how social media is changing the Detroit business landscape

For my final project, I wanted to look at the way local Detroit businesses are using social media as a way to communicate to their customers. In addition, what the future of marketing for small businesses looks like. They are turning away from traditional marketing and, as a result, creating a greater sense of community. Through these efforts, they are not only bringing awareness to their brands, but they are bringing awareness to the city as a whole. These businesses are becoming intertwined as they interact online and in the hands of those who use their brands.

A city of many ups and downs, 2015 marks the first year without bankruptcy as Detroit will attempt to cover $1.7 billion in reinvestment initiatives over the next ten years. Big name investors like Ilitch and Gilbert support the city and change is written all over the city’s plans.

According to The Detroit News, In 2015 residents will learn more about the Ilitch entertainment group’s 45-block district that will feature homes, shops and a hockey arena, and how Dan Gilbert, the other prince of the city, will develop the area south of there.” The 45 block district will include residential, retail, bars, restaurants and a new hockey arena.

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While big-name companies dominate billboards and revenue charts, Detroit has, and continues to stand on their local businesses. Recent years show that local businesses prove to be even more important as local names set up shops on the corners of the Motor City.

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According to the Detroit News, “The historic Corktown neighborhood west of downtown should continue to grow and thrive in 2015, spurred by some brave entrepreneurs who opened shops, restaurants and wine and liquor specialty places in recent years.”

These shops prove to be part of the alluring factor that is causing Detroit to be viewed as a new breeding ground for young entrepreneurs venturing to the city for a kick-start economy. cites Detroit as the possible new Silicon Valley. Employment rates are skyrocketing and data visualization shows that there are specific districts that are excelling. Digital, creative, and industrial trade occupy the colored blocks.




The Huffington Post describes Detroit as a 1970s New York. And according to them, it’s a good thing. Similar to the Big Apple, it only has room to move upward.

“Detroit is like New York City back in the ’70s,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday. “When everybody had written us off, there were people who believed.”

Things may have been looking bleak for Detroit in the past 10, 20 years. Employment and population rates show steady decreases.



Foreclosures are highlighted in red:




The Small Business

However, the city is gaining the ingredient needed for the improvement. Surely, this is not a quick process. The Huffington Post writes that “White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said Thursday that small businesses are key to cities’ revitalization, in part because they provide job opportunities — about two-thirds of jobs in the country are created by small businesses.”

The Detroit News agrees, and thinks that the success of these businesses is “expected to keep that area’s mojo working in the coming year and beyond.”


These business are causing areas like Midtown to expand. Midtown is located along the east and west side of Woodward Ave right next to Downtown Detroit. As the site of many of these emerging local businesses, the area is a cultural center, business district, and major residential area. Below is a data visualization map of the progression of the area from 2000-2014.






In addition, Detroit has made the top 5 list for “Top U.S. Cities for Small Businesses to Thrive.” This information comes from the average annual revenue of small businesses and while cities in the Silicon Valley prove no surprise, Detroit’s average of $730k does.



Detroit made the top ten list for this source’s Best Small Business Cities in America. 

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Recent population measurements show that compared to Michigan and the rest of the United States, both never married males and females dominate Detroit. The graph below demonstrates this. The blue line (Detroit) surpasses the average singles populating one area. Young singles are moving to town and doing the work to populate again.


According to the Huffington Post’s Young, Talented– and Living in Detroit, this old Detroit will soon be in the past.

“Declining, desperate Detroit is old news.”

Much of this comes from the fact that the city has become a “magnet for ambitious young people.” They come from all over the country and are adventure types who are motivated by idealism. You will find these millennials at sporting events, music clubs, galleries–but perhaps most importantly, at the local businesses. They are indulging in the local ingredients and drinking the locally-brewed coffee. They are purchasing the hand-made clothing and unique flare the businesses have to offer. The sense of community is growing stronger and stronger.

This all happening through social media.

