#140Conf Smalltown Recap by Kelly Kinkaid

My friend Deb of Deb Works invited me and a few blogging friends to attend the #140Conf Smalltown in Hutchinson, KS earlier this month. Unfortunately, my work schedule didn’t permit a road trip that week and I asked my buddy Kelly Kinkaid of Kellyology to wrangle some bloggers and make the trip for me. She agreed because she’s awesome like that. Thank you to @DebWorks, @Kellyology, @andsosheblogs, and @VickiMaeisOK.

In 2009 the 140 Characters Conferences, #140Conf, began.  These conferences “explore the effects of Twitter on a wide range of topics including:  Celebrity, ‘The Media,’ Advertising, Politics, Fashion, Real Estate, Music, Education, Public Safety, Public Diplomacy and quite a few other topics.”  They have been hosted  in New York, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, London, San Francisco, Barcelona, Austin, Washington D.C., and on Monday, November 1st, Hutchinson, Kansas.  Now if, to you, Hutchinson, Kansas seems like a weird place to have a media conference that focuses on the global impact of social media, you’re not alone.  The idea for the conference was the brainstorm of Becky McCray, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur and rancher from Hopeton, Oklahoma, population 262. She approached Jeff Pulver, the creator of #140Conf, and suggested that it would be interesting if one of the #140Conf would explore the impact of social media on Small Town, U.S.A.  It would be called (wait for it) #140Conf Smalltown.  And so it began.

#140Conf Smalltown was held at the historic Fox Theater and was attended by 250 visitors from over 12 states. In addition, thanks to live-streaming, many more people were able to attend remotely, including a host of international viewers. What was the draw? Everyone was interested in hearing about how Twitter could impact, has impacted, or will impact the members and the businesses of small town communities.”  And although the list of speakers was long and diverse including college professors, journalists, community activists, ranchers and farmers, members of the Hutchinson police force, educators, marketing experts, and some guy who tweets while riding his self propelled tractor, the message seemed to be the same from all and included three main ideas:

  1. For members of small town communities, Twitter is the great equalizer.  On Twitter large companies with huge marketing budgets cannot outspend community activists, small business owners, or the guy on the tractor who wants to talk about his opinion concerning the latest elections.  All you need is the ability to create tweets with purpose, have a defined mission about what you wish to accomplish, and have the ability to create tweets with personality that make people want to join your conversation.
  2. For members of small town communities, Twitter eliminates the problems that could exist by living in a more isolated area. You can live in Hopeton, Oklahoma and have a thriving national business.  You can build an international company working out of the basement of your home.  And you can have conversations and share knowledge with people that you otherwise might not have access to — all because you have opened yourself up to the rest of world by creating a Twitter account.
  3. The most important aspect to consider when opening your Twitter accounts are the the relationships you build with others. You never know what you might learn about your area of expertise from a relationship you build with someone in another part of the country or even another country.  You never know when a conversation about a great recipe from a twitter friend might lead to a mutually beneficial professional relationship.  You never know how important a Twitter friendship can become to you personally even though you’re communicating with someone who you have never met in person.

In the United States today, 281 million people live in communities with a size less than 50,000 people (per the ers.usda.gov).  With an overall population of of over 310 million people in the USA, that statistic suggests that, in fact, the vast majority of Americans live in small town communities.  With the creation of Twitter and other forms of social media such as Facebook, Four Square, LinkedIn, etc., the people of the United States are growing more connected by the day.  And with each connection it seems to matter less and less about where you live.  Instead, according to the speakers at #140Conf Smalltown, all that matters are the connections and relationships you create on line.

#140Conf NYC 2011 will be taking place June 15th and 16th at the 92nd Street Y and another #140Conf Smalltown will be held in Hutchinson, KS on September 20, 2011.

This is a guest post by Kelly Kinkaid of Kellyology.

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