From the moment the KC Streetcar made its first trip down Main Street, we’ve seen just about everyone on social media posting photos of their journey on it! Since opening in 2016, the two-mile route from Kansas City’s River Market to Crown Center and Union Station has become one of Kansas City’s most popular things to talk about.
We recently had the opportunity to ride the KC Streetcar with Tom Gerend, the Executive Director of the KC Streetcar Authority. Of course, we couldn’t resist first taking a selfie with him for our own memories on social media!
This led to a conversation with Gerend about how the KC Streetcar uses social media. When he was hired during the initial planning of the KC Streetcar project, one of his first tasks was an overall assessment of the KC Streetcar Authority’s needs. He quickly discovered one important piece was missing.
“We realized the KC Streetcar needed a full-time communications position to provide real-time information about the streetcar through social media,” said Gerend. “We needed a way to tell our story to stakeholders, the public, city leaders and media outlets.”
Donna Mandelbaum soon came on to serve as the Authority’s full-time Communications Coordinator and online “voice” for the KC Streetcar’s social media accounts. According to Gerend, Mandelbaum is an integral part of their success.
“Donna’s experience working on the construction of the project, coupled with her true passion made her the perfect fit,” said Gerend. He realizes some people are skeptical of the KC Streetcar project, which means everything is under a microscope.
“We are proactive about telling our story and telling it often. If we don’t, someone else will for us,” said Gerend. “People are hungry for information about the KC Streetcar and we want to communicate things on our own terms so we aren’t defined by others.”
Not defined by others…. Sounds like our kind of human!
That said, there is something else that really stands out about how Gerend and the KC Streetcar use social media. They aren’t just telling their story (although they are doing a darn good job of doing that too!)
What we love most is their daily effort to build community relationships instead of constantly promoting the streetcar. They like, they share, they comment on other pages, they retweet, they congratulate, they appreciate…. they participate online with the community they are building offline.
Since the KC Streetcar affects people and businesses all over the region, they use social media to communicate with supporters – and also with non-supporters in an effort to educate the public and adopt more supporters. Their willingness to be available to answer questions and have conversations in real time allows them to quickly squash rumors, myths, and false information. They prefer to be a conduit for showcasing development and like to use their social networks to help people understand the bigger picture.
“The KC Streetcar is one small part of the revitalization happening in downtown Kansas City,” said Gerend. “It’s important for us to show how it’s is contributing to overall community development and growth so we work hard to promote the businesses in the area, and they’ve embraced us as a result.”
What else do we love about the KC Streetcar? They showcase real humans riding!
“The KC Streetcar has a loyal following and we quickly discovered people like to share pictures and stories about their ride on social media,” said Gerend. “Because we love to re-share their stories on our social networks, it helps us stay connected to our riders. They feel valued, which helps us humanize the service.”
According to Gerend, the KC Streetcar had 1.4 million riders in 2016. With so many passengers, there are bound to be countless stories taking place every day and we don’t see this going away anytime soon!
“Almost every day we hear stories about people’s personal experiences on the KC Streetcar,” said Gerend. “Someone sent us a message that an operator loaned a pair of gloves to a passenger, and we wouldn’t have known about that story…. or many others, if we not been using social media.”
Thank you, Tom Gerend and the KC Streetcar Authority, for being excellent examples of how to act human online by using social media to build relationships rather than to promote stuff. We consider ourselves lucky to know you and to be riders and supporters of the awesome #KCStreetcar! #GrowKC