Community Board 7 moves towards social media

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A live Twitter chat falls flat, but chair Roberta Semer hopes that digital forums will catch on


  • Roberta Semer, chair of CB7. Photo: Bruce Semer

Community Board 7 chair Roberta Semer wants to give Upper West Siders the ability to voice their concerns and ask their questions in a public forum without leaving the comfort of their homes.

The way to do this? With live Twitter chats. On the evening of Tuesday, June 27, Semer hoped to start a conversation about topics affecting the Upper West Side by hosting CB7’s first live chat, where she intended to answer questions and concerns in real time.

Unfortunately, she’s off to a slow start — only two people reached out to Semer, who was tweeting from her personal handle @rss205nyc.

But this doesn’t discourage Semer. Instead of ditching social media, something she admitted isn’t her forte, she’s already thinking of ways to improve for next time.

“Hopefully it’ll catch on,” she said. “We’re going to do it every two weeks for the summer to see how it goes.”

When board members Linda Alexander and Suzanne Robotti suggested holding the social media forum, Semer said she was in. The live Twitter chat was meant to target people who would otherwise remain unengaged had they not joined in on Twitter, particularly a younger demographic of Upper West Siders who don’t normally attend board meetings to voice their concerns.

“We want to reach more people,” Semer said. “We want to get more people in the community involved. There may be a whole sector of people who aren’t aware of the community board and aren’t aware of what we do and the kinds of issues that we deal with.”

Next time, she and the CB7 communication committee plan to better advertise the live chat so more people are aware beforehand.

“I think we need to put it up on the website and announce it at the full board meetings,” she said. “We really need to do better outreach.”

Semer also intends to pick a topic of conversation for her live chats; she wondered if her first live tweet was too broad, leaving community members overwhelmed and not sure what to tweet about. Narrowing down the chat to a handful of topics might encourage people to participate, she said.

“If 20 people tweet and five are concerned with one thing, then we could tweet about that the next time,” Semer said. “We can build on it.”

Although their first attempt may have fallen flat, CB7 is ready to move in a new, digital direction. The board utilizes their website, Facebook page and Twitter handle to engage with the community — most recently, they created an Instagram account.

“We’re all very new to this,” Semer said. “I mean, I’ve tweeted five times in my life before last night. I think I’m going to start using Twitter more and I’m going to start tweeting about things that are happening in the community.”

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