An iconic image comes to my mind when I think about U.S. small towns; possibly you conjure up the same one. The image is of several people sitting in front of the local general store talking the day away, maybe even rocking in their chairs. The point is that small towns are about people being connected to each other.

The return to a small town sense of community is just what we may be achieving through our new social media channels, say the authors of a new book “Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Community.” I haven’t read the book by Barry Moltz and Becky McCray, both small business writers, but I read a recent article about it in  “7 Small Town” Rules for Doing Business on a Human Scale,” on the American Express Open Forum for small businesses.

The point of the article and the book is that because of social media networking, today’s consumers interact like they live in a small town, talking and sharing lots of information with each other and coming together into groups. Also social media is fueling the new push to buy local as evidenced by the overwhelming response to Small Business Saturday, the American Express campaign, and Cash Mobs. As a result companies, no matter what size, must play by a new set of rules to survive that’s in line with small town values.

Moltz and McCray outline seven small town rules for business in the article.  Here are a few:

  • Work anywhere, anywhen through technology: I’ve talked about this changing dynamic in many of my previous posts and Moltz and McCray reinforce it. They say, “With the loss of geographic advantage, businesses can look outside the usual limits and boundaries. Technology allows more types of companies to reach customers anywhere and “anywhen.”
  • Treat customers like community: Moltz and McCray encourage businesses to treat customers like community. which includes responding to their needs, even if the need is an entire underserved small town market, or for something less than you’re giving that market right now. For example, all the online support and documentation for a software product may not be as helpful as a phone call to walk a customer through the basics.
  • Be proud of being small:  Volkswagen said it — Think Small. Being big is no longer the advantage it used to be to win customers. Moltz and McCray point to the food industry where the preference for small businesses is growing.

Just how to change your business and your mindset takes four things, the two authors emphasize: improve, innovate, expand and change the game!

That advice makes a lot of sense to me whatever the size of your company.