In recent years, many marketers and small business owners have been thinking of online exposure in a fairly simple way. They know how valuable exposure can be from search engines when people are searching for their type of product or service. And they know it can be beneficial to receive exposure from social media, display advertising, and other available methods and outlets. But consumer habits online are evolving and becoming more sophisticated for seeking out quality.

For example, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to seek recommendations and suggestions from their Facebook friends. In fact, Facebook now offers an “ask for recommendations” posting option. We’ve all heard how “word-of-mouth” advertising is the most powerful kind of advertising. Facebook is becoming the major platform for word-of-mouth advertising, and it’s important for all businesses to consider the significance of this trend.

Another important point is that it’s becoming more difficult for small businesses to control their own online narrative. When it comes to gathering information about small businesses, Facebook, Google, and other major portals are looking to the public for gathering information about them. Online reviews and other postings will tell their own story about a business’s offerings, and these postings are not changeable by the business owners.

In my opinion, the evolution of the major online services represents a big win for consumers. Small business owners need to adapt their mindset from “How can we manipulate search results and social media to push out our name and brand,” to “How can we serve our customers in a way that makes them extremely happy, and more likely to recommend us?” Customer satisfaction and loyalty are paramount in today’s business world, as they should be.

Steve Martin, the actor and comedian, has a great piece of advice that he offers to aspiring young performers: “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.” I think this is excellent advice, and applies to practically anyone with ambition, including small business owners. Too often, we expend our energy and resources looking for a new trick or gimmick to advance our status when our best investment is to improve the quality of what we offer.

Of course, it will continue to be important for small businesses to create content and keep a lively online presence. But it should not be overlooked how significant the input of consumers will be in telling the story of their business online.