Our project was called “Creating a short form of media to improve and strengthen interaction with Horodok and Sataniv local communities.” The TikTok account became our tenth media platform, and despite being less than a year old, one of the videos received half a million views. Digitalization has significantly heightened our awareness and role in society. We are willing to share our experience with colleagues.

Today, young people often lack initiative and tend to assume a passive position in various matters. Our community is no exception. The reason for this is primarily the years of distance learning. Additionally, teenagers often express frustration about the limited opportunities for self-realization in our small town. We learned about this from the results of a survey conducted by journalists from PE “Horodotsky District Television and Radio Press Center.”

Furthermore, through interactions with schoolchildren, we discovered that our young people have a notably low level of media literacy. Distinguishing disinformation from facts is challenging for them, and they may not fully grasp the dangers of their vulnerability to the influence of fakes. Therefore, we decided to concurrently engage young people in community activities and assist them in discerning accurate information.

To achieve this, we decided to establish a TikTok profile, involve young people in content creation in collaboration with our media, and, through this, provide a platform for their self-realization as well as identifying, discussing, and addressing their problems. Convenient and high-quality communication, in our opinion, should serve as the foundation for change.

I would like to emphasize here that we have long recognized the value of working with various platforms, as it enables us to connect with diverse audiences. Therefore, the decision to create TikTok was our deliberate choice. Before delving into the examination of our experience, I would like to highlight that we currently operate on 10 platforms:

– Horodotskyi Visnyk newspaper,

– 48 TVK television channel,

– FM radio on wave 106.9,

– Horodok.City. online media,

– platforms on all social media: Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.

This enables us to reach a maximum number of people across various age groups.

How TikTok helped us attract young people

TikTok is today the most popular app and the best platform for communicating with young people. It’s not just for fun; it is often the primary source of information for the younger generation. We decided to approach the places where young people already spend their time, make efforts to foster interaction, and thereby enhance the social activity of this group in our community. We anticipated that, as a result, the community would gain an active segment of the population – potential members of the Youth Council and public activists.

We decided to approach the places where young people already spend their time, make efforts to foster interaction, and thereby enhance the social activity of this group in our community. The problem was that we weren’t entirely certain about how to precisely execute that task

Our cameraman Illia Stanytsia during filming

The problem was that we weren’t entirely certain about how to precisely execute that task, and we faced financial constraints, hindering us from hiring social media management services, adding extra responsibilities to full-time employees, and obtaining the necessary equipment for TikTok. Therefore, without the invitation from UAMB to participate in a grant competition for local media, we likely wouldn’t have been able to undertake this initiative. Or we would not have achieved such results.

Three community issues addressed through media initiatives

We established a business profile on TikTok, publishing 97 posts within three months. We also focused on cultivating a dedicated audience on other social media, including our Telegram channel, Instagram, and Facebook.

In the first few weeks, the content was created chaotically. Subsequently, a specific pattern was developed, taking into account the nature of materials, the frequency of their distribution, and, of course, the topic.

To ensure effective interaction, we organized a round table to discuss significant issues for young people. We also signed a memorandum with the Youth Council.

Through an offline survey and an analysis of comments under surveys on our social media, we identified five issues that concern the local youth the most. And during the implementation of our project, we successfully resolved three of these issues.

The survey identified five problems that most concern local youth. During the implementation of our project, we successfully resolved three of them

Our first victory is the restoration of the city beach to proper condition. The city council allocated funds for a survey of the river bank and bottom, public utilities repaired the available swings, and a local entrepreneur conducted landscaping works. “Now I am not worrying about my child; I love relaxing on the beach so much,” said Kateryna Ovsiak, a resident of Horodok. “Because now, children have a place to rest, so they spend more time by the river. So, it’s good that the rescuers examined everything here.”

The second thing we managed to do was solve the problem of spontaneous trade in town. The authorities, in collaboration with the police, conducted explanatory sessions with sellers from the spontaneous market. Now, they sell their products within the premises of the daily market. “Finally, we can walk safely along the sidewalk because there are no people standing with goods on it,” said Vladyslav Fedoshchuk, a resident of Horodok and a pensioner. “And, again, this is primarily for the health of the people themselves. I never understood how one can purchase meat or dairy products from random people on the roadside.”

Spontaneous market in Horodok

Our third result is the organization of leisure activities for young people in the summer. For example, in 2023, the summer cinema started operating, which had not been functional before.

We believe that the most important thing is that we managed to attract a young audience. So, by sharing interesting aspects of your city, leisure activities, and events in an easy and concise format, we not only help young people develop. We also train them in media literacy and shape their civic stance.

It was TikTok that made our media recognizable. At first, our focus was on a young audience aged 18-24, and TikTok helped attract high school students aged 13 and older. The most active participants were citizens aged 14-17 years, who are now actively collaborating with the media. The project inspired us to produce a series of video podcasts with students from community schools on media literacy. It comprised a series of five episodes, which we will discuss in more detail here.

It was TikTok that made our media recognizable. After releasing the first two podcasts, our journalists were invited by classroom teachers from various schools to conduct media literacy lessons for schoolchildren

Young people with whom we collaborated on podcasts

After releasing the first two podcasts, our journalists were invited by classroom teachers from various schools to conduct media literacy lessons for schoolchildren. Read more about this here. I would also like to note here that these lessons and training sessions on media literacy are conducted by our colleague, Vira Lapa. She is a professional psychologist, a candidate of sciences, who, after moving to our city, decided to change her field of activity and become a journalist. She has completed a corresponding course on media literacy and now conducts training sessions herself.

