Citizen Wausau

A Site About Life in Wausau, Wisconsin

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Small Towns and Social Media

by on October 10th, 2010

Small towns and social media.  It’s almost like saying pickles and vanilla frosting.  Small towns and cities like Wausau are often late to the game when it comes to emerging technologies.  It’s not purely because people do not care about these new technologies, it’s just that there are other identifiable, contributing factors that play a role in the slow growth.

Early adopters is what drives new technologies.  I consider myself an early adopter.  I have to use the latest hardware, and I want to be the first alpha tester for a new web start-up company. Early adopters love to be the first to embrace the vision of entrepreneurs. Bigger cities tend to have more early adopters, especially areas like San Francisco and New York City who have thriving technology sectors.

These early adopters lay the foundation for things like Foursquare, the popular geo-location awareness application.  When the application begins to hit mainstream much of the user-generated content is in place already.  There is a small but avid community already showcasing the value of such a technology and that makes it easier for less experienced users to see that value.  In cities like Wausau, it’s simply not the case.  Users join, there is limited activity, and it’s hard to draw value when the value is in the network and content itself, and it takes users to generate that content.  So therein lies the problem. There are many useful technologies being leveraged in larger cities with some terrific results.

Foursquare

You may be using Foursquare or have at least tried it.  2010 has truly been the year of location technologies and it continues to evolve at hyper-speed.  Why do you want to use Foursquare or any other geo-location aware application? Let me indulge you.

Do you recall Robocop? Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.  The semi-robot, yet semi-human police officer that could scan anything and get loads of data just by looking at something. That is what location awareness is bringing to the table.  It is making users more aware of their surroundings and able to get information in the form of “Tips” about various physical locations.  This is the first baby step in adding a digital layer over real world objects so we can get data off the Internet about people or things in our lives.  Google is working on a similar technology called Google Goggles, but we’ll leave that for another blog post.

What You’ll Need

  • Cell phone
  • Foursquare account/application
  • Passion for exploration of the world around you

Foursquare enables users to “check-in” via their mobile phone into a location.  For instance, I recently popped into Polito’s Pizza in downtown Wausau this summer.  Upon checking into Polito’s, Foursquare alerted me that one of my friends, Dino, had left a tip for a restaurant nearby.

A week later I stopped into that restaurant, Chang Garden, and had the “Volcano Shrimp” (which was awesome by the way)! Are you starting to see where the value of Foursquare is?  I had never been to Chang Garden before.  I probably would have never stopped to eat there if it weren’t for the tip from Dino.  Now I stop in every time I’m home.  There is immense value within your network.  Tap it!

Check out http://www.foursquare.com and watch this video for a better explanation of the service.

Twitter

The ol’ tired saying about Twitter: “Why do people care what color shirt I’m wearing today, or what I had for breakfast?”  Twitter has struggled with this question since they launched in 2006.  People just didn’t get it.  Over time as the micro-blogging service rode the technology hype cycle, it finally gained its identity and purpose in the online environment.  Twitter is the Internet’s life blood regarding what’s happening right now.  I’ve read about so many major news stories on Twitter rather than on CNN or the local news.

I identify with this expression I’ve seen on Twitter for many months now.  Facebook is for people you went to school with, Twitter is for the people you wish you went to school with.  It’s not all about your cereal choice this morning or that you’re feeling sad on a particular day.  There is much more value on Twitter.

You like dogs.  You have three beautiful chocolate labs and love everything dog-related.  You join Twitter and your new username is @Joeycdog.  You stare at your new profile and wonder, now what?  Well, be sure to make your avatar/profile photo on Twitter a photo of you, preferably a head shot or some kind of chest-up close up. It gives your tweets a more personal and engaging feel.  Think about playing around with a custom background, maybe of your chocolate labs?

Now you’ll want to find the conversations going on about chocolate labs and dogs on Twitter.  There are hundreds (if not thousands) of dog lovers just like yourself.  Find those conversations and position yourself in that network of dog lovers.  Too find some conversations and users, check out http://search.twitter.com and start searching keywords and phrases. Don’t be afraid to reply to total strangers.  Social media has a requirement for it to be valuable — be social!

As you build your network, it becomes more valuable with each addition you make.  Suddenly your Twitter feed is full of useful information about chocolate labs, the latest chocolate lab news and funny dog quotes.  You follow some of the region’s top dog breeders, professional handlers and many people just like yourself who have raised chocolate labs their entire life.

Now your chocolate lab Suzy is sick and not feeling well.  You think she got into some chemicals in the kitchen.  You tweet a photo of Suzy and say she’s not well and may have found some cleaner.  Now within minutes your network of dog experts and owners are tweeting you how to handle the situation.

Twitter can be used from your laptop or desktop computer but it also widely available on smart phones like the iPhone, various Android phones and Blackberry.

Build your network and make it valuable!  Learn more about Twitter by checking out this video.

There are literally thousands of new technological services like Foursquare and Twitter out there.  You could drown yourself in new ways to communicate online with various networks. Don’t burn yourself out on trying every app you find on your iPhone — leave that to us tech geeks.  We try out every new application or service and determine whether it’s worthy of  publicizing. It’s been bouncing around tech nerds for many months before you see it featured in CNN or the Wausau Daily Herald.  Two services that should be featured are the two I’ve discussed above. Get in and join!

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