Online marketing can give small companies the opportunity to compete against larger rivals, an expert has claimed.

Tink Taylor, business development director at internet marketing firm dotMailer, said that social media techniques can be used by small companies to expand their customer bases and increase brand recognition in a way they would not normally be able to do in the offline environment.

He mentioned forward-to-a-friend viral marketing tactics as a particularly useful way for firms to engage with a new and receptive audience.

Techniques such as this, Mr Taylor remarked, "allow small savvy businesses to punch above their weight".

Internet advertising is the fastest growing mainstream marketing medium, according to the latest figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau.

The organisation’s research found that during the first six months of 2008, the online marketing sector was worth £1.682 billion ($2.701 billion) in the UK alone – a 21 percent increase on the same period from 2007.