Billingslea Media


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Social Media and Community Building


For many of the older generations, social media has continually appeared to be an unwanted deterrent. For some, it is even considered to be a negative influence on their families. But more and more we are starting to see community leaders embrace the power of social media for more than posting selfies or mindless rants. The emergence of Hurricane Matthew and its destruction on the East Coast is showing the world how social media usage can be a tool for transforming the way we share important information across the globe.



A little over a month ago, Charlotte NC made headlines across the nation when protestors took to the streets after the killing of a local resident by Charlotte Police. A live stream from one of the protestors went viral, and gave people in cities across the country a bird's eye view into the state of unrest. This week, as Hurricane Matthew swept through the South, members of the community have taken to social media to get their message out about the conditions in their area. The use of tools like Facebook Live has allowed people to receive real time updates on flooding, road closures, and locations for shelters in the area. The live stream videos are extremely useful for people outside the area who don't have access to local news, but are following for updates on family members. It is also helpful for local news personnel in guiding their plan for coverage. Live streaming gives reporters access to information much quicker than they would normally obtain that information, and also alerts them to situations that may have not been on their radar. Many local stations across the country have begun to rely on these methods of citizen journalism to uncover layers of information that otherwise may not be accessible without local citizens.


Not only have several Mayors and local officials in Eastern NC used live stream messaging to update their constituents, but local business owners have also utilized social media for the good of their community. In Greenville NC, local business owner Yodanys Talata of Villa Verde took the day to go out into area shelters and deliver food. The Dominican born entrepreneur is also a prime example of how social media can be used for sustainability and growth. Starting out with a food truck several years ago, Villa Verde became widely popular among students at East Carolina University as people tweeted and retweeted the locations of the food truck throughout busy weekends. Because of its tremendous success, the business is now a brick and mortar location, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community that helped them build a budding business and provide growth opportunities for its staff. The ability of the business to donate their services to those in need is also a testament to the power of supporting local business owners. The #golocal movement reminds people that investing in local small businesses creates long term economic prosperity for the community. Local businesses are more likely to be quicker to respond to community needs because of the fluidity of their businesses, whereas corporate entities have stacks and stacks of red tape to filter through before they become active in community service campaigns. The grassroots nature of social media viral messaging allows people to be served quicker and more efficiently by local businesses.


While a selfie or two never hurt anyone, the transformation of viral messaging for social good is a welcome addition to the tech world. Large tech conferences such as Periscope Summit have incorporated 'Social Good' breakout panels to inform people about becoming actively involved in social media campaigns that create opportunities for growth, and drum up awareness around pertinent community issues. It is changing the landscape of how we create, share, and process information on a daily basis. Social Welfare campaigns are definitely not going anywhere any time soon. The ability to reach the masses at the push of a button just may make the world a little more compassionate and a lot more aware.


Have you used social media for the good of your community? Tell us how social media has helped you remain involved in community affairs.


Evelyne Billingslea