5 Tips on Workshifting and Connecting in a Small Town By David Baeza / by Saarloosandsons

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If you live in a town with more than 50,000 people, you may want to skip this post.  However, if you're like me and live in a town with less than 5,000 people, read on. 

I always get a tinge of jealousy when I read about all the great conferences, meetups, tweetups, and just general thought power that permeates from cities like LA, SF, NY, Boston and Chicago.  The sheer mass of people, technology and geography stokes the flames of connectedness in the Big 5.

My world is quite the opposite.  A little background will help paint the picture.  I moved from LA to the wine country, just outside Santa Barbara, about seven years ago.  I went from uber networked, to network anemia.  In LA I was emerged in the startup culture and tech scene of the late 90's early 00's.  Don't get me wrong, moving here has been fantastic, but I've had to re-learn how to connect.

The wine country is an interesting mix of vintners, cattle and horse ranchers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, cowboys and me.  In my town the word tweetup and meetup are not part of the vocabulary.  The first time I mentioned Foursquare it was repeated back to me as "fourplay."  In fact only recently have I been able to convince a few vintners to get on Foursquare.  I was Mayor of literally every establishment I went to.  I posted to Facebook encouraging a little competition, and it worked.

My friend Paul Warson is the wine maker at Firestone Vineyard.  He really embraced the social web and is making the most of it, both for his personal brand and for Firestone. He also dethroned me as Mayor in just about every establishment on Foursquare.  One person that needed no instruction was Keith Saarloos.  He's a winemaker, tasting room proprietor, great guy and a damn good marketer.

I put my social chops to the test and called out for a tweetup at the Saarloos wine tasting room.  To my amazement, it fell flat.  Keith was broadcasting from the event, so he really didn't need help from me anyway.  I knew all along that my network was mostly outside of my town, but what the hell, I had to try.

So where does this leave the digital nomad that roams the small town?  It requires you to meet people the old fashioned way, one at a time.  I didn't meet Paul or Keith because of my marketing skills.  I met them through other people, which is very typical for a small town.

I make sure I get to know the people behind the counter at my favorite workshifting spot.  I met the local vintners and restaurant owners by attending local events.  When appropriate, I give my digital I.D. and we continue to engage online.  It's been slow, but very rewarding.  I met some amazing people and I get the opportunity to have relationships that extend beyond my digital confines.

Living in a small town requires a mix of in-person and digital connections.  I still need to travel outside of my circle to stay engaged, meet new people, and get a fresh perspective.  I recently had the opportunity to speak at New Marketing Experience in Chicago.  The conference was well attended and I walked away making some new friends and learning a great deal about how companies are using the social web to connect with their customers and build trust.






  1. Attend local events and fundraisers.
  2. Make a point to meet the owners of the local businesses that you frequent.
  3. Help them cross the digital divide.  Usually they are very interested, but don't know where to start.
  4. Make a real connection.  By that I mean, make a real friend or acquaintance.  Don't start with an agenda, just connect.
  5. Attend events outside of your area and share the knowledge

Now it's your turn to give it up!  How do you workshift and connect in your small town?

Photo Credit: {Wes}