- People trust people not technology. Remember the dot bomb era? We had a lot of bad business models built under the theory that you could offer access with no customer service. Technology can make customer service convenient in the routine situations, but nothing totally replaces a human...especially when you can look them in the eyeballs.
- Social media and online reviews level the playing field. Now that online reviews are available, mom and pop businesses can compete with big brands on more equal terms (remember gorilla marketing ... the internet used properly is the ultimate gorilla marketing tool). For instance, if I can look up and see good reviews from people on Google or Yelp written about an independent restaurant, I may be more likely to select it over the franchise restaurant which used to be the safer bet.
- The internet, social media and handheld technology allows rural towns to compete better. I believe that the internet and hand held technology is a wild card for small communities because it provides the opportunity for them to woo folks into their communities through effective use of web marketing. For example, instead of just getting off at the exit and going to the McDonald's, I may choose to drive an extra 2 miles and go to the local diner in the nearby town. It may take some time to poor new wine into to old skins, but the potential for small communities with vision is there to bring outside business into their communities. Also, in more recent times rural folks that never used a computer have gone straight to mobile devices for accessing the internet, adding a whole new online market group.
- There is an increased interest in local brands. There seems to be more interest in buying local. Local farmer markets and micro brews are a couple of examples. As the boomer generation ages out, quality and uniqueness seem to be more important with many commodities.
- Social media amplifies the local community. Yes, the internet creates international communities based on interest, but it also amplifies the local town square in the proper fashion. By proper fashion, I mean the sharing of information in a polite, neighborly fashion. The screaming car dealer ads are on the way out and being replaced with the quality referral from a friend.
The internet, handheld technology and social media present opportunities for communities of all sorts, local, national and global. The ones that adopt it will grow and the ones that do not will die on the vine.