How can local governments entice Generation X and younger citizens to become involved in decision-making? With fierce economic conditions, how can any new initiatives survive and thrive?
The answers lie in social networking-web-based technology that links groups of people with common interests. It's simple and quick to use, broad-reaching and FREE! The City of Red Wing is using social networking sites to successfully reach out to its youngest residents.
Red Wing's Going Viral campaign involves creating an online presence and two-way communication tools using YouTube.com, Facebook.com, and MySpace.com. The campaign
has two goals: (1) get younger residents involved in the city, and (2) increase citizen access to city videos and information.
In Red Wing residents above the age of 45 have been highly involved in community activities-from town hall meetings to city boards and commissions. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm hasn't carried through to younger generations.
The Going Viral campaign is starting to change that. It targets young citizens to get them involved on boards and commissions, as elected officials and in other aspects of city decisionmaking.
Although it will take time, progress is being made, as the city has already seen increased attendance at events and increased inquiries from residents under age 45.
From April 2008 through October 2009, staff loaded 63 videos onto its YouTube web page.
During that time, the page received 8,667 video views and 1,533 channel views (visits to the web page generated by a visitor watching a video and then looking for more information about Red Wing)! The top three ages of visitors are: (1) 35-44, (2) 45-54, and (3) 18-24.
Another successful component of the campaign is Red Wing's fan page on Facebook.com. In just six months, the page acquired 1,013 fans and received 2,140 page views and 250 photo views. The biggest fan viewing day of 83 views was August 31, when information was posted about a missing person in Red Wing. Many fans posted positive comments about the city getting information out to a wide range of people in a timely manner. A huge majority (85 percent) of the City of Red Wing's Facebook fans are under age 45, with the biggest number (29 percent) in the 25 to 34 age range.
MySpace.com has also become an effective venue through which to pique interest from Red Wing's youngest voters. From March 15 through October 12, Red Wing's MySpace page/received 1029 profile views, 19 comments and acquired 451 "friends."
These social media sites have been used with great success to gain exposure for various public
service announcements and promote various public meetings to residents ages 35 and under.
As a result, the following has occured:
All this was achieved with no money and very little staff time. Staff spent about three hours on
one-time step up creating the three original web pages using existing photos and videos.
Ongoing loading of content and photos requires an average of 10 minutes daily.