Social Media Sells! 15 Years Later, First Internet Wired Town, Blacksburg, VA Proves Value of Geo-Local Connectivity

OgilvyOne Predicts the Return of the Sidewalk and Front Porch

Nov 01, 2010, 12:39 ET from Ogilvy

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- An in-depth ethnographic study of the social media habits of Blacksburg, VA, the first internet wired town in the world, demonstrates the power of consumer endorsed goods and services on sales, according to a study by OgilvyOne, New York.

As a town of early adopters, the residents and businesses of Blacksburg are using geo-local services such as Foursquare, combined with Twitter, blogs and Facebook to deepen relationships with friends, neighbors and clients.  For businesses, this means cultivating and building a loyal customer base that in turn drives sales.

"Instead of using social and mobile media to create a 'virtual community,' in Blacksburg, residents are using it to connect face-to-face with friends in restaurants, stores, movie theaters and even the local pool," explained Phil Buehler, Head of Planning at OgilvyOne, who conducted extensive research in Blacksburg 15 years ago when the town first became wired. He continues his collaboration with Professor Andrea Kavanaugh, Acting Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech.

Blacksburg business owners reported how social media lets prospects get to know them before they even meet for the first time, as well as how it can rapidly spread customer experiences. One new restaurant, 622 North, announced its opening at 4 pm on Twitter and had 150 diners that very evening. They are now thinking about using Foursquare check-ins to adapt their menu specials by time of day, depending on the type of customers that come in.

"In Blacksburg, social media is facilitating those face-to-face connections that were much more common back in the days of walking down the sidewalk and waving to someone on their front porch. It's bringing people out of their backyards and living rooms and back into the community," said Mr. Buehler.

According to the OgilvyOne report, Blacksburg continues to be place where marketing lessons can be learned as its residents embrace new media and use it to create stronger personal connections with the people, businesses, and brands they love. The loyal consumer is the most powerful friend a brand, service or business can have and in today's plugged in world, that is even more important.

"Most large brands have retail locations that are not yet tapped into the social media at this local level, choosing instead to manage social media campaigns nationally. The challenge is helping their local sales forces to use social media to sell by strengthening their connections locally."

The findings of the OgilvyOne study on the residents and businesses of Blacksburg were revealed today by Mr. Buehler at the 140 Character Conference: Small Town in Hutchinson, Kansas. "It's exciting that OgilvyOne sees small towns as bellwethers in the adoption of social media," said Jeff Pulver, creator of the 140 Character conferences.

For more details on the findings visit