The Social Media Landscape

For those that don’t know, last week was the 2011 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in San Diego, California.

San Diego landscapes like this inspire the landscape of social media.

For four days, more than 6,000 landscape architects converged on the San Diego convention center for the opportunity to receive continuing education credits, visit landscape suppliers in the expo hall, and network with other landscape architects from across the country.

This was the second annual meeting that I’ve had the opportunity to attend, and I had the privilege of presenting with two other landscape architects for one of the education sessions this year.

Our topic was Social Media Strategies for Landscape Architects and we had more than 100 attendees in our session on Wednesday afternoon.

For anyone who is not a professional speaker, the thought of standing at a podium in front of more than 100 people can be quite intimidating. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have butterflies.

The first few minutes were a little unnerving, but once I found my rhythm, my voice calmed and I made it through my portion of the presentation with ease.

One of the things I find most interesting about speaking in public is the amount of preparation required for the actual presentation.

My colleagues and I started preparing for our presentation back in May using Skype and eventually Google+. We were able to conduct conference calls and video chats to share ideas and plan our presentation.

When I think about how presenters in years past prepared for their presentations, I’m a bit amazed that they were so successful with the limits of technology.

When you think about it, being able to share your computer screen and see the person you are talking to who lives on the other side of the country is a pretty incredible thing. Having these capabilities made planning our presentation much easier.

While preparing for our presentation, my colleagues and I came up with an idea to see if we could use social media to affect positive change while at the conference.

With more than 6,000 landscape architects visiting San Diego, our hope was to collect comments and opinions from those attending and discover their perception of the public spaces they visited around the city.

It was our hope that this information could then be utilized by the City of San Diego to see what professionals were saying about their public spaces and what seemed to work and what could be improved in the future.

Our concept was to utilize a hashtag for the event to be able to collect and organize data in the form of photographs and tweets. For those not familiar with a hashtag, it is simply a word or phrase with a pound sign in front of it.

Our hashtag was #LandArchSD. When used with a tweet on Twitter, the hashtag can be searched and the reader can see all the tweets posted that contain the hashtag.

This can also be done with the photo-sharing app, Instagram, which is available for the iPhone.

We created a Facebook fan page, facebook.com/SMLandArch, where we linked all of the photos and tweets so that they could be viewed in one location.

While our response wasn’t as great as we had hoped, it did provide some interesting data and we hope that we can try our experiment again next year in Phoenix with more success.

As we were discussing the process of creating the hashtag and the purpose of the experiment, we realized how easy it would be to set up a similar campaign for a project for a firm.

It could be created when the project is in the planning stages and used for public input, then carried through construction and utilized for post-occupancy evaluations with the use of geolocation functions enabled on users’ smart phones.

While the use of social media for project-related campaigns is still in its infancy, I believe it is going to become more popular in the near future.

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