Though many municipalities have bravely ventured into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with residents, for the grand majority of local governments Snapchat remains uncharted territory. It’s understandable that local officials have hit roadblocks with social media; maintaining active accounts could be a full-time job, and the ever-developing technology is oftentimes unfamiliar to municipal leaders, many of whom view social media platforms as a minefield of potential liabilities.

In the past year, Snapchat’s popularity (and legitimacy) has grown exponentially – so much so that the White House opened an account last month to better communicate with a growing young demographic. Indeed, over 60 percent of smartphone users from the ages 13 to 34 use the app. Snapchat could serve as a vital branding resource to municipalities as they strive to improve communication, reach a younger generation, and market their communities to potential residents.

Snapchat (300x200)Essentially, Snapchat allows users to take photos and videos, add captions or drawings, and upload the content to a collective 24-hour “story” that followers can view. Take a look at what they can do, and then check out the many ways that local officials could use Snapchat to connect with residents:

Promote Community Events

Municipalities can use Snapchat to share information leading up to and during public events. For instance, if your community were to host a fireworks display, Snapchat could provide time/location information beforehand, and then showcase real-time video of the fireworks. This is a surprisingly powerful tool. As followers see how exciting public events look on Snapchat, they’re more likely to actually attend future events in person.

Support Philanthropic Programs

Snapchat stories can serve as a tool that allows officials to post both details and real-time progress regarding canned food drives, donation campaigns, and other city-wide philanthropic events. Ultimately, this information can increase participation and community enthusiasm for charitable activity.

Showcase Local Businesses and Jobs

Snapchat gives local governments an opportunity to showcase entrepreneurs and startups, giving a boost to community businesses that support local economies. Potential participants could simply fill out an application indicating interest, and the city’s Snapchat could then share photographs of their storefront, the things they sell or produce, and even a short video statement from the owners. Furthermore, if any businesses are seeking full-time or seasonal help, local officials could post a short notice on their Snapchat story to spread the word about potential employment opportunities.

Spotlight Community Leaders

If you work for your municipality in some capacity (whether elected or appointed), take a moment and ponder whether the majority of people in the city, village, or township you serve actually knows that your position exists. It may be worthwhile to take a day and dedicate your Snapchat story to “A Day in the Life of City Councilwoman X” or “Meet Your City Manager Y.” Giving your Snapchat followers a glimpse of the wide array of responsibilities taken on by city officials not only increases transparency, but also encourages future civic engagement from younger generations.

Construction Updates

Snapchat App 2 (300x200)If your city is in the midst of constructing a new community center, refurbishing a notable town building, or (eternally) revamping local roads, Snapchat can be used to show photos indicating progress and convey information regarding expected end dates.

Share Local History

Municipalities possess a wealth of history of which residents frequently remain unaware. Snapchat can be used to share photos of historical markers, encourage visits to historic districts integral to your town’s origin, and celebrate founding days. By using photos and video, Snapchat can more adequately capture a community’s rich traditions and showcase it as a place that people are proud to call home.

Police Department Information

Police departments frequently turn to Twitter or Facebook to share public safety announcements, but Snapchat can prove an equally valuable resource to deliver this information. Using Snapchat’s capabilities to share captioned photos or videos, municipalities can more effectively relay safety tips and police information to a younger demographic.

Highlight Public Schools

Dynamic activities in public schools, though appreciated by students, parents, faculty, and school administrators, may frequently go unnoticed by other members of the community. Does one of your schools have an impressive Environmental Club, a championship-winning athletic program, or a great hands-on chemistry class? Encourage school communities to let you know when great things are happening, and then use Snapchat to highlight school initiatives worthy of community-wide recognition.

Snapchat App (300x200)Voting Reminders

Millennials are famous for our willingness to make use of new technology. We’re also famous for our despicable voter turnout. Snapchat can be used as a tool to remind younger people to go out and participate in the decisions that directly affect their school districts and localities.

