Columbia 4.0?

We started Columbia 2.0 in 2008 as an outlet for a younger generation of Howard County residents to engage in the debate over the future of downtown Columbia. We were among the first to embrace new media and social networking to reach our audience. We started this blog, as well as a facebook page and twitter account.

We taught ourselves video production, and we rallied supporters to testify in favor of the legislation that was eventually passed. Looking back, we did some great things, but admittedly, there were some things we could have done differently. That’s what happens when you take risks and learn on the fly.

So now that we’re 3 years in, it’s time to take a step back and try to imagine where the next wave will take us. To find out, I recently spoke with social media expert and current member of Howard County’s Leadership Program, Nichole Kelly.

As one of the country’s preeminent Social Media Consultants, she preaches the importance of measuring social media in a meaningful way. Kelly feels the upcoming downtown redevelopment is a perfect example of how key stakeholders can maximize their intended results.

I asked Nichole what recommendations she would have for Columbia 2.0 to not only get to the next level, but to stay ahead of the game:

“Now that you have successfully engaged a younger audience on the future of downtown Columbia, the big question is whether or not you can mobilize them to help downtown Columbia become their local hotspot. The reality is that many young people still make the trek to downtown Baltimore to hang out with friends rather than staying here in Columbia. I would recommend building a social media strategy around showing your audience why it’s cool to stay in Columbia and hang out locally.

As construction begins, you can work to change the perception of downtown Columbia in the mind of the county’s young adults and you can do this in a way that you can actually measure whether or not it works. The beauty of social media tools is that you can create campaigns that encourage users to tell you where they are. A popular tool many young adults used is called Foursquare (link). You can put together local events in area bars and restaurants and tell people to use this application to ‘check-in’ if they attend. Done well…you can actually show the rise in restaurant revenues from your target market over time and once the construction is complete you will have a loyal audience to support our local businesses. That’s a win for the future of downtown Columbia and a win for our local residents.”

Now here’s a woman that gets it! It’s no surprise she is nationally recognized for creating social media strategies that deliver results. Recently she teamed up with Hootsuite for a whitepaper series that talks about how to measure social media to core results. The next whitepaper will be available for download on Wednesday followed by a webinar on Thursday. I know I will be tuning in, and if you’re interested in how social media can help you, your business or organization, I suggest you do the same!

-Brian Dunn


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About columbia2.0

Columbia 2.0 is a thriving grass-roots organization whose mission is to support the Next Generation of Columbia Town Center.

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