Sedalia at social media crossroads

By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

July 22, 2014

For years now, I have been discussing the problem of youth exodus right here in the State Fair City. It’s not just a Sedalia problem — the young and enthusiastic have always dreamed about the grass on the other side of the interstate.

And I’m totally hip and gnarly, so I know there’s one major thing we could do to appeal to the young and hip: a relevant and modern city needs a good social media presence. Everyone who is anyone has some sort of social media presence, from that kid down the street who rummages through your garbage to the mega-corporation headquartered somewhere in Illinois. There are people throughout the country who make their living putting on the social media mask of a publicly traded company with orders to engage the people of the Internet.

And I am totally a social media expert, because I did just that for a local organization for three whole months. There is a site called Klout that takes all your social media accounts and assigns you a score based on your ability to influence the masses. Mine is, uh, about 10 points lower than the last time I bothered to check but it’s still not bad.

Now I know the City of Sedalia has both a Facebook and a Twitter account — that’s admirable, and I wrote a column applauding those initiatives when they were first launched. But they haven’t been getting the sort of response I’ve been hoping for. I could fill the rest of this column with Sedalia businesses and organizations that have more Facebook likes than the City of Sedalia itself. At time of writing, the Sedalia Twitter account (@CityofSedalia) only has 12 followers. Your friendly neighborhood opinion columnist (@SardonicJerk) has 105, which means that I’ve got 8.75 times the Twitter presence of the city at large even though I’ve just been using my Twitter account to advertise blog links. Even my 105 might as well be absolutely nothing when compared to the top Twitter heavyweights.

And I think I might know why: a good social media account has to be a little funny, or naughty, or awe-inspiring. It’s great that all the city press releases and such are reaching new audiences but overall the accounts are a little too… stuffy, I guess. The denizens of Facebook and Twitter want to laugh, and they want to get a digital insight into the inner-workings of a given organization. They want to see the Sedalia social media accounts get into friendly competitions with the social media accounts representing other communities. They want candid pictures of the mayor’s desk strewn with papers.

Look, I know Sedalia has reached a social media crossroad, like many communities and organizations before it. It can be hard to balance the professionalism of the social media account of a serious city with the silly, funny and interesting style that brings in the followers and the likers. But when it comes to social media and life it is a mistake to take ourselves too seriously. We can be Sedalia, the captain of industry and festival, while also being hip young Sedville.

And they’re trying — lately, the city’s social media accounts have been putting up more pictures and more video. Multimedia is another vital component of successful social media management.

There was one video that featured the Sedalia Fire Department hard at work trying to put out a fire — the people like seeing that kind of thing, especially in the aftermath of a serious fire prevention investment. This is what you’re paying for, right here!

I think they should do a series of videos where people who work in different parts of the Sedalia city infrastructure film a day in their life. The people want videos, they don’t even have to be long! Pull out your phone and film the raising of the flag! Get on the roof of city hall and film the sunset, or the sunrise! The people want tasty little morsels of the life of Sedalia.

As you know, the Sedalia Regional Airport is undergoing a serious renovation. A recent video showed a work truck equipped with a giant metal slab that looked like the drawbridge door from a particularly small and brutal castle. The mechanism on the back of the truck raised up the slab and then slammed the teeth into the ground, slowly but surely tearing up the old runway. I don’t think I had ever seen a thing like that in action. If you really want a series of videos that are sure to go viral, grab that truck and a series of things that would be fun to crush. I would love to see it pop three gallons of milk, or smash some of the old furniture that the city has to come and pick up.

Don’t worry, we’ll get there.