Chattanooga's first social media awards celebrate use of social media by local businesses and individuals

Chattanooga's first social media awards celebrate use of social media by local businesses and individuals

April 8th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment


• Jana Barnello, a reporter/twitcast host at WTVC

• The WTVC StormTrack team

• ChattaTweets, a local Twitter trend aggregator

• Matt Nassar, former Chattanoooga State student journalist for The Communicator

• Jim Boles, founder of

• TUFF TV digital broadcast network

• Archer Physical Therapy


• Lana Sutton, freelance journalist/online content writer

• Scott Daniels, Chattanooga State's streaming Internet radio station WAWL

• Chattanooga Organized for Action

• The Little Twig, store with organic products for expecting women and infants

• Doc Shock (Jack Gray) of "Shock Theater"

• Track 29, an upcoming music venue

(Disclosure: Matt Nassar works for the Chattanooga Times Free Press)


• Jason Falls: A social-media consultant, professional speaker and founder of

• Paul Rustand: Director of Widgets & Stone, a local design and branding firm

• John Hawbaker: Publisher and contributing writer for, a local online news website

People may not have reached the point of greeting each other on the street using their Twitter user names, but most Chattanoogans who use social-media services agree they're part of a burgeoning community.

Later this month, ChattCHA, a juried social-media awards event, will recognize the most innovative and effective uses of social media in the Chattanooga area by individuals, organizations and businesses.

Event founder Strat Parrott, 26 (@stratparrott), said the idea for ChattCHA has been in his head for several years.

As the owner of Juncture, an Internet marketing and brand development firm, Parrott said he is often asked by local companies for advice on how to use social media as a business tool. Through an event like ChattCHA, he said, he can point to those who are using it most effectively.

"I do a lot of social-media workshops ... and one of the things that always comes up is 'What are other people doing? What works for them?'" he said.

"[With ChattCHA], I wanted to highlight what some local area businesses are doing with social media to encourage others to use it as a platform."

ChattCHA's nomination period ended March 31. The 15 nominees were announced April 1, and during the next two weeks, three judges will evaluate their use of social media as a marketing or branding tool and their interaction with their followers.

Award recipients will be announced April 30. The winners in the three categories-business, organization/nonprofit and individual/student-will receive an award and will have their campaign or use of social media discussed on the ChattCHA website, Parrott said.

Nominees ranged from individuals such as Scott Daniels (@scottdaniels423), who worked to get Chattanooga State's student radio station on the online streaming website, to organizations and companies such as digital broadcast network TUFF TV and EPB.

Jack Gray, 51 (@drshocktheatre), the mastermind behind the newly revived "Shock Theater" TV program, nominated himself in the individual category for his use of Facebook to drum up interest in the show.

Shortly after Gray decided to bring back Shock Theater in February 2010, he started a Facebook profile, which attracted 300-400 followers within weeks. Now, it has about 1,400 fans, Gray said.

"I was blown away after six or seven months how we could put something out and the whole city knew about it," he said. "I would be surprised when I went out how people would tell me what I was doing. That blew my mind."

Response to ChattCHA was less enthusiastic than he hoped, but Parrott said he feels confident that social media is on the rise and is committed to hosting a second awards show either later this year or next year.

"Chattanooga, as a whole, is just in the fledgling area where they're trying to figure out how to start the conversation," he said.

John Clemmer, 38 (@johnfclemmer), has posted about 5,200 messages since joining Twitter in 2009. On average, he tweets eight times a day about everything from humor to local traffic. He also has become an avid user of Foursquare, LinkedIn, Flickr and a number of other social-media services.

Clemmer said he follows a number of local businesses and is struck by the speed at which social media has become accepted in Chattanooga.

"I think that social media in Chattanooga is growing tremendously, [and] it seems to be picking up a lot more," he said. "I think as we go forward, it's just going to get bigger and bigger."

Some users aren't quite as hopeful.

Russ Jackson, 31 (@lostorbit), another frequent Twitter user with 6,000 tweets and more than 1,000 followers, said he thinks ChattCHA is a novel concept but one for which the community isn't quite ready.

"There seems to be roughly 1,000 or so active Chattanoogans on Twitter, which I think is small for a city our size," he wrote, in an emailed response. "I've seen growth in the last few years but nothing substantial."

Parrott said he hopes ChattCHA will encourage those numbers to grow.

Chattanooga businesses are increasingly embracing services like Foursquare or Twitter as business tools, but other local companies may not be aware of their efforts. By highlighting the best local grassroots social media work through ChattCHA, they may be encouraged to dip their toe in the water.

"All the people who have been nominated are really active in what they do," he said. "They're doing it low-cost, but they're putting their time and hearts into it, and that's what's making it good, not putting it up on a Facebook page and letting it sit there."