“It all started on Twitter,” said Steve Whitaker, kicking off the first-ever pie bake off in the community of Charlottesville, Va. The C’ville Pie Down, as the event came to be known, started with an innocent tweet. First, Jamie Schwartz of Brown Automotive, a local car dealer, wondered who made the best pie in town. I modestly mentioned that “I am the pie master” and Brian Geiger, The Food Geek, asserted that his pies are pretty darn good, too. Thus inspiring the following tweet:
That’s all it took, and over the next 16 days, the execution of the event moved pretty quickly. The hashtag #cvillepiedown trended throughout the local Twitter community and within the first day, four judges self-identified, via Twitter. A wiki was set up so the judges and competitors could frame out the competition with rules, criteria and event details. Over Twitter, a local coffeeshop offered space with free coffee for the judges, free Wi-Fi (for on-site tweeting), signage and promotion for the event. One of the judges set up a Web site. There was a promotional photo shoot and ongoing Twitter buzz to promote the event. I set up the event in Facebook to keep track of attendees. The event took place on May 24 and gained significant media coverage, with the local NBC affiliate filming and interviewing participants, the local daily newspaper covering the event with a fabulous photo slideshow and the next day, page three, color, half the page, above the fold, fantastic story with photos. No wonder, because the event saw more than 50 people in attendance (whole families turned out for the Sunday afternoon fun). The mayor of Charlottesville and Congressman Tom Periello (also invited via Twitter) even made an appearance to taste some pie.
The blogosphere was just as eager to cover the event, an impressive number of links to the local blogger community’s posts following the Pie Down appear below.
In short, the C’ville Pie Down turned out to be a remarkable case study in what a community can do using Twitter and other forms of social media; how online interaction turned into real-life interaction and got the attention of traditional media in doing so. This is, so far, the most compelling demonstration of Twitter at work in a community that I have witnessed firsthand.