Youngstown social media campaign comes with risk

#liveYoungstown contest asks Valley residents to upload images and videos

By Kalea Hall

and Burton Speakman


A new hashtag created to promote the community of Youngstown comes with some risks — as others have learned in the past.

NYO Property Group is sponsoring a #liveYoungstown contest by asking Twitter and Instagram users in Youngstown to upload images or videos of the city using the hashtag.

“Our mentality at NYO is ‘You just got to do it,’” said Dominic Marchionda of NYO. “With any promotion, you have to be delicate.”

This is not the first time NYO has created a contest around promotion of Youngstown life. It first started last year as a way to create a conversation among NYO tenants in Erie Terminal Place, Flats at Wick, The Wick Tower and Realty Tower and progressed into the entire Youngstown community, and now it has extended throughout the Mahoning Valley.

“The core [Youngstown] brings everyone together,” Marchionda said. “It has been really exciting to see it organically evolve into this community project.”

This is the third contest NYO has run on #liveYoungstown, with this one running until November.

There is always a risk associated with this type of promotion, said Dr. Adam Earnheardt, chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University.

“There are people who might try and poke fun at it or be the class clown,” he said.

For example, the McDonald’s fast-food chain tried a similar campaign in 2012 asking people to submit their favorite stories about the company at #McDStories. Instead, people posted horror stories about the company and its food, according to ABC News.

The New York Police Department made a Twitter request for pictures of positive interactions with police offices in April. Instead, the hashtag #myNYPD received photos of police brutality, according to the New York Daily News.

Thus far, the local commentary using the hashtag has been positive. Some include tweets of the Fourth of July fireworks at Covelli Centre, the Festival on Phelps Street and night life in downtown.

People could use the campaign for its intended purpose because its being done by a smaller group, Earnheardt said.

Marchionda said the risks with the hashtag were discussed, and the interns at NYO monitor what comes across with the hashtag, but there hasn’t been much, if any, negativity.

But if a picture was posted of a pothole, for example, that shows the people in the city are paying attention, he said.

One of the main points of the contest is to “find out who is here and who is excited about being here.”

“I think we just let people tell the story,” Marchionda said. “[The contest] has created a fresh perspective.”

Clay Morgan, vice president of operations for Arment Dietrich, a digital marketing agency based in Chicago, said it is important to have a plan established for what could go wrong in a hashtag contest and to respond to it efficiently.

“[The campaigns] can be very effective,” Morgan said. “The problem is you have to think them through. You have to really know who you are and know what the perception is to anticipate what could happen.”

To participate in the contest and have a shot at winning a gift card to a downtown restaurant, take a picture on Instagram or Twitter with #liveYoungstown. The best pictures and videos will be selected as the winners.

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