Rebuilding and Revitalizing the City of L.A. with Social Media

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The second Thursday of every month here in Los Angeles, the streets of downtown are filled with people as historic buildings play host to works of art while local artists and DJs/musicians provide the soundtrack. This is nothing short of a miracle when one considers that less than a decade ago, downtown L.A. was certainly not a hot bed of activity – and definitely not a place you’d want to be caught after dark. Yet the event this month had thousands of art fans, party goers and hipsters of all ages packing the pavements to be part of a scene that seemed to sprouted out of nowhere.

Another downtown fashion event, UniqueLA, recently broke attendance records with its spring weekend soiree. UniqueLA gives local fashion designers a marketplace and access to buyers they might not otherwise have. Given the event’s location – smack dab in the heart of the formerly “don’t drive there alone” part of downtown – the success is most noteworthy.

So what the heck happened? In addition to a citywide commitment to the area, social media exploded and has helped the area take off. The art walk started in 2004 and has used social media and online brand awareness to spread the word since its inception. Using MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, as well as the art walk’s own website, organizers have turned the second Thursday of the month into the place to be. Soon the local media, national publications and even paparazzi showed up downtown to see what all the fuss is about. In its sixth year, the shindig shows no sign of stopping. I attended the May art walk and was blown away by the amount of folks still flocking to the event. In a town where people declare something is so over right after it started, this is quite a feat.

The event’s longevity has something to do with social media’s expansion. Foursquare has thousands of art walk-themed posts, while Twitter-publicized businesses are now showing up at the event and telling followers to do the same.

The transformation of downtown Los Angeles is truly inspirational. Social media has pitched in and told people “Hey! It’s pretty cool down here. Come check it out.” This makes you wonder if the genre could tackle even bigger issues. Granted, I in no way think that social media can save the world, but if a fraction of the people who showed up to the event responded the same way to, say, supporting local schools or recycling, change might be possible after all. The big meditation to ponder from this little tale of a bad hood gone good is this: How can my business or organization use social media to make my city – and the possibly the world – a better place?

Chew on that and post your thoughts below!

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