Getting Started, social media strategy, Twitter, website innovation

You are Not Local. You are Social.

4 Comments 20 March 2009

image by roadsidepictures

image by roadsidepictures

There is no such thing as a local business anymore. Nor a local organization.

Consider the local mini mart, the most local of all types of stores. In general, people won’t walk more than 10 minutes or 1/2 mile to their local food mart. Why does the mini mart owner need to interact with his customers via social media? If people want something, they’ll just go there. It’s a fair question, easily answered by another:

What is Local?

I respond: Local is a Mindset. So is Social.

Local is You Talking. Social is Engagement and Conversation.

The local mini mart owner/manager is thinking old-school: bricks and mortar, customers searching for twinkies, chips and coffee, and lottery players seeking millions.Re-think your mindset out of Local and into Social about the same customer.

This time, the customer is sitting at home, wishing she had a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Does the local mini mart have it? Send an email or a Tweet. Can she swing by in her car, illegally park on the sidewalk (hey, they do it all the time in my neighborhood) and get out in 2 minutes? You betcha – IF – she could submit her order via Twitter with an approximate purchase time, and could be sure it would be ready when she arrives. What if she told her friends via Facebook that she was heading down to the local mini-mart for ice cream? She could take orders from them if they were also coming over to her house later. The Facebook update is free publicity for the online or email ordering feature at the local market. That is Social. Not Local.

A great example of a local shop using a Social mindset is Houston’s CoffeeGroundz, which created a Twitter account (@coffeegroundz) and unexpectedly realized that they could do a brisk business with Twitter takeout orders. You can read the whole story, in detail on Pistachio Consulting’s blog, here. CoffeeGroundz is a great example of Social, not Local.

Consider the PTO, the local Parent-Teacher Organization of the local elementary school, the most local of local organizations.  A tired parent receives a note about his child, or an email from his child’s school, about the meeting. He goes. The typical meeting consists of parents talking about why the school isn’t doing something or that it should do something better. The PTO wants new ideas, wants to use them, and hopes to involve parents in school improvements. Maybe you attended, maybe not. Either way, you get an email update about what happened. Are you engaged? Are you ready to act? Nope, you’re happy eating mint chocolate chip ice cream and can’t be bothered. The PTO is too Local.

Now consider the Social PTO. The Social PTO is all about making it easier for  you to engage, act and motivate others to create real changes in the school.

You receive the next PTO meeting invitation via one or more of these methods:  email, a group text message on your mobile phone, a Facebook Event invitation, and/or a listing on the PTO’s chat group (such as a Yahoo or Google group). You are asked to contribute ideas to the agenda ahead of time via an online site. You are asked to invite others to the meeting through the Facebook share application, and you proudly display the meeting as a Facebook Event on your profile.  If you can’t go, you can follow the meeting either via live web video, updates on the group site, a #hashtag on Twitter, or real time Facebook group updates. You are able to text your questions to the the vice-chair during the meeting with an assurance that they will be addressed. The meetings are more efficient with the use of pre-sent questions and agenda submissions. The PTO has created easy, potentially viral methods to further engage and recruit people and their ideas. You are engaged and ready to act. The PTO is Social, not Local.

Next time you are about to go to your neighborhood meeting, send a Tweet on Twitter asking if anyone wants anything from the local mini mart. I’ll take some mint choco chip ice cream, please.

It’s all Social now.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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