilliant – and yet this is going to get the least take-up this year. It seems that businesses are being drawn in by the “dazzle” of online video and therefore taking their eye of the ball of what they should really be doing – getting their customers to talk about them in social networking sites.

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