California, Here I Come

Connectivity. Events. Information. Business. Community. These are all things the Chamber is known for. My personal favorite? Community – building it, engaging it, leading it, loving it.

I’d like to think it shows – both in my professional and personal life (though, they’re one in the same, really). My upcoming trip to California is a good sign that it actually does. This past fall, I stumbled upon information about an upcoming community leader summit organized and hosted by well-known tech company, Facebook, Inc. The event, officially called the “Facebook Communities Summit”, was promoted as an event for those who lead strong communities online and/or offline/in-person. They recognized that while there of millions of communities on Facebook representing thousands of interests, they all have one thing in common: leaders who bring people together. I thought about what we do at the Chamber and in the Gallatin community said to myself “this is me”. So, I applied!

The application was a little lengthy, but allowed me to provide in-depth responses about both our organization and the community we are proud to serve. I was able to share in detail about the Gallatin Chamber, our reach, and the culture of the Gallatin community as a whole. The application asked questions that let me dive deep into our organization’s interest in building community both online and off through our engaging content delivery that is packed full of authenticity and enthusiasm. I was able to share that this has led us to being the chamber with more Facebook followers than any other chamber in the state!

A few weeks after submitting my application, I received an e-mail requesting an interview. At this point, it started to feel real. I was nervous, excited, and eager to share more about our Gallatin community or as I like to call it, home. I sat in on the phone interview a few days later and let me tell you what talking about Gallatin in that capacity feels like to me and other leaders who love to serve our community: it feels like telling the success story of your child; it feels like the joy you feel when you accomplish something great; it feels like the butterflies in your stomach when you saw your first love. I hope you’ve felt that passion for something at least once in your life. I feel it just about everyday for our community.

After sharing more about the Gallatin Chamber and our strong connection to community, they share more details about next steps. They let me know that there were thousands of applicants from all over the world and most all had a strong love for building community – tough competition. They also shared that Summit was quickly approaching (February) and a final selection would be made by end of year.

Just a few days before December 25th, I received the best early Christmas gift: the news that I was selected to represent the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce and Gallatin, Tennessee at the 2019 Facebook Communities Summit. After Facebook receiving and reviewing the thousands of applicants, your local Gallatin Chamber gal was selected to be one of 400 community leaders from North America (USA, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean) to travel to the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA!

We are experiencing exciting times in Gallatin and this certainly adds to it. Every opportunity to build and grow community is worth a shot, and the Chamber is always willing to do so. Here are some details and expectations I have for my time in CA as well as ways you, too, can build community.

Why does online community matter?

Why is online community important, you may ask? Some think it’s silly – and it can be. I’m certain we all fall into the occasional rabbit hole of blooper or crazy cat videos. Those are fun and can kill some time (or just waste it). And, we all know the political chaos that can come from social networks. Sure, we get to explore different views and often seen other sides of folks we really thought we knew. However, when social media is used correctly, it can be powerful tool. When we use it to build community – to seek resources, share ideas, and spread the word on important issues – it can make a large impact. Take our Chamber page, for example. If you’ve followed us on any of our social media platforms (@gallatinchamber) for any amount of time, then you know that we push out content that is ironically inline with our mission: supportive, educational, and engaging. We tell stories about our members and our community – we deliver it in and engaging and authentic way. Likewise, if you’re my “friend” on social media platforms, you’ll find photos of scenic sites, community happenings, snapshots of my kiddos, and other things that promote positivity. My friends consist of folks all over the country that don’t see my family often as well as those in Gallatin who like to stay “in the know”. Through posts, I’m able to connect with my community and I’ve chosen to take an approach to social media that encourages others to be kind, love more, and focus on the good. Try it.

What will I learn at the Facebook HQ?

By connecting with other community leaders, I’m hoping to create some strong connections with other likeminded leaders and learn best practices. I’ll have opportunities to learn about Facebook updates that are in the works as well as attend session including topics like mastering empathy, engagement, and inclusion within a community, building healthy communities, communities and crisis situations, mobilizing a community to take action, and using Facebook tools to build stronger online communities.

When am I going?

I’ll be heading to the Facebook HQ in early February. Like I do on all trips, I plan to also visit other Chamber of Commerce offices – I’ll take them information on Gallatin and connect, hoping to building lasting relationships with our cities!

How can you build community, too?

You don’t have to be in a leadership role of a community-focused organization to build and grow community. Chances are, you’re already doing it in some capacity. Your church; your child’s school; your workplace; those are all communities. If you’re reading this, you have a connection to the Gallatin community and we want you to be an engaged part of it. Stay informed – don’t push out information that you aren’t 100% sure about. Lend a hand – if you know something or someway to help, offer. Be authentic – be yourself. Above all else, be positive and be kind – that makes the biggest impact.

--Kim Baker, CEO, Gallatin Area Chamber

For more ways to get connected in the Gallatin community, visit us online at www.gallatintn.org, in person at 118 West Main Street, or, give us a call at 615.452.4000.