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Monday, December 29, 2008

Independentamerica.net & the Power of Local / Social Networks

independent americaRecently, I've developed an appetite for documentaries about American economics and culture. The next movie on my list is: Independent America: the two-lane search for mom & pop.

The documentary was produced by Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes. In the last few years, Hanson has shot and edited groundbreaking films for the American government in southern Africa, for TurnHere.com and Discovery Channel Mobile in Latin America, and for aid organizations such as PATH and Mercy Corps. Both worked as international news reporters for NBC. Following their focus on international conflicts they decided to take a look at the economic tensions in rural America. This morning, I listened to Hosein's interview on SmallBiz America Radio, where he talked about the flim's recent growth.

We originally started off going to grassroots organizations and it's slowly penetrated the Internet then Sundance picked it up after yahoo picked it up.There's this growing awareness environmentalism and sustainability,it's becoming ingrained in peoples minds in a mainstream way.

Independent America has also been broadcast by NHK Japan, SuperChannel Canada SBS Australia, Qantas Airlines. It was named the Audience Favorite Port Townsend Film Festival. You can read the official blog to learn more about Independent America

One corporation Hosein mentioned in the interview was Wal-Mart, which has been attacked from countless organizations and media during the past five years. Talking directly to Wal-Mart made Independent America a much more "even-handed" film, according to Hosein.

Hosein and Hughes put feelers to Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Borders. Hosein claimed that Wal-Mart was "great" when it came to arranging interviews and providing access to executives and employees. His impression was that you could write a book about everything good they do, along with a book about everything bad that they do.

After hearing Hosein's assesment, I was a little surprised by the prolonged attack on Wal-Mart in the official trailer, but it also targets  government subsidies that lure the larger corporations into small towns.


Hosein's observations regarding small biz reminded of some of the lessons I've learned from online reputation management and SEO:

1. Maintain an open line of communication with media and your customer base.

2. Big budgets can be fought with efficient and cost effective methods, with an increased focus on new media and reduced use of traditional marketing.

Just as small business can co-exist with the major chains, blogs can compete and co-exist with major news outlets, if they tap into the community's support. Online, the community support consists of social networks,blogs and forums.

Hanson and Hughes felt an obligation to make the film for several reasons, but their main goal was to determine if there's an even playing field between small and big business.They discovered that some towns couldn't compete with the major corporate shopping malls and chains, but other towns utilized their close-knit aspects to wage successful grassroots campaigns and promote local stores.

I was impressed by Hosein's objective stance regarding this hot-button issue that's usually covered from one extreme viewpoint or the other. Judging from his remarks, the documentary uses more of a pro-independent angle rather than an anti-corporate rant you might see from someone such as Michael Moore.

We wanted to see if mom and pop were surviving ,but we realized a lot of it comes from people wanting to control their own life, support ycommunity and shopping locally. It was a sense that these people were out there surviving and some sense thriving. there are sophisticated people out there with sophisticated opinions.

I appreciate the positive contributions that corporations have on America balanced with their negative. However, I'm also a fan of local restaurants over the dull chains, and I believe that small,independent business are the backbone of America. They make the difference between a good economy and a great economy or in today's case, the difference between a surviving economy and a dead one.

By Matt O'Hern at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

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