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Getting Social with Loudoun.gov

Yesterday’s Loudoun Economic Development Commission, Membership and Business Retention Committee (MBRC) meeting officially earned Loudoun, its residents and businesses their “Gov 2.0 street cred” on the Internet. An official Department of Economic Development (DED) strategy, roles and supporting cast are in place, the SEO and website analytics are turned on, the chicklets are published, a “badge” is under development, and the Loudoun online SoMe scene is now fully engaged by its local government. What’s it mean, even down here in SoLoCo?

Some of the beginning goals, per the DED, are to “increase our engagement and influence with our target audiences (initially Loudoun’s existing business community) – to build credibility…to create more advocates for our efforts…tracking the sentiment of our interactions…as we intelligently execute..our organic foray into social media..beyond our traditional communications channels…” Some of the channels that are already reaping rewards include Loudoun’s LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube channel – serving up content ranging from DC’s Wine Country productions to Public Information Office announcements and Loudoun Farms discussion. From this catalyst of Internet activity should emerge a much more integrated, collaborative, helpful and ultimately rewarding community network of online Loudoun business stakeholders, driving the ideas, conversations and eventually investment into Loudoun’s shared economic recovery engine.

It’s interesting that “Phase 1” of the LCDED SoMe initiative was launched this April, at about the same time that an equally appealing approach to regional, yet hyperlocal journalism put up its first blog entry, over at TBD.com. This collaborative online news effort under the Albritton flag is harnessing the community reach and brainpower of nearly 100 blogs and a team of SoMe-savvy journalists and community managers who are, as they say, “determined to report news that’s important to our community; determined to develop a prosperous business model; determined to engage the community in our stories..”

So, there’s quite the perfect storm developing for local businesses, organizations and residents, for successfully leveraging their energy, assets or simply tax dollars into real-time ROI that matters. How might it work? Let’s say you’re a growing Dulles South area business, like the mainstay family restaurant in South Riding, the local Insurance Representative or Spas and Game Tables merchant in Chantilly, or a favorite Roofing Contractor, HVAC services provider in Sterling or Ashburn handyman. You want not only to promote your business online, but find new customers and get more involved in the local community – benefiting both your business and the residents nearby. Contribute something interesting, useful into the SoMe community, and it’ll spread quickly, with both intended and unintended benefit. Tell a story – for example, your last expert job or special event was particularly satisfying and well-received, with testimonials, and “it just so happens that this success will soon be parlayed into expansion plans in terms of community support, new employees or enhanced products and services”…it’s called “contextual advertising”.

The important part is to self-publish into these developing and synergistic “nodes” of the government-business-media network, through comments, wall postings, tweets, whatever – your YouTube posting link and Visit Loudoun Facebook comment may get retweeted by @loudoun, discussed by members of the Loudoun EDC LinkedIn group and noticed by a future supplier, employee or alert hyperlocal journalist. The result? More credible word-of-mouth referrals, actual business and overall positive sentiment about a Loudoun-centric, socially-active business and its clientele. Maybe the Donald could live-tweet a golf round at his newly-designed Loudoun golf course.

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Jay S. Daughtry, ChatterBachs

As a Loudoun resident, this is very interesting to hear. I’ll look forward to seeing how it develops.