Small Business Saturdays, #SmallBizSat

Even American Express joined the effort to help out the local businesses for the city’s annual Small Business Saturday. Not only is there an individual level socializing one’s company, but there is a collective effort.

This video went viral and features local business owners and shoppers coming together. It shows a community feel. It’s modern and edgy, and was shared throughout the city with the trending hashtag, #SmallBizSat.

“It’s not really a shopping experience, it’s really more of a social experience.”

Detroit is putting the people back behind the businesses and letting their residents know once again who is behind their dollars.

“This is about people.”

It’s an effort to connect people and connect the economy. Localizing and smaller businesses are what is, ironically, making the city bigger and whole once again.

“People are making things and doing things in Detroit again.”

Social Media

With all of this in mind, it makes sense that these local businesses are turning to social media to promote their business. The gap between the customer and business owner is becoming increasingly smaller, and the businesses are speaking directly to their customers just through their phone screens.

The graphic above puts this idea into numbers. 78% of small businesses get at least one quarter of new customers through social media. Even more important, 61% of young people go to social media when determining where to go out. Over half of millennials are looking at their phones in order to decide where to go out, and a company can make that decision with just a refresh of an instagram feed.


1. Two-way marketing.

What is interesting about this is the willingness that people have to this type of marketing. They are pro-actively following their favorite brands and restaurants via social media outlets for updates and advertisements. This a-typical way of marketing to the consumer is becoming the new normal.

2. It’s cheap.

Not only is is efficient, it is incredibly cheap. There are no costly photoshoots or promotional videos with large set requirements. Instead, a simple photo of a new shirt that just came in or latte art reaches their customers just as easily. Even further, they are reaching the consumer in the areas of lives where they are most engaged. While watching television or viral advertisements often prove to be a passive activity, people are fully engaged with their social media. They actively seek out their instagram or facebook feed. These companies are entering into the everyday lives of the consumer without being pesky. In turn, they are becoming their “friends.”

Below are all instagram accounts from local Detroit businesses.

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3. The personality.

While the focus is on the product, these accounts offer so much more. There are personalities behind these brands. Through facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest (the list goes on and on), these companies are able to create the identities that make people want to follow them, and eventually share in their brand.

4. The community.

So what sets these brands apart from what all of the other social media marketing happening in the world today? Detroit pride. With local branding, the ability to be that much closer to your customer is available to you. There is a sense of ownership that resonates with local businesses, and thus a sense of community is achieved.

They’re not just tweeting about their latest product. They are engaging with the community around them, all the while talking about their neighbor’s businesses.

5. The customer. 

In addition, the customer is beginning to do the work for these brands.They are hashtagging, tweeting, and instagramming the products. Influencers are finding the best local spots and turning it into a lifestyle. People tend to trust their friends over an advertisement, and every “like” is a nod in their direction, making this type of advertisement measurable and transparent.

source: my own instagram account

source: my own instagram account


I had an interview with Lisa and Greg Miracle, owners of Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co.



A coffee bar, this company is extremely innovative. As discussed below, they have reached great success without barely using any traditional conventional broadcast media or advertising. Originally a coffee and coffee equipment retailer, they only recently opened their restaurant doors in 2012. By using word of mouth and a heavy social media implementation, they have achieved a strong presence in the local business community.

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GLC is right on trend with the small business movement. They support their neighbors, and they engage with their customers, all the while being mindful of their own brand.

Below are a few pictures that I took at my time spent in the coffee bar.

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Explained below is why they chose Detroit as their location as opposed to neighboring–and wealthier–metro Detroit economies. In addition, they take us through their social media use and they way the community has responded.

Why did you choose Detroit for your flagship store?

