I want to tell you the story of my village, my connected village…or as they say in French Mon Village branchéI live in Messery, a small French town on the southern shores of Lake Geneva.
The local authorities do not provide free Wi-Fi and there are no local hot spots. To be frank, it is a sleepy little village.It has a population of just over 2,200, many of which go to work in Geneva every day.
The town started as an agricultural settlement and it doesn’t really have any historic sites compared to the neighboring mediaeval town of Yvoire, which some of you might have heard about and which has become a major tourist attraction.
In the 1960s and 70s many French factories would send their workers to the region for their annual paid leave. Today the factory-owned holiday homes are abandoned and falling into ruins.
However we get quite a few visitors especially in summer. The small shady beach is a major crowd puller in July and August. The village is sometimes called the St. Tropez of Lake Geneva.
Sometimes, when the southwesterly wind is blowing over the Lake, our beachhead becomes the local windsurf and kite surf hotspot. Unfortunately this only happens 20 days a year and these rarely fall on a weekend.
In winter the locals hit the ski slopes in the mountains nearby.And it can become quite cold when all the activity on the Lake stops. But, I digress. I want to tell you how this village has created its social media revolution.
The local baker doesn’t have a website. When he goes on holidays he simply sticks a makeshift paper sign on the door to tell his customers that he is on annual leave.
The Mayor still distributes a monthly printed newsletter to each household. The local council doesn’t use email to send the newsletter and is not a fan of social networks. That's how it always was and always will be.
The local primary school only communicates via a billboard outside of the school gates.Every year the parents will digitalize the new class composition with their smartphones and share the picture on social networks
It is precisely because of this rudimentary communication that we created an unofficial Facebook page for the village. Nothing exceptional about a Facebook page you think?! Well, this one is different, it is a citizen initiative, run by a group of residents without any involvement from the local authorities.
We have plotted the hotel, the cafés, shops and as well as the main sites on foursquare. And the posts from Facebook are automatically sent to Twitter where the village now as almost 100 followers.
The Facebook page is collectively managed by an eclectic group of 15 people: from the president of the local tennis club to the leader of the local choir, the head of the parent association and even the correspondent of the local newspaper all share news on the page.
We are lucky to have an amateur photographer who was born in the village and who is among the key contributors to the page. She frequently shares her pictures of sunrises over the mountains and sunsets over the lake.
Over the past 18 months the page has become our online electronic bulletin board. Almost 10% of the population ‘like’ the page and the posts are often seen by over 1,000 people.
Like this one, a couple of days ago, when a driver inadvertently crashed into the tea room. He had confounded reverse and drive, smashing the sliding doors. Luckily no one was hurt.
In our village the opening of a new place does make headlines in the local newspaper and also on our Facebook page generating a lively debate in the comments section about delectable dishes.
The local hairdresser raised plenty of giggles among the English-speaking fans when he changed his name to “Hair Mess” - A messy homage to the French design firm and our village.
Our aim is to encourage the local authorities and especially the tourism office to join our citizen-powered page to post official information about upcoming events.
Because we believe the communication of a village, a city, a government and even a company can no longer be done without empowering the people, the citizens and the employees.In Messery we have shown it’s the people who are driving change, from bottom up.