Digitalization – trust – media literacy

The project has given us a lot. First of all, this result was a significant increase in the digitalization of our media.

So, thanks to the project, we:

♦ Established another platform for communication with the audience (TikTok), which enabled us to attract an additional 3,330 people,

♦ Increased the number of followers on our other social media platforms, particularly on Facebook, by 858 readers, on the Telegram channel by 274, and on Instagram pages by 519. I want to emphasize that at the beginning of the project, we planned to increase the number of Facebook followers by 10%, but, in fact, it increased by 23.6%. On Instagram, it increased by 20%, and on TikTok, it surged by 33.9%.

♦ Implemented interactive formats for our Facebook page. We also managed more than planned. We initially planned to create 20 interactive posts, but in reality, we published 30. We also initiated the creation of Reels, which significantly enhanced the traffic and reach of our social media.

♦ Hired a social media manager who worked on the development of our social media. As I noted earlier, the editorial board did not have its own funds to pay for such kind of professional services. It is crucial for us that, even though the project has ended and the editorial staff has not secured funds to compensate for the SMM’s work, the specialist with whom we initially collaborated continues to work with us on a voluntary basis.

♦ UAMB mentors taught us how to plan our work and find additional sources of income for the media, particularly through Collaborator.

With the introduction of a new line of activity (content placement on TikTok), we monitored the following changes and the reaction of our readers/viewers:

— the number of younger viewers (school and university students) has increased. This is evidenced by the number of subscribers and comments on our Tik-Tok channel,

— due to the increase in materials in survey format, people have become more open and ready to communicate with journalists,

— the recognition of editorial members has increased.

The overall audience of the project was:

♦ printed media – 1500 readers,

♦ digital – 222,000 (website) and 16560 (total social media audience).

As I said, we have 10 different platforms running today. This is how, by responding to changes, we have become convergent and multimedia. To make all of this work, we focus our efforts on team coherence, mutual support, understanding, and rapid adaptation to today’s conditions.

Our conclusions and advice to colleagues

I’ll start with conclusions. In the editorial office, we consider the main achievement to be the cultivation of a conscious attitude towards information consumption among young people. We have embarked on the path of engaging young people in the TikTok subscriber community with the prospect of sparking their interest in information on our website, newspaper, television, and radio. In our opinion, this approach by the editorial staff contributes to increasing the number of media-literate citizens, which is especially important during the hybrid war in which our state is engaged.

Vira Lapa conducted a media literacy training at the Horodok school

For us, this project has significantly reinforced the digitalization of media. Both the manager and two editorial staff members underwent training in social media management. We have learned how to create interactive activities, and the management of social media has become systematic and planned. TikTok made our media recognizable. Having gained experience, we have written two new grant applications:

– the first one is regarding the creation of podcasts with young people – we successfully secured this project and recorded five podcasts with them,

– and the second application is dedicated to creating a Journalism School for high school students on the basis of the editorial office.

We also introduced a new radio program called “Family Affairs” with young people. In this program, a psychologist engages in conversations with high school students about the significant issues that arise between parents and children.

Because we address topics that are relevant to our audience, there is a growing number of people willing to comment when we shoot for TikTok. After all, this channel has become quite popular among city residents. Viewers mention that they appreciate the efficiency – they can quickly see themselves or their friends in the video, in contrast to stories in the weekly information program. It’s also easy to forward links to friends. In addition, videos are light, entertaining, and useful at the same time. For example, this is how they speak about historical publications.

In these difficult times, we realized the importance of mobility for the editorial staff. If the editorial office had its own transportation, it would help address the issue not only of journalist mobility but also with the delivery of printed publications.

Now we have our own positive experience of innovation. For the entire team, this project was an experiment in moving away from traditional formats and acquiring the skills of creating videos in new formats

I also want to emphasize that now we have our own positive experience of innovations. For the entire team, this project was an experiment in moving away from traditional formats and acquiring the skills of creating videos in new formats. But it is thanks to this experiment that:

— we mastered short videos as a new content format,

— we have gained 3,842 subscribers and received 89.3 thousand likes since the beginning of our registration on TikTok on February 01, 2024,

— among the published videos, there is one that has garnered 497.5 thousand views.

Now let’s talk about conclusions that may be valuable for colleagues. The first thing I want to emphasize is a clear statement: go to TikTok! There, you will find a young audience with whom you can implement various projects.

At the moment, one person is responsible for our Tik-Tok account. And we already recognize the importance of everyone mastering the skills of mobile journalism, ensuring that the timely publication of materials does not rely on a single team member. This will enable us to distribute the workload among editorial members and diversify the content.

We advise our colleagues:

♦ do not rest on your laurels; apply for grants, especially if there is an idea that you are already discussing within the team,

♦ find new content formats and learn how to create and present them,

♦ organize brainstorming sessions with the entire team to find new ideas, new topics, and directions for the organization’s development,

♦ apply to UAMB, because there are great mentors here.

We continue our own project now. We are exploring opportunities for psychological support for the editorial staff (as it is indeed challenging), various courses and training, consultations, funds for installing equipment, purchasing software, and human resources. We write applications and apply for contests. We also establish cooperation with enterprises and organizations and conclude contracts for media coverage. Given the situation, we plan to work for no more than a year. But we can plan for this winter. That’s what we sincerely wish for others.

AUTHOR: Nataliia Popovych

This publication was created with the support of the European Union. The content is the sole responsibility of the Ukrainian Media Business Association and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union, whose financial support made the project possible.