Contributed by Kristy Dalton, GSM founder & CEO. Originally published as a LinkedIn article.
This week marks GSM’s 10-year anniversary! Looking back, I’m struck by how far we’ve come and I recognize that this wasn’t a journey I took alone.
In October 2013, ten years ago, I filled out a business license application to form a company called Government Social Media LLC. Having been in public service for a decade, my experience was that government communicators like myself didn’t have educational opportunities to learn and collaborate about using social media.
I started the first government social media accounts in 2008 for my agency at the time - the City of Reno, NV. Myself and other government early adopters could only expect to find a session or two about social media here and there at a conference, but nothing far beyond topics like ‘Is social media here to stay?’
While I’d like to say I envisioned in 2013 what this field would become…honestly, I was driven by wanting to create a standout government conference entirely about social media, yet had the vibe of a red carpet private industry event. Why not mesh those two worlds and make attendees feel special? The good work they do serving the public is incredibly hard and they deserve to be recognized. Would this approach work?
We wanted to find out, launching the Government Social Media Conference (GSMCON) in 2015 to 365 government attendees. The subsequent years saw GSM grow in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the vibrant community that grew alongside. This past spring 2023, GSMCON just welcomed over 1,500 participants to the conference, now a hybrid event, a testament to the value and relevance our community sees in these gatherings.
Next, we aimed to offer a year-round platform for collaboration and growth, and created the professional association in fall 2015. The way our membership has grown across the U.S. and now into Canada highlights the value and trust placed in these relationships and shared experiences.
The road over the past 10 years wasn’t easy, and the challenges of 2020 reminded me of the strength that lies in unity. The support from our team and community during the Seattle conference cancellation was both humbling and inspiring. In this constantly evolving field, GSM has always blended our guidance with invaluable insights from our community. The social media professional is still one of the newest roles in government. Now, as we glimpse AI's emerging role in our field’s future, we’ll navigate this together.
I extend my heartfelt appreciation to our small but mighty Team GSM, including Sarah Rihaly, Katie Nielsen, Carol Blauser, Ariana Donley, and Hunter Dalton. You’ve been instrumental in GSM's journey. To everyone else who's walked this path with us, thank you!! It’s impossible to mention each person who helped shape GSM over a decade, but I wanted to give a special appreciation to the past and present leadership council of the professional association, including presidents Chris Hsiung, Warren Kagarise, Kristen Waggener and Andrew Belanger, alongside dozens of regional representatives, local host committee members and countless other volunteers, speakers and partners.
Today, GSM is a certified women-owned small business whose mission is to empower government professionals to achieve mastery in social media through conferences, online training, and professional association membership. Ten years in, I'm reminded that at its core, GSM is not just about one person or a small team—it’s about a community. I’m deeply thankful to everyone who’s been a part of this journey, and I’m eager to see where we, as a collective, will go from here.
Founder & CEO - Government Social Media LLC
Kristy Dalton is known for creating the largest network of government social media professionals, following her own service in local government for 10 years. She founded the Government Social Media Conference and she serves as the executive director of the first professional association for public sector social media.
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