Digital Marketing and Local Communities. Can You See Main Street?

There was a live tribute to a great Canadian and sorely missed troubadour – Leonard Cohen, at my local pub a few weeks back. I had no idea about this wonderful community experience. I missed out on the tribute because in part the pub relied on posters (at the pub) a sandwich board on the street (which few people ever see and digest) and apparently their Facebook page (which I do not follow) in their attempt to promote. It was this type of marketing communication that is all too familiar in the world of small business.

It seems expected that we are to follow every social media account of things going on in our in our communities. Or simply to know by virtue of living close by.

But we don’t.

With the abundance and inundation of social media information and posts, (I guess I am contributing here) are we required to move full force into the digital age and download apps “en mass” to receive information? Unique experiences exist, they are around us but these business gems often use avenues of communication that are not resonating.

They require a re-set.

Local communities play a large part in the lives of many. And yet, even though they deliver the most immediate impact, we tend to ignore those individuals who try and create something out of almost nothing. Talking about the local entrepreneur. Amongst the many community leaders and volunteers, our communities are also built by hard working, risk taking entrepreneurs. These individuals, from all walks of life, with varying cultures and beliefs, who pour their souls into helping build something unique, interesting, cool, and vibrant to our local neighbourhoods need our support. They employ, they contribute to local charitable events – they help make it enjoyable to, live, work, play – in our local communities.

And many are waiting for a miracle. 

Are we not interested in helping keep these unique experiences alive?  Too often we see people who are geared and committed to posts and events that occur anywhere but around them. How does this affect or help their daily lives? We so hung up on receiving posts, messages, notifications from people, businesses, organizations that are not anywhere near our community, have little impact and certainly do not contribute to local community vibrancy, business, employment and engagement.

For many of our local entrepreneurs it is closing time.

Technology that connects everyone and anyone in a seconds notice has many obvious advantages and the world is certainly a much smaller place because of our technological advances. But we do have to take a step back and communicate within our communities. Our neighbourhoods, neighbours, local businesses, entrepreneurs, and organizations are one of the foundations of healthy, balanced and meaningful lifestyles. Rampant social media pushes, notifications, messages that leave little in our thought process do little to enhance our daily lives, or help us grow and make our communities unique and interesting.

As consumers we deliver interesting dynamics. We may love where we live – but will go elsewhere to consume. We may complain about big box chains delivering mundane selections yet we flock to them.(Walmart, Costco parking lots attest to this).

Can we see main street?

Interestingly, recent figures from the Retail Council of Canada support the consumers choice of shopping ‘in-store’. Overwhelmingly we still wish to go into a bricks and mortar location to touch and buy products. So why do we often see the community business struggle?  One reason is our propensity to buy through the big box and chain stores. They brand themselves better. They are known commodities. We know what to expect. They are safe bets.

Our community independents face a common story of the street.

Even though they may be unique in their offerings – including service- then any of the chains,  they are unknown commodities. We do not know what to expect. It is not perceived to be a safe bet. A bit of a risk.

And that’s unfortunate.

Back to the local pub and Leonard Cohen.

Cohen drew inspiration in his early words from the streets and vibrancy of ‘the Main’ and other  fascinating areas in my hometown of Montreal. It was local. It was real. He could feel it, smell it, taste it. It was close. It continued to resonate with him throughout his life.

The street had meaning.

Perhaps a step back and inward into our communities is worth something at this time.  Expanding technological advances and the thrust and burst of social media influences dictating the minutes of of days delivers a vagueness to the time spent online.

Often with little meaning.

Let us look local. Local communities. Local businesses. Local organizations and entrepreneurs. They are you, they are me. And we are all unique. Digital communications makes us all more informed. It is how we filter the noise that is critical. Cities and neighbourhoods are adapting to digital communications (albeit slower than we should). Smart city solutions are being implemented (as an example Airbrowz is working the City of Ottawa Public Library in delivering targeted digital communications). As consumers let us use our digital avenues to enhance the local.

So a few suggestions?

  • Take an adventure. Seek out those unique, small businesses that are right around you. You’ll be surprised what you may find.
  • Perhaps the costs of buying local may be slightly more, but the overall benefits to lifestyle in your community outweighs the dollar.
  • Engage with your local business owners- the entrepreneurs who wish to serve you, provide unique offerings and are there to earn your ongoing trust and support.The economic and social benefits to our communities will be worth our efforts.


Micheal Burnatowski is Co Founder of Airbrowz Mobile Technologies Inc. and an advocate of using digital communications to inspire and grow local community experiences.