Social Media: The New “Word of Mouth” for Small Business

— Written By and last updated by

by Susan Kelly

Word of mouth has always been a highly valued and inexpensive (free!) communication method for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Jane Eckert, the CEO of Eckert AgriMarketing has been attributed with stating that social media marketing is the new “word of mouth” for small businesses.

Although specific social media websites may come and go, the way we connect with prospective customers has changed forever. More and more people use the Internet for shopping and to gather information about places of business. The “social” aspect of this type of media, with business owner and customer being able to share, respond and connect provides new challenges and opportunities for the small business.

According to the Pew Research Center in a September 2014 study, 74% of all people who use the Internet use some kind of social media. 76% of all women and 72% of all men who use the Internet are using social media. 72% of all online adults use Facebook, 26% use Instagram, 23% use Twitter, 28% use Pinterest, and 28% use LinkedIn.

Many assume that rural residents are not connected to the Internet as much as urban dwellers, so you may be surprised to know that they “surf” at almost the same rate. 71% of urban, 72% of suburban and 69% of rural residents use social media (Pew Research Center, 2014). If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner and have not yet started a Facebook page, blog or other Internet outreach you may be missing out on reaching a larger audience.

We say that using these website applications is mostly free, but there is the cost of your time spent in posting information on the pages. It is essential that you post often and have fresh content on social media as well as a webpage. Also, through applications such as Facebook you are able to purchase targeted and effective advertising to put your information in front of your prospective customers for pennies a click.

Agritourism businesses can be especially effective in drawing in new customers through social media because people are often looking for an “experience” when they visit farms or farm websites. They can become more familiar with the farm operators and their products, and if done well, daily life on the farm. I really enjoy following a sheep farm in Vermont on Instagram that does a great job of posting daily videos of their animals, wool processing, craft classes, pie baking and more going on at the farm. If I were ever in Vermont, I would try to visit or buy wool from Wing and A Prayer Farm, just because I feel connected through their social media!

Some other ideas are to post photos of items for sale in Pinterest and Instagram, advertise specials or events on Facebook and Twitter, share book reading lists on Good Reads, or do a snazzy customer newsletter on MailChimp. These are just examples of the many social applications that can be used in small business. You will find the Richmond County Extension Office on Facebook, and we would love to add you to one of our MailChimp newsletters.

For more information please visit our website at N.C. Cooperative Extension Richmond County or email Paige Burns Clark at Here’s hoping your business is shared and retweeted and goes viral in the near future!