We chose Detroit for our flagship store because we felt that the timing, location, and demographic trends were perfectly aligned with our company objectives and our brand identity. We signed a letter of intent for that location in late 2011 and opened for business in July, 2012. At that time, the block we located on at the corner of Woodward and Alexandrine was largely vacant and the site we built-out had not been occupied in nearly 20 years. The block had been purchased by two developers working closely with Sue Mosey of Midtown Detroit, Inc., and was in a state of reconstruction. Detroit was just recovering from the recession, and the political landscape was changing quickly in a far more positive direction. The demographic trends in Midtown indicated a significant increase in concentration of our target demographic, and we were intrigued by the opportunity to locate in close proximity to Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, and the many cultural attractions in Midtown. We were looking for an urban setting, a building with historical and architectural character, and the opportunity to become a contributor to the resurgence of this great city. We felt the timing was right to move decisively to help “create the wave” of recovery and reinvention of this great city, rather than to wait and just be counted as another entity “riding the wave.” The location was great, the lease costs were attractive, and we had the confidence that Sue Mosey and her team at MDI were there to support us and promote us within the community.

What about Detroit’s economy was unique or appealing to you?

Detroit’s economy was both unique and appealing to us because we could clearly see that the “bottom” was behind us, and that the economic future was bright.

Our target audience includes many well-educated young professionals and “early adapters” who identify with our brand, our “Third Wave” coffee culture, and our attention to responsible and sustainable business.

Our audience appreciates and embraces local businesses that feature genuine, premium quality products in a relaxed social environment, and are willing to pay a little more for pure ingredients and hand-crafted authenticity. They appreciate unique product offerings and a well-curated menu. We looked at factors such as population density, growth, occupancy rates, and per-capita income during our search process. Lease rates were affordable, and investment dollars were returning to Detroit. All of these factors were in perfect alignment with our financial model and brand identity objectives.

Do you support other local businesses?

Yes, without a doubt we are very focused on supporting other local business, just as many have supported us. We employed local architects, contractors and artisans during our construction phase. We used reclaimed wood and other building products salvaged from local homes that had been deconstructed in the Detroit area. We roast and package our coffee locally, employing local people, and the vast majority of products and ingredients that supply our business are carefully sourced from local suppliers with shared values for the purity, freshness and authenticity of their products. This includes milk from Calder’s Dairy (Lincoln Park), baked goods from Avalon Bread (Midtown), Pinwheel Bakery (Ferndale) and Golden Wheat (Hamtramck), beers sourced from a multitude of local breweries, and compostable paper products from Michigan Green Safe (Detroit). With virtually every product or service we employ to operate our business, if there is a viable local product or supplier that meets our quality and service standards, we will go out of our way to support local businesses.

How does the local community support your business?

The local community has supported our business in many ways. When we originally designed our Midtown coffee bar, we set out to create a positive social space with the goal to become a social crossroad for the local community, where relationships are formed, connections are made, and ideas are inspired.

Our intent was to provide this “service” to our community with the hope that our community would in-turn support and endorse us. The community has done just that! For many members of the local community, we have become their meeting, socializing, studying, and working space.

We supply coffee products and services to many local businesses, and we in-turn do business with them in return. We have hosted community events, art exhibits, pop-up dinners, political rallies, networking groups, and many other unique gatherings in our coffee bar space. The key word in the community is “collaboration.” We look for opportunities to collaborate with local businesses in mutual support of one another. One great example of this is our evolving relationship with Avalon Bread. We have recently begun featuring their products in our Midtown coffee bar, and they in-turn have recently begun featuring our coffees in their retail locations. We are currently working with them on a co-branded coffee package. This will be a coffee blend called the “Hearth and Soul Blend,” named after their marketing theme and featuring our respective logos. Another example is our relationship with local brewers. We are currently working on several coffee-infused beers featuring Great Lakes Coffee in collaboration with local well-respected breweries. There is a strong sense among businesses in Detroit that are all in this together. We have each come through some very hard times, have taken significant risks to locate in Detroit, and recognize that we need each other. Therefore we work hard to support each other.

