By BRENNA GRITEMAN
In the past week, Social Findlay‘s Facebook feed has featured a live stream from the Findlay Fourth of July parade, a city construction update and a plea for community members to share rainbow pics after a passing summer storm.
It’s just the kind of eclectic, actual-news-meets-whimsy sort of information you’d expect for a site labeled as “your source for everything Findlay.”
Social Findlay could quite accurately be billed as “Findlay’s Facebook.” The website/social media empire was created by Charles Lightner, who relentlessly polices social media posts by local businesses, entertainment venues, news sites and service organizations and uses new technology to pull pertinent information together, recategorize it and spit it back out in a streamlined, highly interactive format. It’s exhaustive work, scouring social media while constantly being on the lookout for original content, but it’s a mission to which Lightner and his team of online warriors are hopelessly devoted.
“If it’s online, it’s social. If it’s online and it’s in Findlay, it’s mine,” Lightner says, adding a well-placed “LOL” for good measure.
Being at the helm of a product like Social Findlay is the perfect hobby for Lightner, who says he lives for the news of a new business coming to town, and is more interested in the progress of the Dorney Plaza construction than the details of what happened at the most recent council meeting. If there’s a 5K, a grand opening, a festival or any other special event going on downtown, chances are Lightner would be there anyway. That it will end up streamed live on Social Findlay or uploaded to Instagram is just an added bonus.
“I think I am a busybody and I think I am nosy,” Lightner says shamelessly. “I just think we have so much cool stuff going on here and I like to be a part of it. I’m just that guy. And if I hear of stuff going on, I’m getting that itch.”
As a 1999 Findlay transplant, Lightner has immersed himself in the city — it’s not just where he lives, it’s his home. He’s on the board at Awakening Minds Art, is a past board member for Findlay Morning Rotary, and is an active volunteer with various nonprofits.
His actual job is heading up Findlay Digital Design, the internet department of Findlay Publishing Co. And while it’s housed in the same building as The Courier, Social Findlay is 100 percent independent from the newspaper, although it does regularly share feature and business stories from the newspaper.
“We share some resources, of course, but we don’t want to be The Courier,” Lightner says, adding Social Findlay is an independent brand.
In fact, that’s in large part how Social Findlay was created in the first place. Lightner says the project gave him an outlet to share news that doesn’t quite fit the mold for print or web. It also allows Lightner to focus on the now — “What’s for lunch today? What’s your bar schedule for the night?” — rather than the typical news focusing on what’s coming up this weekend. He’s found it appeals to others in search of social, sharable content, but who also come to the site for its extensive, reader-submitted calendar of events, its links to local LGBTQ resources, listing of local garage sales or its roundup of area swimming holes.
Social Findlay was founded Jan. 30, 2013, and in four years has gathered 13,000 Facebook likes and even more followers, well over 1,200 Twitter followers and 1,530 followers on Instagram.
As a site that captures the commonality of what it means to be a Findlayite, some posts simply resonate enough to be shared upward of 1,000 times. A 2015 flood meme reading “Why do we even have pools … Findlay-Ohio” is a prime example. Some posts are incredibly pure, like the recent hound dog modeling shades for #nationalsunglassesday, while others are more tongue-in-cheek. Through it all, though, Social Findlay refuses to take a side or share its opinion publicly.
Lightner built the site and the logo himself and says, “As time went on, I was fortunate enough to have people on my team (at Findlay Digital Design) to expand.” One colleague might excel in writing or photography, for example, while others may contribute with graphics or web design skills.
And, as its homepage states, “This site is powered by the digital media YOU provide.” Indeed, Lightner says he is constantly impressed by technical skills and the use of social media by the people of Findlay.
As Social Findlay’s presence continues to expand and its name becomes more commonplace among the social media-savvy in the city, Lightner’s goals for the brand are for it to remain a good community partner with local businesses and nonprofits, and to incorporate more live coverage.
“I think we’re tapping into this thing where businesses want us to come in — especially new businesses,” he says.
During the soft opening for Fireside Brick Oven Pub and Grill, for example, Social Findlay was there with a live Facebook feed. The same goes for the first Rally in the Alley of the season. On one particularly eventful evening in downtown Findlay, Lightner and two associates were strategically placed at three locations in the area, communicating via text. As soon as one ended their live steam, another began. It left Lightner delighted, and hopeful for what’s to come.
“The future holds more live, definitely,” he says.
Facebook and Instagram: Social Findlay