Bringing Lansing together with one #hashtag

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In March 2008, Julie Powers was one of the few to first pick up the Twitter hashtag #LoveLansing, which she said has helped bring the community together.

A group of women, one of whom was Powers, the executive director of Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, a non-profit organization for the environment in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties, helped start up #LoveLansing on Twitter.

Powers said this particular group of people was composed of people working for non-profit organizations who wanted a way to spread their brand, including Robin Minor-Swartz, vice president of communications at Capital Region Community Foundation, who helped popularize the hashtag.

“Twitter was starting to grow in Lansing in 2008,” Robin Minor-Swartz said. “It was a way for this new crop of people who were jumping into the social media pool to share with the greater community.”

TwitterPagePowers said the group was concerned that too many Twitter messages transmitted  negative aspects of Lansing. She has compared the negativity to being an “Eeyore,” meaning the community often tweeted dull and unenthusiastic things about Lansing.

“We started this grassroots effort to amp up the good stuff that was happening,” she said. “It was organic. We never had a meeting.”

Powers said she is thrilled that #LoveLansing has helped bring the Lansing community together.

“I totally thought Twitter would be dead by now,” Powers said. “I assumed that Twitter would be replaced. It’s kind of neat that it’s still there.”

Powers said community members picked up on the hash tag when the Mid-MEAC tweeted with the hash tag at an annual Capital City Dragon Boat Race Festival at the Lansing Riverfront in 2011.

Powers said local media immediately picked up on the hash tag and it spread from there because they have a much wider audience.

“It seemed like it was an easy sell with this community because there were already a lot of people,” Miner-Swartz said. “It was natural extension from that.”

Miner-Swartz said she admits this hash tag has helped non-profit organizations grow, such as the Capital Region Community Foundation and Mid-MEAC, seeing more volunteers participate and spread their name.

“It helps promote the grants and volunteer opportunities we offer to the community members,” Miner-Swartz said.

Powers is also a certified tourism ambassador for Lansing, a program that helps visitors gain a positive experience in Lansing. She is also a member of the Lansing Happy Hour Club, where local businesses socialize following the work day. These are both things she admits #LoveLansing has helped grow because tourists and members get an idea of what Lansing is like and what is happening around town.

Powers said what she loves most about Lansing is that it has provided professional opportunities for her and others. She said she would rather be nowhere else than in the middle of the mitten, where her heart is.

“[The hash tag] was taking more pride on social media. Pride in things we love and where we live and where we’re from, but the hash tag is so beyond us now, which is awesome,” she said. “It belongs to everyone.”

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