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How customers find you (online)

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The Pew Internet and American Life Project last week released a report on how consumers use the web to find information on local businesses.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 47% say they rely most on the internet to learn more about local businesses
  • 36% rely most on search engines
  • 30% rely most on newspapers
  • 22% rely on word of mouth from family and friends
  • 1% rely on social network sites or Twitter

You can read the report summary here, or download the whole report as a PDF.

One thing that surprised me from the report was how low social media ranks. While customers might not seek out or use your Twitter feed or Facebook page to learn more about you all the time, using those platforms to create original content will improve your search engine rankings.

I asked some of our regular social media contributors to weigh in on the report, and here’s what they had to say:

Jeff Korhan:

This is interesting.  Seems a lot of folks trust search engines and media more than their friends (social media)!

One more reason for creating great online content – and getting it shared on sites outside of Facebook where it can provide search benefits.

Jason Cupp:

Very interesting.  I’m not surprised though.  Most “casual” social media followers don’t use the medium to the extent that it could be used.  For example, I recently tweeted (last weekend to be exact) “What is a great Sunday brunch location in downtown KC?” Since I have a lot of followers from the KC area, and have some SM influence here, I got some replied and ended up going to one of the places that was tweeted to me – and it was more than awesome!

SM requires dedication and time to build followers and influence and is an ACTIVE discussion online.  Without that activity, there is no reply.  Most don’t have any activity in their SM world – including Facebook.  That said, internet browser information is static.  You can instantly type something into a search engine and get a reply, so most people go to what they know best.

Unfortunately, those results are often biased by geographic location, number of reviews on Yelp, Google, and well as blog entries, reviews, etc.  It’s not nearly as organic as going to your “friends” for a referral, which in the landscape world, we all know is the best kind of business development tool.

Also, the cohort searching for you online, according to the Pew study, is likely female, college-educated and has a household income of $75,000 or more. Sounds like the target demo for most landscape companies I’ve talked to recently.

And, no surprise, nearly a quarter of respondents said they rely on friends and family.

So, it makes sense to continue to invest in online marketing and social media to promote yourself. But, at the end of the say, a happy customer is still one of your best marketing tools, however you reach them in the first place.


December 19th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

One Response to 'How customers find you (online)'

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  1. This illustrates why utilizing a balanced marketing strategy is so critical. A balanced marketing program can get your message in front of folks both offline and online. You can’t solely focus on one or the other.

    The one thing I find surprising is that more people use the newspaper than word-of-mouth. That’s hard to believe.

    Chris Heiler

    20 Dec 11 at 2:28 pm

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