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.
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.
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. Fortune.com 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.