When you think of what it takes to be considered a prosperous city, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
You may picture flocks of tourists and visitors lining up to see what you have to offer, or maybe you imagine a thriving local business environment. However, the group most integral to the success of your city can often be forgotten or demoted in importance in your quest for strong tourism and economic development – proud local residents.
Your residents play one of the most important roles in your community’s journey towards success, and are the heart and soul of your city. Residents should act as your number one fans, so with proper relationship building and care they will influence more than you may imagine. After all, as Jeff Siegler from Revitalize, or Die puts it, “A city built for locals will always attract new visitors, but a city built for visitors may never attract new locals.”
You must encourage and amplify genuine civic pride amongst your residents.
With busy schedules, lack of flexibility and limited budgets, it can often feel difficult for cities to explore integrating new civic engagement opportunities within their communities to help establish and spread pride. However, there is a free yet often underutilized resource that can easily play a huge role in establishing civic pride in any city: Instagram, which has evolved into a platform that promotes conversation and connection in addition to being a place to share great photos.
Check out these strategies to help boost civic pride using Instagram and similar social media networks:
Implementing a destination-branded hashtag provides an avenue for your residents and visitors to share and expand their civic pride. All that you need to get started is a little creativity and word of mouth.
In order to create a city branded hashtag, start by making a list of any hashtags that you feel would fit well with your city – these can consist of using your city’s name with a determiner (such as Phoenix, Arizona’s #myphx) or slogans that connect to your place (like #newmexicotrue). After you have a solid list of ideas built, take to Instagram and look into how your hashtags are currently being used. Are there already unaffiliated locations or businesses using it? Is the content located within this hashtag appropriate for all ages? Is it oversaturated or overused?
Once you pinpoint your perfect hashtag, ensure that it is present across the city. Include it on your city’s Instagram posts, presentations, flyers, ads, and packaging to help familiarize your residents with it. You could even launch a giveaway contest to encourage use. Eventually, users will start participating and creating their own unique content.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin is a small, coastal city built upon a historic and nostalgic past. Today they are making great strides towards the future with a boom in locally owned businesses and tourism from their beautiful beaches and hospitable environment. When CivicBrand approached Two Rivers’ rebranding process, we were dedicated to establishing a way for the city to present their civic pride while paying homage to the timelessness that gave them their sense of self. This was presented in the rollout of Two River’s branded hashtag campaign, #TrueToTwo. #TrueToTwo encourages the city’s residents to go online and share what makes Two Rivers special to them through their own unique perspective — through stories of their experiences, pictures of spots that are meaningful to them, or shout-outs to the individuals within their community.
User-generated content (UGC) is social content created and posted by people, rather than the city. There are several benefits to UGC, including an elevated level of trust and authenticity, but the most beneficial result of UGC is the promotion of civic pride that comes along with it. By taking the time to encourage and share UGC, residents and visitors alike feel seen, appreciated, and valuable.
Tupelo, Mississippi is a town best known for its automobile museum, local zoo, and being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Although Tupelo saw no shortage of tourists, they wanted to show that there was so much to their city than the King of Rock and decided to overhaul their marketing efforts with the help of their residents and regular visitors using a new civic pride campaign fueled by user-generated content.
As a result, the city unveiled a new branded hashtag, #MyTupelo, and urged both residents and visitors alike to share what made their city special to them on Instagram. As user-generated content came flooding in, Tupelo revamped several public spaces, adding digital galleries and signage throughout town with these user-generated images prominently displayed for the public to see.
In the end, visitors may have initially come for Elvis, but through UGC Tupelo was able to show off everything their town had to offer and increase civic pride along the way.
Some destinations have taken the concept of user-generated content one step further through the introduction of designated digital ambassadors to represent their city. Digital ambassador programs can attract some of the most passionate and outgoing residents to spread the word.
These programs allow local residents who are passionate about their community to promote activities, events, and announcements to their social media follower base in exchange for benefits. Many city’s digital ambassador programs offer free event attendance and insider access, while others run on a point-based system, with the highest performing ambassadors earning VIP tickets, gift cards, and other prizes.
The city of Amarillo, Texas first introduced its digital ambassador program titled #HelloAmarillo in 2018. This program was introduced to help promote civic pride and highlight the city’s culture, activities, and lifestyle through a collaborative city-wide social media initiative.
Local residents were given the opportunity to try out to become digital ambassadors to the city. Those who were chosen to become ambassadors were then signed up to receive updates and behind-the-scenes opportunities to attend exclusive events in the city. In return, they posted about the events and why they love their city to their followers. Two years after launch, #HelloAmarillo is still a thriving program helping to spread passion and civic pride throughout the city of Amarillo.
If your city is looking to expand your civic pride for both residents and visitors alike, Instagram can help provide endless possibilities for long lasting engagement. No matter the size of your city, your location, or your budget, by establishing a solid Instagram strategy, you will provide a platform for residents to sing their praises and share what makes your city so much more than home.