Even competitors maintain a feeling of mutual appreciation, collaboration and respect. Collectively we realize that we are rebuilding the economy and culture of Detroit together, and that as Detroit wins, and the people who comprise this great city win, we all win! Hardship and hard times have a way of bringing out the best in people and communities.

 What is your biggest social media tool?

Our biggest public social media tools have been Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is growing rapidly as well. Personally, I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with my business network.

Do you find social media as an efficient marketing tool?

Yes, we find social media to be a very effective marketing tool. We spend very little on conventional print and broadcast media; typically only engaging in these advertising mediums when we can fund them through trading coffee for advertising exposure. We have just recently begun to engage social media consultants to expand the effectiveness and reach of our social media presence.


The interview highlights the importance of the community that is achieved through these businesses, and how social media is lending a hand in that. The future marks the increase of social media for these businesses. While almost every company is online and using these accounts, it is especially useful for these local businesses trying to stay afloat and make names for themselves. No doubt, we will continue to see this in the future and become more and more immersed in this lifestyle.



facebook: a force for Great

Since its creation in 2004, facebook has generated 1.39 billion monthly active users. That is a 13% increase year over year. As of May 2013, facebook generates 4.5 billion likes daily, and a new profile is created every five seconds. Over 300 million photos are posted everyday, and every 60 seconds on Facebook, 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. For even more incredible stats, click here.

These numbers speak for themselves. Facebook is the largest shared environment this world has ever seen, and as of right now, it’s free. Its model has allowed people from every walk of life to join. It doesn’t discriminate, and it allows you to be a contributor.

It is not only a force of good for a certain niche of people. It has allowed itself to transcend across culture after culture.  It allows people to connect with their family countries away, and it opens the door to relationships not otherwise possible.

Arguments against facebook suggest that it has created a culture where people are glued to their screens. People no longer communicate, and we are just a culture absorbing what is around us as opposed to contributing to it. I would ask, however, what is the difference between these two things:



In reality, we have always been a people of consumerism. We use our free time to see what is going on in the world around us, and facebook is allowing us to do that. It is now even a major news hub. So now, we are able to be social, political, and economical. Through facebook, we can be informed citizens.

Further, facebook has not created a new behavior for humanity. It has compartmentalized the actions that we have been doing for decades. It is just allowing us to do the things we love to do–at a faster speed. It did not create the picture, or the idea of re-connecting with old friends. It just put those things together.

Departing from the individual level, its effects among societies and imagined communities is positive as well. It creates arenas for people with shared interests to come together. Its network expands beyond the physical boundaries people face, and breaks down barriers. It ignores social and financial structures.

It’s informative, customizable, and gives the common person a voice.


Profile: Stephen Henderson

Stephen Henderson is the Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press, a columnist, reporter, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Most recently, he has been tabbed as host of WDET-101.9 FM’s Detroit Today talk show


A Detroit native, Henderson is known for his discourse on the Detroit community and issues, more specifically financial. His background consists of previous reporting, being an editorial writer and editor at The Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau, where he covered the U.S. Supreme Court from 2003-2007.

His Pulitzer Prize winning column tackles issues of Detroit where “his columns on the financial crisis facing his hometown, written with passion and a stirring sense of place, sparing no one in their critique,” according to the Pulitzer citation.

Even Stephen Colbert thinks that Henderson knows what he is talking about and where Detroit is headed. He visited Colbert in July of 2013. You can check out the interview here—stephen-henderson

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Henderson also hosts a weekly talk show, “American Black Journal,” and co-hosts the weekly news wrap-up show “MiWeek,” that air on Detroit Public Television. Just having started March 16, 2015, Henderson continues to work in activism with as his new gig as host of Detroit Today. As known as a “Detroit thought leader,” he comes to the show with a fresh look and eager voice.

“With ‘Detroit Today,’ I have felt far more freedom, even in the few weeks I’ve been doing it, to branch out even further,” he said. “In the first week, for instance, I suggested a segment with a University of Michigan linguistics professor about why the national ‘word of the year’ was a phrase; we jumped from there to a pretty interesting conversation about language ideology and the history of word usage.

