New Year, New Instagram: Introducing Think Localist!

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There’s so much of what we were building before quarantine that doesn’t make sense anymore. That’s not news to anyone — we’ve all been pivoting our little hearts out, trying to change direction with every new news cycle (this week included). But what I didn’t realize was, while I was busy pivoting, the game had changed. The context that I used to plan out my work, specifically the Localist, was completely different.

For years, I’ve been advised by marketing types to separate “the Localist” from “Carrie Rollwagen.” Our Instagram accounts are the same; our website is the same; all the blogs and updates and pictures and captions for me and for the brand live together. When I launched the Localist, I was a primarily freelancing, and having my name inextricably connected to the brand helped me attract new work.

About a year ago, that changed — I accepted a vice president position at Infomedia and stopped taking freelance work. Of course, soon after, the world changed, too. So instead of being strategic about the direction of the Localist, I just did whatever I could to keep it going. I tried to make it a resource, and sometimes even a lifeline, for small business owners. I concentrated less on “why to buy local” and more on “how to keep your business alive.”

But over the past year, the call for buy-local content has grown considerably. For many years, I wrote about voting with your dollars, how important small businesses are to local communities and economies, why we should care about politics and how dangerous Amazon can be — and mostly felt like I was blogging into a void. I honestly got the the point I never thought most people would care about these things … but now the whole world cares (well, maybe not the whole world — but way more people than before).

I still want to speak to business owners, but I also feel more of a call to make the Localist its own platform and give it its own social media accounts where more people are likely to find it. Because when it wears its own name, they’re more likely to follow, but when it uses mine, lots of people are turned off by the idea of following an individual.

So today, I’m asking you to follow the Instagram for @thinklocalist. Eventually, I plan to move to more social platforms and give it its own website, but I’m trying to start incrementally. (Not because I’m naturally wise that way, but because I tried to start everything at once and got so burned out that I didn’t get anywhere.)

To be honest, I’m nervous — I don’t think that feeling ever goes away when you start something new. I have some idea for new kinds of posts I’d like to try, both at @thinklocalist and @crollwagen, and that’s both exciting and scary. What if the new account doesn’t get many followers and I end up looking stupid? What if people don’t like what I come up with? Will people get sick of me and unfollow both accounts? These are the questions on my mind, but one of the things I learned in 2020 is that progress is a better goal than perfection.

I’ll be posting a lot from @thinklocalist today and in the next few days to try to build the account (and reward you for following!). I hope you’ll meet me there.

Carrie Rollwagen is host of the Localist podcast author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Vice President of Strategic Planning at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find the Localist at @thinklocalist on Instagram.

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