By STEVEN NALLEY
Jennifer Gregory wants to recreate a Twitter explosion in a controlled environment.
Gregory, vice president for tourism development with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, said one comment on Twitter Feb. 20 launched a series of both positive and negative comments about economic successes and needed improvements in Starkville.
“We thought the conversation needed to be had,” Gregory said.
The Starkville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau will hold a Twitter Town Hall from 8-10 p.m. Monday to give people an online venue to make suggestions and learn about city policies and planned improvements.
Guests can follow and join the conversation at the hashtag #Starkville2012, and Gregory said she recommends using a service like Tweetchat to make participation easier. Before the event starts, she said the hashtag can also be used to contribute topic ideas. Currently planned topics include city infrastructure, transportation and student access to groceries, goods and local businesses.
“One of the topics is in the form of a question: ‘Are Starkville residents ready to commit to Starkville being a college town?’” Gregory said. “Another (topic) is ways to foster an environment in which students want to stay in Starkville on the weekends.”
Gregory said the idea for Twitter Town Hall came from Small Pond Graphics’ Haley Montgomery, who manages social media for CVB. Montgomery said she believes the format will let participants build dialogue not only with the CVB but also with each other, creating a sense of cooperation.
“I think the biggest advantage is that it’s open and transparent, and anyone can participate, so all the constituents with an interest in Starkville will have an equal voice,” Montgomery said. “Since we want a broad spectrum of participation, we also felt this online format would allow people to contribute even if they have other things going on. It’s something you can do from your mobile phone.”
Gregory said she and Montgomery will moderate the conversation, but other area leaders will also contribute.
“While anyone is invited to participate in the conversation, ... contributors will help to guide the conversation and to hopefully encourage participants to stay positive and keep their comments constructive,” Gregory said.
When Gregory says “anyone,” she means anyone on Twitter who cares about Starkville she said, even those who do not necessarily live in the city or county. This openness gives MSU alumni, former residents of Starkville and tourists the chance to contribute important feedback, she said, and several such people have already expressed interest in the Twitter Town Hall.
“There are a lot of people outside of Starkville that are very passionate about the community,” Gregory said. “We think it’s important for not only our current residents and students to let us know how they feel about the community, but we also want to know how visitors or potential visitors feel we can improve the community. Those people are the people that we’re targeting to come into our community and spend money in our stores, restaurants and hotels. It’s important for us to know how they view our community because we want tourism and economic impact of tourism to continue to grow in Starkville.”
Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said he is interested in hearing from anyone with a vested interest in Starkville, including those who are considering retirement in the city. He said outside perspectives could also offer good ideas Starkville could implement.
“I will also value input from our local citizens because at the end of the day, they are who make this community what it is,” Parker said. “I will be interested to hear their ideas and thoughts about our current direction as a city. I would like to hear thoughts about any ordinances that are in place or need to be in place, municipal complex issues, development questions and any other things they feel are relevant.”