Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Squeaker convention, chapter 2 (unedited)

So as noted, Keri is a local celebrity, and it's quite impressive.

She started her website barely a year ago. As she tells the story, she started it as a way to help others, not to create her own Internet company. In that time she has become a media darling, appearing regularly on Twin Cities television stations, and getting mentions in the Star Tribune. She has also been featured by several national media outlets, all in less than a year.

Her website was the latest step in her family's personal journey. The website is a result of her family's attempt to get out of debt. The story is a bit involved, but basically Keri and her husband have two young daughters, and they had a ton of debt. They stopped living beyond their means, started finding ways to cut costs and within three years got out of debt. It's an inspirational story.

Keri's website provides information on how to maximize savings at the grocery story by taking advantage of coupons, rebates and other incentives, links to freebies on the Internet and tips about deals and benefit available through the Internet. She isn't doing anything other sites aren't doing in some way, shape or form. There are national forums where people share advice about how to save money at Walgreens or how to get stuff free from online retailers through discount codes and rebates. Keri isn't ripping off this information and passing it off as her own research, but there's a certain amount of plagiarism that goes on in squeaker circles. She is probably best described as an aggregator, a term that is all the rage in online media circles these days. She gathers info from multiple sources and adds her own two cents.

Her website, however, is easy to follow and use, and it's targeted for the Twin Cities audience. She didn't invent the squeaker site, she simply created one that has a lot of appeal in the Twin Cities. And she does have a national following for some of her content, without question. Sales at Walgreens vary by region, but they're relatively similar, so a reader from Nevada could benefit from her website.

Keri explained at the convention how her rise to media stardom happened. Part of it was luck, part of it was self promotion. She is a TV person, meaning she plays well on TV. That helps.

Bottom line: she put a local spin on websites that have served a national audience at a time when everybody and their mother was trying to save an extra buck or two. What better time to launch her website than during the greatest recession of my lifetime.

One of her regular gigs is a local chat fest called Twin Cities Live. She appears weekly. The show, on our ABC affiliate, is patterned after a show that was popular in 1980s called Good Company. The shows are very similar, and that's by design. And back in the '80s Good Company had a "bargain hunter." The Internet hadn't been invented, but the bargain hunter reported on deals around the Twin Cities. Keri is the 21st century version of the bargain hunter.

How did I find Keri's site? She had started promoting it here and there, and I stumbled across her through a plug for the site. I was instantly hooked. I had already been clipping coupons, scouring the Sunday ads and taking advantage of the Walgreens deals. Keri's site took my bargain hunting to the next level.

There are other sites locally doing the same or similar things Keri does. I don't have enough time to track all of them. Keri's site keeps me busy. And it keeps her busy, too. Even though she has recruited help, she is quite busy running a website, a website that uses Facebook and Twitter to promote itself. A website she promotes regularly through her media appearances, as well as through community education classes she is now teaching about how to save money, with and without coupons.

It's quite an empire she's building, an empire she has managed to build in less than a year.

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