When I remember to zoom out I am flummoxed by what a weird world the internet is.

It’s an entire world in and of itself, that exists in parallel to the IRL world (you know, the tangible real real world) If it’s a reflection of the IRL world at all, it’s one you see when looking in a funhouse mirror.

I spent part of my morning talking to a kindred spirit in the “wtf is the internet doing to us” camp. We’re about the same age and social media appeared for us in college. We’re that middle group of people who aren’t quite digital natives and aren’t quite too old to really get it. We had Myspace, we remember Facebook’s much-maligned early feed, and we still spent many formative years without texting.

It came up in our chat, and I can’t stop thinking that collectively we have zoomed out too far. We’ve forgotten the importance of small, local impact and community. We’ve gotten so seduced by being big, national, global, that we’ve forgotten the value of serving our local community.

You can see it in the madness of Covid19’s spread thanks to globalization, and in our rampant disconnection from our direct communities. The ones we live in, shop in, and exist in.

As the resident marketer in my group of friends, I’m getting a lot of outreach as buddies start to pivot or put more local attention on their businesses. A lot of them come to me for digital marketing and social media help, with the goal of reaching more people in their area.

I am SO delighted to see this, and it’s beginning to re-energize me with regards to the benefits we can reap from digital marketing.

I was missing the forest for all the trees, I was thinking too corporate, too global, too national, and it was making me pessimistic about marketing. What I’m seeing is making me hopeful that local businesses are the scrappy survivors that will come out of C19 on top and thrive as we turn the corner.

It makes sense when we’re quarantined or easing out of social distancing, the more local the better. We keep our exposure down, and we support our community. On a holistic community note, this is a win as we invest in our local communities for the long haul.

A national dropshipping business doesn’t do much for your neighbors, aside from giving you a bit more cash to spend on dinner. A business that directly serves the community…now that’s a different story.

I’m excited by this, and I want to see more people leaning into their community and building (or sustaining) businesses where they live. Many local businesses may not have weathered the pandemic successfully, but the entrepreneurs I know and respect would never take that as a reason to quit. We dust off, pivot, and start the next endeavor.

If you’re a business or marketing maven, a designer, or a developer, I hope you’ll look closely at how you can use your skills for businesses in your area. It’s really easy to focus on big-money companies from around the country, or globe, when we work in the digital economy. Nothing wrong with that, but there is something very right about working with and supporting businesses in your local community to be found online.

It feels like this is what I was missing in the stories I took from big marketers and thought leaders. Do great work, and aim to do it locally. You don’t have to be analog or brick and mortar to serve your community, you just have to care enough to create local connections.

For an ethical marketer, writer, or business coach, this is a beautiful goal. For all the thousands of pieces of advice out there for how to build an online community, let’s take those lessons and make a hybrid. A thriving online community of local citizens, where we can connect easily online but take those connections to the real world to build a thriving, IRL community (and I don’t mean Nextdoor, we can do so much better).

I’m digging in myself to see how I can best get local businesses connected to their local communities online. These are the connections that really matter.

Straighten out that funhouse mirror reflection, and make the online reflection of our communities a healthy reflection that’s true to the magic of each city. Digital placemaking. Let’s do this.


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