A Room Full of Leslie Knopes

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What do you get when you put 365 local government social media managers from all across America into one room?

Passion.

So much passion.

The 2015 inaugural Government Social Media Conference (GSMCON) in Reno, Nevada exceeded my expectations. I’ve been looking forward to this conference for months – waiting in anticipation for the opportunity to collaborate, learn, and laugh with fellow government social media managers.

Much literature and many resources exist to help social media managers in the private sector (such as Mashable’s Social Media section or Contently’s blog). And Justin Herman, leader of the Federal-wide Social Media Program, does a great job of facilitating a community with resources and content aimed to help social media managers on the federal level. However, very little exists that focuses on the local (city, county, and state) level.

Sensing this gap, Kristy Dalton formed the GovGirl blog a few years ago. After working 10 years in the local government, Kristy realized the need for collaboration and teamwork. From this and through her network with GovTech, Kristy and her team were able to organize and facilitate a great GSMCON week.

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I heard speakers from Facebook and Google, I got to talk to vendors we actually use such as Hootsuite and Siteimprove, and I got to learn directly from my peers.

I was also able to share some of my own experiences. On Thursday, I explained my formula to handling negativity during a breakout session. With helpful examples from the IT Crowd's Roy and Parks and Rec's Chris Traeger, we learned how to approach negative comments, tweets, and messages in a helpful manner. My talk ended in lively discussions with the crowd, and others shared their own experiences with negativity.

My favorite session was with Julie Tappendorf, an attorney from Illinois. Julie specializes in the legalities of social media in the government – such a blurry and uncharted territory for most cities, counties, and states. She walked us through areas where we need to be cautious and helped us understand laws revolving around social media (such as First Amendment protections and Open Records requests). These are things I know we need to be aware of and best practices I know we need to follow, but I’d never heard such a great explanation of laws enforced on a state and local level.

For the majority of my job regarding social media, I’m alone. I take on many hurdles and challenges by myself. However, the most important thing I learned from GSMCON is that now I’m not alone. I now have a plethora of resources at my fingertips and a community to help me wade through the muddy waters of social media in the state government. Other people are facing similar challenges. Other people have horror stories. Other people have great successes. Now we can collaborate and work together, while also throwing in a meme or two of Leslie Knope.

With the grand success of this year's conference, I can only imagine how huge next year will be. See y'all in 2016!

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