News Column

Event Eyes Social Media Impact

November 9, 2012

Kristen Roderick

Social media has become a tiny way to make big things happen -- especially for those in small towns. When Greg Peterson and his brothers shot a music video from their farm outside of Assaria, they just wanted to let people know how important farming was. The response to the YouTube video "I'm Farming and I Grow It" was overwhelming, earning more than 7 million views.

"We thought it'd maybe get 100,000," Peterson told the audience at the Smalltown State of Now conference.

The conference, formerly the Smalltown 140 conference, converged Thursday on the Fox Theatre with more than 100 people from 20 states and other countries. People from around the world also watched the live feed at

Hutchinson hosted the first-ever small-town social media conference in 2010, with Jeff Pulver, who founded the conference. He has taken it to large cities like Barcelona, New York, Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The initial conference name -- Smalltown 140 -- was associated with the 140-character count in a Twitter message. But social media is more than just Twitter. Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and other sites also help people get their message out instantly, so the name was changed.

Thursday's conference had speakers from across the nation. Their goal was to tell stories of how social media made a difference. Some stories brought tears, while others inspired laughter.

Some were motivational, like the Peterson brothers' unexpected fame.

"If you have a cause, all it takes is some initiative," he said. "Put yourself out there for your cause. I've witnessed the power of social media like you wouldn't believe."

Source: (c) 2012 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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