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Professors: Businesses Face Social Media Obstacles in Rural Areas

Location makes it difficult for North Country businesses to stay ahead of the social media curve, according to two SUNY Plattsburgh faculty members who spoke at a recent conference on communication technology and the future of public relations.

Jonathan Slater and Colleen Lemza, associate and assistant professors, respectively, addressed the annual Association for History, Literature, Science and Technology conference, hosted by the University of Houston, with their presentation, “Left Behind: Social Media Tribulations of Small Businesses in Remote Rural America.”

This talk was the result of a series of presentations made by the pair in the summer of 2010 through the college’s North Country Small Business Development Center. At these, Slater and Lemza were joined by industry expert Joseph Schaefer of Overit Media, a social media firm in Albany, and SUNY Plattsburgh staff member Michelle St. Onge, as they led three training sessions on social media for small businesses. Slater and Lemza developed their idea for the paper as a result of their conversations with local entrepreneurs at those sessions.

Slater and Lemza, who both teach public relations, found that some firms in rural northeastern New York state face challenges with their online marketing that their urban counterparts simply do not. Further research led the two to contend that the lack of high-speed broadband, rural brain drain and a crucial need for strategic communication planning all represent major obstacles to the effective adoption of social media by small firms in rural areas. 

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