The Republican National Convention has been hashtagged as the "Social Media Convention" – and rightfully so.
For the first time ever, political pride, protests and promotion will play out on one level playing field: Social media. And local business leaders are rallying to make sure they do their best to tweet Tampa's best side through what they call the Social Media Command Center.
Through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, politicians and those who oppose them have a platform on social networking, and next week that will take center stage as the eyes of the political world bear down on the Tampa Bay area.
Already RNC organizers have said they're putting on a convention "without walls."
"It's been our goal to make this the most open and accessible event of its kind," a message on their YouTube channel says.
Four years ago, social media was in its infancy. Now, there will be a three-way battle between promoters, protestors and law enforcement online.
"This is really I think the first convention where we can really take advantage of all technology out there to promote our destination and make sure this convention is the best we've had," said Doug McClain, vice president of marketing and communications at Tampa Bay and Co.
That's why Tampa Bay and Co. is combining with volunteers from around our area to present this command center – the first of its kind at any political convention.
But they stress: They're not affiliated with any political party. Their goal is to promote Tampa Bay during its shining moment.
Starting Sunday evening, nearly 50 professionals will gather inside the command center in Channelside – a large room full of LED TV screens and computers hooked up to social media networks.
They'll monitor conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #TampaBay, intercept them and promote the area. But it will also be a tool to help visitors.
Say someone tweets something like "Looking for a good place to eat in #TampaBay." The command center will be able to see it and point you in the right direction.
Think of it as Tampa's RNC 411.
"There will be a ton of conversations about the candidates and the convention," McClain said. "We really want to weed through all of that dialogue. What we're here to do is manage the perception of Tampa Bay as a destination."
That work is crucial, said volunteer Ana Mendez. She and her colleagues will be tweeting around the clock to make sure it happens.
"To be able to help those who are here visiting and to showcase out city and everything we have to offer, it's just great for the community," Mendez said.
It's just one of the many reasons why this RNC is going to be one of the most social events we've ever seen.
What the command center is doing is combining these tweets and filtering onto what they call their "social media hub." You can see it at social.visittampabay.com.