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In short, Snapchat provides an efficient and personal method of visual communication that younger demographics (and older demographics, believe it or not) have grown to appreciate. As social media becomes an increasingly important branding platform for communities, local governments have a lot to gain from experimenting with what Snapchat has to offer. Emerging from your comfort zone, exploring new methods of communication, and reaching younger demographics on the social media platforms that they already use daily can work wonders in creating enthusiastic and engaged communities.

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Samantha Audia, Michigan Municipal League Intern

SamanthaAudia-150x150Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter.

As innovation has made it possible for my generation to satisfy needs at an increasingly rapid pace, we’ve adapted accordingly. Millennials expect the same efficiency that we see in services like Amazon Prime and Spotify to be reflected in our transportation options as well, which is perhaps why many of us have readily embraced the seamless, on-demand mobility provided by ridesharing apps.

Last week, I discussed how shifting mass transit preferences impact the way in which cities allocate their transportation dollars. Similarly, as transportation becomes ever more service- rather than product-oriented, and ridesharing services approach new regions, apps like Uber and Lyft will maintain an increasingly formidable influence on our society’s mobility.

Irresistible Innovation

Lyft (300x225)A wealth of research and articles exist that attempt to determine exactly why ridesharing apps have so captivated my generation, and the conclusions are universally predictable. Millennials like ridesharing apps for the very reasons that you’d probably assume: for the most part we crave efficiency, we only carry cash if necessary, we expect seamless connectivity, and we seek out social experiences.

On-demand mobility conforms to the flexibility and spontaneity of our own schedules. It’s a social experience that we can share with friends, yet personalized to the extent that we can play our Spotify playlists, specify the quality and size of car that arrives for us, and rate our experience afterward. Ridesharing also allows us to abandon those awkward post-taxi moments comprised of pooling together cash and determining a tip. Most notably, Uber and Lyft allow us to split the fare equally between users, rather than hunting down our friends for money later.

In every way, rideshare appeals to the sort of innovative adaptability that my generation champions.

Beyond the Obvious

It seems easy to attribute the growing popularity of app-based mobility simply to the rising preferences of the millennial generation listed above. But in reality, ridesharing services do more than entertain my generation’s tech-centric, “sharing economy” transportation dreams. Uber and Lyft provide every person willing to download the app (not just millennials) with a creative and flexible way to problem-solve in their own respective situations.

More Than Getting from Point A to Point B

While I certainly use Uber (my ridesharing app of choice) as a travel solution, I’ve also been known to use it as a unique problem-solving tool for many of life’s little challenges. For example, my roommate and I frequently called an UberXL from the grocery store in order to dodge lugging our groceries a mile back to our apartment in the D.C. heat. I’ve been known to use ridesharing for desperate fast-food drive-through excursions, and admittedly as a ride home upon giving up on exercise halfway through a jog.

In short, each individual transit need is unique, and services like Lyft and Uber present an adaptable solution to every unusual demand.

Ridesharing but Not

Uber (300x200)The very concept of “ridesharing” indicates an experience meant to be used in common with others, yet I’ve personally found that Uber is most useful to me when I’m desperately alone. For example, upon finding myself in need of a 3:00 a.m. emergency room visit while my roommate was out of town, ridesharing was my only alternative to calling an ambulance. Humorously enough, I actually think that my driver arrived faster than an ambulance would have. Because I had already entered my destination as George Washington Emergency, my driver even came prepared to help me into the car and then into the ER.

Of course, this is an outstanding circumstance. Yet the principle that ridesharing offers a solution to individuals who lack the luxury of being able to pool transportation resources with others stands true. Ridesharing is great with friends, but even more indispensable when travelling alone.

A Groundbreaking Resource for Women

For women, Uber provides an unparalleled resource in terms of personal safety. As a woman, having access to Uber and Lyft gives me the comfort of knowing that if, at any point, I want to leave a situation alone, I have the ability to do so safely.

Even over the last few years, I’ve observed the immeasurable impact that ridesharing has had on female mobility. Before Uber and Lyft, women seeking to leave a situation on their own and without a personal vehicle had a very limited range of undesirable options: essentially taxi, mass transit, or walking. Nothing says ‘I’m alone and vulnerable’ quite like hailing a cab alone on a dark street at night, let alone walking, for that matter. Though mass transit could be a viable option, at the very least it involves a walk there and home, and it may not even be running at night.

