Online blogs and social media have allowed individuals to define themselves in a way that was impossible decades ago. While joining professional organizations or writing an article for a business periodical was a possible way to establish your credentials, the more likely way that someone would learn about the type of person you were was through other people. If their opinion of you was positive, it was called “word of mouth”. If their opinion was negative, it was called “gossip”.
But now, because of online tools, there is a much easier way to promote yourself (and to have your network promote you too). The emergence of social networks has been the story of the last five years, but the real interesting development to me is the expansion of the FourSquare check-in phenomenon.
Rather than being limited to status updates and photographs, online users are now defined by where they “check-in”. After all, where you visit usually tells more about a person than anything else. What do you think of a person who visits the bookstore, the tea store and the stationery store? What do you think of someone who checks-in on the top of a mountain and then later checks-in from a lake? The new metric is “where” rather than “who”. Because you can tell a lot more about a person based on where they are located than what they say about themselves.
FourSquare has taken that an extra step further by creating “badges” which are virtual rewards for visiting specific locations. An online visitor can see what different locations that user has been, and can quickly glance at the types of badges that user has earned.
A person’s behavior always has defined their true character more than the words that they use to describe themselves. If someone says “I’m honest” but is caught stealing three times, what type of person are they? The same could be said about the places that you choose to own.
Equity crowdfunding is going to be the opportunity for people in the community to choose to invest in the places they eat, the places they shop and with the people that provide them with the services they need to get through their daily life. But instead of being something that is hidden away like an investor’s choice in 401(k) portfolio, a choice to invest in a business is something that will truly define an individual’s connection to their local community.
Once your choice to invest in a company is displayed along with the badges that show where you visited, business ownership will be used to define your brand. Rather than being defined by your hairstyle, you can bet that people will find it at least as interesting to know which hair salon you own.
Jonathan Frutkin is an attorney at The Frutkin Law Firm, PLC in Phoenix, AZ. He’s written a new book called “Equity Crowdfunding: Transforming Customers into Loyal Owners” which was published in May, 2013.