116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - High school students will takeover the city's social media pages on Friday.
The initiative could help city officials crack the code of how to reach their youngest residents. The students from Iowa BIG won't have free rein, but have created the photos, videos and comments to be shared on the city's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts on Friday, said Maria Johnson, the city communications division manager who led the initiative and runs the city's social media accounts.
'Our social media is very much geared to adults who live in the city,” Johnson said. 'My team has a good age range of people, but really in order to find information teens are interested in and young adults are interested in, we reached out to (Iowa BIG) and proposed this idea.”
Online social networks have become a key tool in outreach to residents in Cedar Rapids, but as social media quickly evolves, large organizations - such as cities - must adapt to connect with audiences, particularly younger ones, a social media executive said.
'Cedar Rapids told through the lens of its own people is an example of one of the most effective social media strategy you can apply,” said Josh Krakauer, chief executive of Sculpt, a social media marketing agency based in Iowa City.
Krakauer credits Cedar Rapids for experimenting and reaching out to students.
The city began partnering with Iowa BIG in January. Iowa BIG is a project-based high school program where students from the school districts of Cedar Rapids, Prairie and Linn-Mar earn credits based on community-service projects.
The takeover is part of the city's #CRYOUTH initiative to encourage youth opportunities in education, employment and engagement, Johnson said.
Brooke McNeal, 18, a Kennedy High School senior and team leader on the project, worked with Maya Gonlubol, a senior from Washington High School, and project mentor Dennis Becker. The students worked with Johnson on a communications plan and developed content.
McNeal had noticed the city's social media has been primarily used to instruct residents about road blocks or closures and tutorials on putting out garbage bins, and thought they could better connect by becoming more interactive and focusing on additional subject matter, she said. The students are planning live question-and-answer periods on Friday morning, polls, profiles on people around the community and a feature about homelessness.
'We wanted to make it more fun and interactive and make people want to follow,” she said. 'We want to direct the post to get more followers.”
The students proposed starting a city Snapchat account, but that was lost in the shuffle among the other ideas, she said.
Johnson said the experience has been educational for her in getting a lens into the preferences of younger people. She said she plans to continue working with the students and may try another takeover day in the future.
Krakauer said large organizations, such as cities, try to use social media to reach audiences and convey a message or a value, but one common mistake is talking too much about what is relevant to them versus what is relevant to their audiences, he said.
Attitudes toward social media, particularly among younger users, are shifting away from polished, curated content about things that have already happened in favor of real-time, raw feeds, such as 'live” or Snapchat stories, he said. Too polished and the message may not connect with audiences in a way that people can relate to and buy into, he said.
'Standards of what people consider to be engaging have changed significantly,” Krakauer said. 'You don't need to be polished. In fact, the less polished you are the more authentic you come across and more engaging it is.”
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