Ridesharing offers an alternative option to women seeking to travel alone, enabling them to leave their present situation and walk straight into a waiting vehicle. Knowing that we have access to reliable transportation from any situation or location, simply by using an app, has revolutionized the manner in which my friends and I travel. Ultimately, ridesharing services allow women an unparalleled degree of freedom and safety in individual transit.

In short, though ridesharing resonates with my generation because it synthesizes many of our ‘values’ into one very efficient program, ridesharing gives people of all ages a whole new set of tools with which to problem-solve. As mobility trends continue to shift, municipalities should consider embracing ridesharing programs and their community impact, not only because reliable transportation stimulates local economies, but because programs like Uber and Lyft grant society an incomparable freedom of movement and the ability to re-invent the way we get from place to place.

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Samantha Audia, Michigan Municipal League Intern

SamanthaAudia-150x150Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter.

When it comes to getting from point A to point B, the increasingly innovative nature of mobility has made mass transit a special area of interest for municipalities as they contemplate how to best allocate resources to attract and retain millennials.

My generation has recently been heralded as the mass transit generation, and although the verdict is still out, studies show that at the very least we’re more interested in using multiple means of travel, less interested in obtaining a driver’s license, and altogether eager to take advantage of developing transportation technology to ease and enhance our commute.

Dynamic Transit

Millennials are more enthusiastic than their parents about the mass transit option, especially when mass transit proves a more efficient method of travel than driving to work. Consider: 40 percent of millennials state that they use mass transit as an opportunity to ‘work on their way to work’. Although frequent stops or even delays may cause an individual to budget more time for a commute, 45 minutes spent catching up on e-mails or preparing an agenda for the day may seem a better alternative to 30 minutes spent behind the wheel of a car. Furthermore, young professionals tend to see public transportation as a social experience. As they flock to urban centers, the usage of public transit gives millennials an opportunity to engage in their new community.Bus Map (2) (300x223)

Mass transit also gives my generation alternatives to owning a vehicle, a responsibility that may seem altogether unnecessary and unfavorable for individuals living near urban hubs. Several expenses go into possessing a car: the actual cost of the vehicle, gas, insurance, vehicle maintenance, parking, and tolls. Coupled with escalating urban rent and the absurd amount of student loan debt that millennials lug around, car expenses impose a large and unnecessary financial burden on those for whom mass transit is an alternative option.

Apps and Accessibility

For previous generations, owning a vehicle was the only way in which travelers could ensure spontaneous mobility. Adherence to complicated train schedules, bus schedules, and closing times essentially meant that any trip undertaken had to occur within a certain predetermined time frame that one missed bus or train could completely shatter.

The advent of new transportation technology by way of apps has significantly impacted the manner in which we can get from point A to point B. Consider Transit App (or HopStop before it was acquired by Apple), which will plan out an entire trip between different modes of transportation in seconds, complete with real-time train and bus schedules. Technology like this makes an entire network of mass transit more approachable to millennials seeking on-demand mobility – simply by downloading an app.

The Reality

Public transportation is a concept near and dear to my heart. Throughout my first experience living in Washington, D.C., I encountered all the trials and tribulations that came with owning and operating a vehicle in the city. Between the narrow roads, the parking situation, how much I paid for the parking situation, the toll roads, and the traffic, I can attest that using a car in the city was financially draining and mentally exhausting. When I moved into the city for the second time, I was thrilled that my office was accessible by metro and left me no need to use a vehicle.

That being said, although the D.C. metro system got me where I needed to go and allowed me to dodge the pitfalls of operating a car in the city, it certainly wasn’t the epitome of technological efficiency as portrayed in many of the articles cited above about public transit systems. The Washington Post actually ran a story this week about the D.C. metro system and its shortcomings, based on survey responses of D.C.-based millennials. They quoted one respondent as saying “Our Metro seems to catch on fire or derail more often Mass Transit (300x201)than it runs on time,” and some of the notable descriptions of the system included “absolute worst in the world” and “death trap.”

