The focus for this particular day was Communications and the Arts. Lakeland Vision was participating in a portion specifically about social media. From 8:40AM to 9:20am (They run a very tight schedule!) I, as a representative of Lakeland Vision and manager of the organization’s social media channels, was charged with facilitating a conversation about how to use social media in the workplace, with the help of three very knowledgeable panelists. Partly as an example of how one organization can engage a Twitter community and partly as an experiment to see if it would even work, I lobbed a question on Twitter via @LakelandVision to generate some participation. The Question:
“Hey, #Lkld! Please share something about Lakeland you enjoy. Or something you don’t, if you’re feelin’ froggy. #LL28 (Include –> #LL28)”
(For those who don’t speak Twitter, “#LL28” is short for “Leadership Lakeland class 28” and was used to connect all of the responses. Basically, that “hashtag” or keyword links each response to a specific conversation or topic. #Lkld is a hashtag used by locals to indicate that their post is about Lakeland, FL.)
In a subsequent post, Twitterers were asked to submit their responses between 8:40 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., so those posts could be projected in real-time on a screen for the Leadership Lakeland class to monitor during the panel discussion. The previous evening, @LakelandVision had sent out a few tweets to recruit some support for the following morning, under the assumption that a blank screen would just be too embarrassing to share. Response to that initial outreach was strong, so I was feeling pretty good about displaying the feed the following morning.
The following morning, it blew up. Not my laptop or the projector, but the #LL28 conversation. One person referred to it as a “blitz.” Over 275 posts about what people enjoy or don’t enjoy about Lakeland made it to the #LL28 feed. Posts included everything from multiple calls for improvements in bikeability around town, an appreciation for what downtown is and what it can become, to a jab at the local goose population and a marriage proposal from @JustinTroller to @LakelandVision. (Our attorneys are checking to see if the State of Florida allows for online unions.)
The conversation was out of our hands, which is better than I ever expected. It took on a life of its own because the community embraced the idea and just ran with it. They owned it. @LakelandVision planted the seed, and the local tweets watered it, fertilized it and pruned it so that now anyone can follow along to read the fruits of their labor. (I know. Super cheesy analogy, but it works.) Each comment is out there for everyone to read, and they will remain in the Twitterverse pretty much forever.
The lesson: The Lakeland community is paying attention; we just have to reach them through the channels they are most comfortable with. No matter what method of communication you choose, one constant is that people want to share and be heard. Opinions and ideas are abundant, whether they are posted, texted, emailed, mailed, or phoned in. The challenge is about figuring out the best ways to engage your community.
P.S. Many thanks to Kemp Brinson (@PolkLawBlog), Kevin McNulty (@SunNFunFlyIn), and Amy Wiggins (@LakelandChamber) for playing along as the social media panelist. Another thanks to The Ledger Media Group (@TheLedger) for providing the physical meeting space and the projector. More thanks to everyone in the #Lkld Twitterverse who made the #LL28 conversation a success. Check out the feed to see the #LL28 conversation. You can go to a link published by Lakeland Local or search #LL28 on Twitter.com.
Lakeland Vision was asked to facilitate a panel discussion about social media on the morning of May 5th. The audience: the 2011 Leadership Lakeland class (Class XXVIII, if you’re keeping count). Each year, participants of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lakeland class get the chance to experience their city in an extraordinary way, by getting a behind-the-scenes tour of everything that makes our community tick. It’s kind of an “all access pass” for a select group of 30 community movers-and-shakers and up-and-comers.