“That same week I had (Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley) come in to talk about his series of columns about race in downtown Detroit, and we talked about the difference between the reaction he’s getting and what I might experience if I were writing the same thing – a conversation only he and I can really have.

“In the future, I’d love to build into the show segments that represent some of my broader interests – music, for instance. I’ve been a musician most my life and was a member of the Michigan Marching Band in college. There’s space here to deal more deeply and personally with my Detroit roots, and there’s an opportunity to expand the show’s reach into national issues.”


Henderson’s voice is powerful and influential, and we can expect to stay connected to him for a while. With weekly Sunday column posts to his new leadership role in talk radio, he continues to encourage discourse around the important issues Detroit faces.


photo story: a detroiter

A Detroiter experiences the good, the bad, and the ugly…and the ugly’s beauty.

Below is a photo story of a day in the life of Dean Fouchia, a Detroiter and a second-year medical student at Wayne State University. Living in the heart of midtown, he experiences the city’s rugged streets, thriving community and local businesses, and lasting sites that give the city the history it deserves.

From waking up in his urban warehouse-turned loft, to spending his days studying and drinking a beer at the local bar/coffee shop, each day he appreciates the old, yet young landscape the city has to offer, all the while finding inspiration in its vibrant pulse.


































Automotive Technology: Innovations for the City

Detroit–or otherwise known as The Motor City. While the city is definitely facing its various upsets these past few decades, its tech industry is actually one that’s thriving. The Motor City knows cars, and cars know the ever-changing technology.

Tech industries are making its way to the city in order to inhabit the cheap real estate and blossoming tech community. According to this IT World article, Metro Detroit’s tech job growth was more than 2x the national average in recent years.

The reason for this? Cars.

With companies like Ford hiring, it has even outgrown Silicon Valley for tech hires. Tech industry employment in Metro Detroit is up 15 percent, while Silicon Valley experienced a 4 percent decline, according IT World. In addition, Metro Detroit’s technology sector added more than 30,000 jobs, while Silicon Valley’s technology sector lost 10,000.

What types of technology are we talking? According to, “expertise in cloud computing, mobile software applications and energy management are in demand in the Motor City as automakers replace car stereos with Internet radio and gasoline engines with motors powered by lithium-ion batteries.”

The automakers are hiring and they are only looking for the best talent. Local Metro Detroit schools see this trend and graduated more students in the areas of engineering and engineering technology than any other region in the study, with more STEM graduates and computer science graduates than Silicon Valley.

“Many engineers who once worked in the wireless industry are now working in Detroit because car manufacturers have been hiring out of the wireless and the IT industries so they can put these kinds of technologies into the design of their cars.”

           Paul Hedtke, senior director, Business Development, Qualcomm


In addition, the auto industry is looking to connect their industry with wearables. According to this Detroit News Article, innovative technologies like the Apple Watch could make its way into the driving experience.

“The devices can monitor sleep, serve as close-up microphones for phone calls and commands, and show turn-by-turn directions in more convenient ways than your smartphone. Automakers and suppliers are experimenting with whether sensors and software inside the wrist-worn computers could interact with infotainment systems, warn of upcoming crashes or other road hazards, remotely start a vehicle — even vibrate or beep to wake drowsy drivers.”

There is fear, however, that devices like these could cause distraction for the drivers.

Advocators of the wearables are cautious about the success of these within the motor world, especially since they are mostly used now for fitness. However, with the addition of the Apple Watch, the possibilities could be endless. Right now there are a few prototypes and options available.

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The innovations could include technologies to alert users when they need to leave for certain trips, microphones to make calls, music devices, and even a way to monitor heart rate and body temperature. Through this, the car could theoretically interact with the car or call for help if the driver was in danger of sickness or a heart attack, according to the Detroit News.

Time will tell of the future of these devices. One thing is for sure, however, Detroit will be at the epicenter for this growing automotive technology.


