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Social networks: the future of marketing for small business

Lisa Harris (Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Southampton School of Management, Southhampton, UK)
Alan Rae (Managing Partner of AI Consultants, Sussex, UK)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 4 September 2009




The authors review recent developments in online marketing strategy that demonstrate the growing power of online communities in building brand reputations and customer relationships.


This work draws upon the results of an ongoing research project that is investigating the use of new technologies by entrepreneurial growing businesses in the London area. A range of examples from our 30 case study businesses are drawn upon to illustrate some of the opportunities and threats associated with these new marketing priorities.


The authors conclude that social networks will play a key role in the future of marketing; externally they can replace customer annoyance with engagement, and internally they help to transform the traditional focus on control with an open and collaborative approach that is more conducive to success in the modern business environment.

Research limitations/implications

Further research should aim to track this activity as it integrates with more mainstream marketing over time.

Practical implications

Developments in the technologies themselves, as well as a reduction in costs, will mean that more and more information will be available to consumers. This results in unprecedented levels of transparency of dealings between businesses and their customers. A key challenge when engaging customers through these social networks is how to give away power and control while at the same time avoiding embarrassment to the company.


The paper provides practical guidance on the opportunities and threats associated with marketing through social networks, based on lessons learned from “early adopters”.



Harris, L. and Rae, A. (2009), "Social networks: the future of marketing for small business", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 24-31.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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