Building a Community with the #GreatLakes500

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the #GreatLakes500 ranking of influencers on Twitter. Published every Tuesday, the listing has come to be regarded as a go-to source for making connections, building relationships, and spreading awareness about the Great Lakes. So, what have we learned from its success in year one, and what will we change going into year two?

First launched in September 2021, the #GreatLakes500 ranking of influencers on Twitter is an online community resource and business network built to encourage positive dialogue and increase engagement across the entire Great Lakes Basin and beyond.

Sponsored by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation and published in association with SustMeme, this free-to-access platform measures the degree to which users engage in and discuss Great Lakes topics. It works to help raise awareness and encourage interaction across social media, plus increasingly in real life.

So, with the first year of weekly publication now complete, what have we learned?

What have we learned?

The fact that the ranking updated every Tuesday meant it remained responsive and could reflect rising trends and recent events. The potential to introduce new entrants to the community every seven days also helped the roster grow and develop over time. Changes in position week-to-week made for informative and fun interactions between Twitter users.

As a result, the levels of engagement proved even higher than the organizers might have hoped. The broad mix of participants was diverse in terms of personal and professional characteristics, plus geographically. In particular, the dramatic uplift in the number of connections made between the various interested parties in the United States and Canada represented a significant achievement in respect of strengthening cross-border ties.

All in all, there are multiple positive takeaways to carry forward into the next phase of the #GreatLakes500. In many ways, the goal now is to do more of what we did well, better.

Fun Facts:

  • In total, there were 555 users featured in the ranking at one time or another
  • The Twitter account @LakeSuperior was in the top 20 all year
  • The accounts in the list come in all sizes — some with under 50 followers, others over 1 million
  • The total number of Twitter followers for the Top 500 accounts is over 5 times the population of Detroit

What will we change?

Building on the success of the first 12 months, the core aim for the #GreatLakes500 going forward is to deepen the shared sense of community. The main way we hope to achieve this is by incentivizing greater use of the #GreatLakes hashtag in posts on Twitter.

  • The introduction of a new scoring metric, along with updates to the ranking algorithm, will help pick up on hashtag usage and reward active participants for engagement.
  • This means there will be more responsiveness in the rankings. Anyone engaging with #GreatLakes can move themselves up in proportion to their engagement. Likewise, if a user doesn’t engage with #GreatLakes for a week, they’ll drop temporarily.

We feel this sharper focus on issues that are specific, even unique, to the #GreatLakes community will speed and support improved knowledge exchange and, ultimately, help enable better stewardship of this amazing shared freshwater resource.

  • There will also be improved proportionality in terms of the scoring so that the efforts of newer and lesser-known users will be better recognized and reflected in their ranking.

As ever, participation will remain free and open to all people and organizations with an interest in the Great Lakes, freshwater ecosystems, and sustainability. The democratizing effects of the proportionality upgrade will help boost user diversity and bolster equity.

Existing users and participants range from policymakers, private individuals and persons of note, environmental NGOs, social enterprises, community groups, utilities, ecologists, water specialists, global brands, corporations, and local businesses.

Looking to the future, we invite even more names to step up and enter the #GreatLakes community — the bigger and broader the reach, the better the representation. Join us!

Nominations: To nominate a person or organization for potential inclusion in the ranking, Tweet the Twitter username of the nominee to @SustMemeTop500, using the hashtag #GreatLakes500. Self-nomination is perfectly acceptable – don’t be shy! If you were on the list last year you do not need to be re-nominated.

The #GreatLakes500 list updates every Tuesday at 6:00 am ET.


The all-new weekly #GreatLakes500 ranking will launch on Tuesday, September 27.