Satire: News or Entertainment? …or both?

Last night as I was perusing Comedy Central’s website for a Jon Stewart Daily Show episode to watch, I decided to choose February 11th’s episode with special guest Colin Firth. Always a heartthrob, I was excited to watch this particular segment.

These satirically infused news shows never seem to disappoint. They are well-written, smart yet humorous, and always leave you with feeling that even though you laughed your way through it, you might have actually learned something.

Aesthetically, straight news and satirical news are actually pretty similar. Viewer friendly colors of blues and reds dominate the screens, the hosts are always appropriately dressed, and the setting is formal.

In this episode, Stewart began with his regular reading and commenting on recent news. Later, Colin Firth looked dashing in his dark spectacles and well fitted suit.

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What I always find refreshing about satirical news, and found in this episode as well, is the audience is expected to have existing knowledge. Rather than being spoon fed, real conversations about real events take place, and you are expected to follow along.

While hosts like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert obviously place their opinions on current issues, they cause the viewer to think, or rethink something. Are they more trustworthy? That is hard to say since most of the time they are commenting on something that is already happening or happened. Yet, they invite the audience to perhaps take into account other issues form a different opinion. Other times, they are just outrageous and looking for a laugh.

Regardless, satire holds a special place in the news world. It’s a newer, interesting way to look at the world with a different pair of eyes, and not always be part of the cog in the machine. Straight news will always be important in order to stay a well-informed citizen, yet most of us can agree that satirical news gives us laughs, and even sometimes, a little insight.

A Night with NBC News

For the first time in a few years, I sat down and watched a full hour of NBC News, the local followed by the network’s Nightly News segment. What I found is what I remembered: the newscast is used to throw lots of small pieces of information at the reader in a standardized, familiar fashion.

There were clear differences between the two broadcasts. The local news had a visibly smaller budget and selection of stories. Their sets were not as flashy, and their effects were simpler.


The familiar faces of Carmen Harlan and Devin Scillian greeted me at 6 p.m. With both newscasts, the more serious, interesting stories were definitely featured in the beginning of the segment. The first segments featured a Chippewa Valley teacher charged with having sex with students, and a Milford high school student charged with bringing a gun to school. When thinking back to watching local news as a kid, these are the types of stories that come to mind. Local, outrageous narratives that people want to know about. But also, probably find interesting whether or not they want to admit it.

What followed was extremely dry. New regulations for hookah lounges, how to not get attacked by a coyote, road funding, and my favorite, a possible lane addition to M-23.

After watching a segment on how to make healthy food more appealing to children and whether or no dish washers increase allergy risk, it seemed pretty clear that the news was segmented towards worried parents and adults. There were no aspects that appealed to any of my interests. I wondered what the newscast’s survival was looking like, and if they still had a heavy viewership. Then again, there are always going to be worried moms and dads watching the local news at dinner.

Or will there be?

The national broadcast followed a pretty similar pattern with potential terrorist attacks leading the stories.

Side note—the Mall of America was under speculation of a terrorist attack, yet thousands of people still went shopping that day. America, anyone?



In light of recent events, Lester Holt anchored Monday night’s broadcast. The stories featured in-depth segments and interviews from across the country. The drama was threaded throughout. One story covered the tragedy of a woman who drowned in her car after 911 not being able to find her location. Apparently, we as smart phone users have a more sophisticated GPS system on our phone than the 911 emergency sites. Scary, right? The things we learn from our evening news.

In conclusion, the role of network TV news in the digital era seems tentative. There are so many emerging newscasts emerging that take from the traditional structure, and put an interesting spin. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, E! News…they have all done this, and they are the ones making waves. There will always be a need to know the news, but will that need always be satisfied sitting in front of our TV at night? I’m not sure.

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The role is clear: it is to inform. While receiving my new in a nightly newscast is not my cup of tea, there are still millions of Americans whose it is.