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Hyperlocal – cultural change in a recessed economy

2009 03 26

 This is my coming out post for hyperlocal marketing.  I’d been watching the trainwreck that is the current US and global economies before involuntarily laying down on the tracks of the imploding advertising biz.  I saw it coming – my brother works in the steel industry and from our conversations knew that this would not be a simple “confidence recovery” recession.  There’s a dearth of credit capital, and without an alternative economic currency, transactions simply can’t happen.


For those not following how specific industry verticals are faring during this time: financial services,  construction and manufacturing were the hardest hit by the credit crisis of Fall 2008.  As the layoffs mounted, consumption started to drop across all verticals.  One of my main clients announced a 10% employee layoff, with additional contractor and vendor cuts.  Budgets were being cut, cut again, and then slashed week after week.  Nothing like uncertainty to make clients spend, so November and December were some of our busiest months ever. 


Then it started getting quiet. Real quiet.  I started planning what I would do with my time if the layoffs came.   Gardening definitely. Time with friends.   Creative work – I play keyboard, program beats and do a little writing.  I was neck deep in some market assessment projects and had been thinking about social media a lot.  I started following Scoble, Winer, Arrington, and others on Twitter.  I mean, those are the influencers you want have that conversation with.


After being laid off, I realized that my social media strategy was upside down.  I started some consulting work for local companies and saw that “social media influencers” could only provide technology thought leadership, but couldn’t really engage me about the concerns of my clients.  No, the real influencers would be the businesses in my city/state.  From a word-of-mouth perspective, they also stood the best chance of being advocates to my client’s potential customers. 


Brand positioning is a difficult proposition for the mid-term with so little money to spend and little capital to invest in R&D.  I don’t agree that positioning is dead, but (IMHO) the impact to transaction conversion is going to be minimal for a while as consumers make hard choices about the products they buy.  There are exceptions.  I see economic staples as areas where positioning can have a big impact: food, clothing, shelter.  I also think that small businesses have an opportunity to use positioning in local marketplaces to gain share against multinational competition.  That’s not going to work with traditional advertising, but with word-of-mouth campaigns that target the right influencers.


This suddenly became very exciting for me.  I mean, these are people that I could have a face-to-face communication with, as opposed to simply commenting on a blog, or paying to go to “social media” conference.  And they produced things that actually affected the space where I lived.


I talk like I’ve got this all nailed down.  There’s a lot of work that I need to do to really understand who this community is and how best to serve and converse with them.  I’m finding that Twitter is not nearly as mainstream outside of the technology marketing world, and the blogging universe has always been fragmented.  I’ve been talking with some hyperlocal social platforms in the past few weeks – my next step is to launch a network for my neighborhood (Shoreline/Lynnwood corridor) and start connecting the fragments. Anyone who’s lived nearby for any length of time knows this area is ignored by Seattle papers, and the death of the PI isn’t going to help. As I used to joke in my old job, “there’s a real opportunity here…” Anyone who’d like to partner, please get in touch – post a comment or find me on Twitter.

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