Digital marketing is often thought of as being global in reach, by default. Most people’s conception of the internet is a place without borders, wherein it’s nearly impossible to know someone’s national identity, much less their specific location, during a spontaneous encounter on social media. For some, this makes the entire concept of local-area digital marketing a difficult one to latch onto. Local businesses might go on to develop the notion that social media and the internet as a whole are only for communicating with established customers, whereas other forms of local media are the only tools for finding new ones.

If this is your idea of the relationship between digital marketing and traditional marketing, then you should urgently reconsider your perspective. Ironically, as the internet and social media have developed and their reach has become more global, it has become easier, not more difficult, to connect with people online in a geographically-targeted way. If a local business owner assumes the opposite, the run the risk of alienating entire categories of consumers who look to digital marketing first and foremost when trying to discover new restaurants, shops, cultural institutions, and so on.

It’s easy to understand why someone would be skeptical about the local potential of social media, considering that when someone posts to Twitter or Instagram they are effectively sending their message to the entire population of the online world, practically at random. That said, the de facto reach of your online posts are obviously filtered through the connections of people in your own network. And you might be surprised by how many people specifically cultivate their social media networks with an emphasis on accounts that originate in the same region.

This has traditionally been the case with Facebook, which started life as a network for people at the same schools, then primarily served as an online extension of in-person relationships as it grew. Over time, the scope of the site has reached such proportions that this no longer describes the experience for a substantial portion of users. Yet the aforementioned Twitter and Instagram have seemingly taken the opposite trajectory, with many users choosing the first accounts they followed based on fame or shared interest, then gradually taking advantage of location tags and region-specific keywords to foster more connections geographically near to them.

Accounts for local businesses can and should do the same for the sake of digital marketing, and they should also use it as a jumping-off point for cultivating local partnerships, analyzing local consumer trends, running giveaways and other promotions, and so on. It may be challenging to get started if this isn’t the way you are used to using social media or the internet, but once hashtags and local trending topics lead you to a few local accounts that are worthy following, you’ll most likely start to see the same accounts interacting with more than one, signifying that they’re probably local too.

In no time at all, you may very well find that you’re part of a local online community – not the sort of amorphous, impersonal community you normally associate with the internet, but a real one in which people might casually share reviews and recommendations, respond positively to brands and locations they recognize from real life, and generally make themselves available for a much more personal kind of digital marketing.