Community Activation

Main Street Raises Merchant’s Social IQ

Main Street Merchants Learn the Power of Social


The previously thriving Main Street of Santa Monica was hit hard by the crash of 2008. A mile long strip just off the beach in Santa Monica, Main Street’s small businesses and boutique retailers, were struggling to survive amidst the influx of big box stores and a developing downtown. Unable to recover from the loss of income many had shut their doors, leaving multiple vacancies along the street. Many others struggled with the demands of modern marketing and the Business Improvement District (BID) lacked merchant participation, making it hard to mobilize change in the community.

While attempts had been made to bring the merchants up to date with new marketing tools, they overshot the needs of the SBO’s and ended up alienating and confusing them further. The BID needed to assist the merchants with a new kind of help.


From her previous experience with the Famous Sunset Strip [mto] Head of Social Branding and Community Activation, Kyra Reed, new the first step in this project was to educate the merchants. Their fear of social media was keeping them at a disadvantage. Learning how to use modern marketing tools to connect with their neighbors and customers would be critical to move the needle on this community. We hosted monthly education seminars, giving the merchants a better handle on their marketing and at the same time, acquainting them with their neighbors. Next, we created easy to execute campaign ideas to encourage merchants to post on their social sites consistently and use their new skills.

Six months later, the transformation was tangible. As new merchants came to the street, they were greeted with support and encouragement to join the newly inter-connected community. In a short amount of time, the number of attendees and level of participation at BID meetings grew dramatically. Store turnover slowed and new stores moved in. In addition, a new community site was launched with a third of the streets business owners contributing social media content. Web traffic to the site has increased 400% and the merchants are buzzing that the street is finally beginning to stabilize and business is improving. Read all about The Restaurant Rebirth of Main Street, Santa Monica.


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MTO’s work on Main Street in Santa Monica was a positive effort that benefited everyone who came on board and took advantage of their knowledge.

Gary Gordon, Executive Director, Main Street Business Improvement Association

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