Therefore, I’m not surprised that mass transit has yet to surpass cars as the premier way for my generation to get around in D.C., or nationally for that matter. Millennials may be increasingly open to mass transit, but the fact that several city-based transit systems have yet to evolve past 20th century obstacles leaves us to choose between what the Washington Post terms ‘the lesser of two evils.” For 84.5 percent of today’s 18-34 age group, that lesser evil is still driving.

Yet, as municipalities begin to reevaluate the manner in which they allocate their transportation resources, anything is possible. Millennials will ultimately flock to cities that can provide freedom of mobility in a cost-effective, safe, and efficient fashion. Therefore, municipalities have everything to gain from investing in high-quality, innovative public transit. Michigan’s willingness to embrace a competitive 21st century transportation infrastructure will set it apart from other states, and work towards attracting and retaining an entire generation of young professionals.

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Samantha Audia, Michigan Municipal League Intern

SamanthaAudia-150x150Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter.

Downtown-Ann-Arbor-University-of-Michigan-on-Graduation-Day-May-2014-TownGown-(59)-200x300This spring, more than 6,000 undergrads will receive their highly-anticipated diplomas from the University of Michigan; I’m proud to be one of them. For some of these students, several of whom have called Michigan home since childhood, graduation will mark the end of their time in the Wolverine State. Like many Michigan grads who came before them, they’ll take their first-rate education, their soon-to-be-tapped potential, and their dreams for the future elsewhere.

But the scene need not seem so dismal – at least not anymore. Because today, more than ever, many of these students will choose to take their uniquely developed talents, their can-do attitudes, and their passion for their work into cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and various other communities throughout Michigan.

In recent years, staying in Michigan after graduation seemed the less-glamorous, ‘only if I have no other options’ choice for graduates. However, remaining in-state to contribute to Michigan’s ever-developing and increasingly entrepreneurial landscape is becoming a bold, even renegade option for students hoping to make a difference in their own corners of the world.

I can speak to this developing phenomenon because I’m a product of it. A year ago, I was convinced that the most courageous post-grad move I could make involved packing my bags and relocating to Washington, D.C. Fast forward two semesters and I (like many of my fellow spring graduates) have come to realize that perhaps the most daring and adventurous option is to use the talents I’ve spent the last four years developing to take an active role in Michigan’s reinvention.

Downtown-Ann-Arbor-University-of-Michigan-on-Graduation-Day-May-2014-TownGown-(48)-300x200Michigan’s reinvention is key because, on the whole, millennials have been found to value the difference that they can make in their respective localities. Staying in Michigan allows millennials to pursue not only individual success, but to directly affect their changing and growing communities, something essential to their own personal fulfillment.

Additionally, almost two-thirds of millennials have an interest in starting their own business. As Michigan has shifted focus to building a new economy, new spaces of innovation supporting local entrepreneurs and startups have popped up all over the state’s map. This unique and increasing demand for entrepreneurship in Michigan attracts millennials boasting individual talents and looking for opportunities to use them.

This space to develop professionally, however, would perhaps be less thrilling if it were not mirrored by an equally stimulating space to engage personally. Millennials find a plethora of places in which to pursue their interests outside of work in Michigan, whether those interests are playing sports, watching sports, venturing through nature, or even delving into history and exploring the occasional museum. Millennials seek to create a home for themselves and for their future families; they appreciate the concept of work-life balance, and they’ve found that here in Michigan.

In short, students who stay in Michigan today grasp an incredible opportunity to have a hand in determining what Michigan will become tomorrow. In this atmosphere dedicated to growth, business owners, families, educators, and lawmakers continue to cooperate with the commitment of developing stronger, more vibrant communities in which graduates can prosper – professionally and personally. Because for everything that Michigan has to offer, its future development and success will be determined by its greatest resource – its people.

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Samantha Audia, Michigan Municipal League Intern

SamanthaAudia-150x150Samantha joined the Michigan Municipal League team as an intern this winter, and will graduate from the University of Michigan in the spring with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. Previously, she has worked with several political non-profits in the Washington, D.C. area, and contributed to an array of publications. Samantha calls Garden City home but currently resides in Ann Arbor, and she looks forward to blogging for the League throughout the winter.