This post is the fourth in a series on social media and social networking tools for small towns.
By Shawn Kirsh
Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity
I was born in a small town, raised on a farm and in a small town, saw the world (Iraq) after I joined the National Guard, and came back to that small town. I am back in that small town partly because of mistakes I have made, partly because I love it. I have realized that had I not made some of the mistakes I made, had the college I was attending been teaching me anything about computers and the internet that I didn’t know in Jr. High, I probably would have been like so many geeks of the midwest, left North Dakota, and be working in Silicon Valley for some high tech company. Instead, I have started writing a syndicated column in small town, weekly newspapers, ‘Everyman Tech,’ to help small town people get a better grasp on the technology that is helping me to do the things that I do.
I went to a High School with a brilliant administration, who stretched every dollar they were given to it’s maximum efficiency. They somehow managed to keep brilliant teachers there, especially in the Math and Science departments, who could’ve been earning twice as much elsewhere. This allowed me to go to college and be bored out of my mind. I think most small towns have schools like this. Teachers who care, who truly understand how to get through to us. The majority of my classmates were still the kind that take what the book says, and go with it. It helps them to get good grades, but the rest of us, left with a great education, and an ability to think for ourselves, always questioning things, pushing to make everything around us better than it is. We like to think outside the box, we’re a creative group that doesn’t want to settle for what’s there, but to enhance it.
I attended a very strong Church, which is both their greatest trait, and their biggest downfall. I am part of Generation Y, and you don’t reach us the same way you reached people 20 years ago. My Church, like many others, hasn’t come to terms with that yet. I spent many years of High School, and many hours of my time now, dreaming of how to reach out better.
I am in a community with a strong German heritage, we celebrate Oktoberfest every fall, and German’s are stubborn. If you think it’s hard to change the mindset of a Church, try to change the mindset of an entire county, who can’t see the writing on the wall, who don’t realize that we’re not getting ‘new’ business, we’re getting ‘replacement’ business.
I have been quoted on Twitter, which is kind of like instant messaging on crack, saying things like, “I’ve been tweeting like crazy this month, there’s no turning back now, Twitter is the most key part of my day.” Basically, I finally started adding some friends on Twitter in mid-December, and kept on adding. ‘Bentrem’ was instrumental in the things I have done since, continuously pushing me to establish a legit blog, not the quibbles I put up on MySpace and Facebook. Out of this, www.thattalldude.com was born. I have since gone on to write on a variety of topics, sports, religion, technology, TV, random tech news, and most recently; Small Town, USA.
I’m tired of seeing my small town die a slow and painful death, watching good people leave because they can’t make enough money, or there aren’t enough conveniences. Part of this is an infrastructure problem. Cell phones and internet are now an integral part of a successful business. Huge portions of rural America have either painfully slow ‘high speed’ internet, spotty wireless coverage, or both. I’m showing some stubborness myself, by not leaving, despite the crappy internet connection I have. With the appearance of new communication methods, such as Twitter, Seesmic, YouTube, blogging, rural America can benefit hugely.
Twitter, blogging, and the comments on my blog, have helped me to realize a broader picture of what’s going on in Small Town, USA. This increased knowledge has prompted me to be more vocal around town about things, which has lead to pitching a ground up redesign of a local town’s website (www.elginnd.com), and the local paper wanting to establish a digital version of what they print every week. My Church has also shown an interest in getting a web site. I have big ideas to help the Google rankings of all of these places, through the means of YouTube, Flickr, Google Maps, as well as promoting the work I have done on my own blog and LinkedIn.
My activities online have created new opportunities for me, that small town people find hard to believe. I now write for www.projectspurs.com, because the administrator spotted my blog writing about the Spurs, and thought I would make a good addition to the fansite. I write ‘Everyman Tech’ every monday, because my voracious new consumption online, combined with regular conversation, proved that there is very important things that people should know, and have absolutely no clue about, things as basic as defragmenting your computer, as well as exposing them to online networks their kids use every day, like Facebook. I am also receiving an increase in calls for computer help, as more and more people realize I know a whole lot more about computers than I let on.
If you are running a small business, whether it’s struggling or doing quite well; if you care about your small town; if you want your Church to reach out in more effective ways; you need to be networking with people online. If you can find a couple hours a day, Twitter is great. Find some quality blogs to keep up with. Get on LinkedIn, troll through Facebook, and see what recent graduates think about their hometown once they’re at college. Better yet, start your own blog, ask some hard questions. Take that question, and the feedback you get, and talk about it with people in your town. You’ll be surprised at just how much a small town can be doing, and isn’t.
People need to step up and make a change, will you be one who steps up? My newfound focus on my small town has prompted a desire to tour America, visit hundreds of small towns, talk with the people there, and blog about it. This will help not only me, but could help thousands of people across the country network with each other, and share the strategies their town is using, what works, what doesn’t. The internet is a big place, with plenty of tools to connect, Twitter is my personal favorite.
Don’t waste any more time, start connecting now. Visit www.thattalldude.com, I have a list of places you can find me on the right side, don’t hesitate to connect.
Photo by Shawn Kirsh, on Flickr. Used with permission.
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