Planning Magazine

3 Planning Influencers Share Social Media Engagement Tips

Content creators @jake_gotta, @Quesadiyah, and @PedestrianDignity talk community engagement, diversity in the field, and harnessing Gen Z’s passion for social change.

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Planning social content creators (from left): Jake Gotta, Sadiyah Sabree, and Jonathon Stalls. Photos courtesy of the subjects.

Urban planning content has gone viral on social media, with hashtags like #urbanplanning garnering more than 62.6 million views on TikTok.

It's not just planners who are engaging with this content, though — for many, it's an introductory course in a field they have never heard of but experience every day.

Video content — from pithy memes to documentary-style deep dives — on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube showcases the intricacies of urban planning to younger people, inspiring some to take a course, change their major, or pursue a related master's degree. These creators are building a space where planners and residents can more easily highlight issues, brainstorm solutions, and offer real-time feedback.

Planning caught up with three creators to find out what drove them to urban planning, how their content influences their followers, and how planners can use social media to engage with their communities.

@jake_gotta on TikTok

Jake Gotta is a California-based TikTok creator with an academic background in political science. He talks about "urban design issues as they relate to our real lives now, and how past decisions affect the present." He wants to create awareness around how the policies and priorities of city officials and planners 100 years ago shape every aspect of how we live our lives today.

How did you start creating urban planning content?

[I felt like I was the only one] who could see how we destroyed our cities, hamstrung a generation financially, exacerbated racial segregation, and were perpetuating all our problems by refusing to stop driving a half-ton personal vehicle everywhere we go, all the time. So I started talking about it on TikTok, and I found an awesome community of like-minded people who want to enact change. Every single issue facing the state today is because we rejected 10,000 years of human civilization's organizing nature (dense, walkable urban environments) in favor of a society oriented around personal vehicles.

How has your content impacted your followers?

Multiple people who were inspired by my content have reached out to me asking about urban planning, policy, and other aspects of the field, and I see the effect on our generation this type of content has had. An entire demographic not usually known for being particularly active in this sphere is getting involved and engaging more than ever, and I do like to think I [have] a part in that. And the tangible impact is seen in how these policy ideas are coming to life in cities around the country.

What tips or suggestions do you have for urban planners to use social media?

Anybody involved in this area can and should use social media to reach, educate, and engage with communities who would otherwise be resistant to change. There are a lot of people out there who will reflexively reject a radical change to their built environment, but they also can and will appreciate how it can make their lives better if we give them a chance and do the work to show people what a better world could look like.

@Quesadiyah on YouTube

Sadiyah Sabree is an urban planner YouTuber living and working in Philadelphia. She posts videos about her career experiences in planning, tips on applying to master's programs, and general Q&As for people who may be interested in similar careers.


What motivated you to create urban planning content?

In college, as an urban studies major, I recognized early on that communities of color have often been negatively impacted by problematic planning methods, and I wanted to contribute to the discipline of urban planning to change the narrative and center community voices within the planning process. I also felt that there was a lack of representation of planners and aspiring planners of color within the field.

How has your content impacted your followers?

I think representation is so important. I am happy that by sharing my experiences on a public platform, I have been able to increase the visibility of urban planning and encourage people of diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate-level programs and careers within the discipline.

What tips or suggestions do you have for urban planners to use social media?

I think community participation is crucial to the planning process. Planners should consider using social media to generate awareness about changing city plans and publicizing the opportunities for community engagement and feedback. I meet people almost every day [who] are unaware that urban planning is a profession. I think [that if planners were more] vocal about the discipline, [they could] help to spread knowledge about what [we] do and help empower residents to become engaged with their local planning authorities.

@PedestrianDignity on TikTok and Instagram

Jonathon Stalls, better known as @PedestrianDignity on TikTok and Instagram, is a queer content creator and "Walking Artist" with Intrinsic Paths and the Pedestrian Dignity project. He is also the author of WALK: Slow Down, Wake Up, and Connect at 1-3 Miles Per Hour, an essay collection on how walking connects us.

Jonathan Stalls Instagram account @pedestriandignity features videos and images challenging the walkability of cities.

Jonathan Stalls Instagram account @pedestriandignity features videos and images challenging the walkability of cities.

How did you start creating urban planning content?

I became passionate about [what I call pedestrian dignity] after spending 8.5 months walking across the U.S. in 2010. It was a 242-day embodied classroom around how pedestrian mobility (using mobility devices and on foot) is treated as an illegitimate form of transportation in [terms of] budgets, connectivity, accessibility, planning, and engineering.

How has your content impacted your followers?

[Some viewers] have been inspired to take action through civic engagement, local/collective advocacy, and organizing around policies and budgets. I get support from those who have no choice but to walk, use a wheelchair, or take transit as their primary form of getting around. For example, a wheelchair-using Denver resident was inspired to take action and fought for sidewalk accessibility.

I also get comments like, "Because of your content, I switched my major to urban planning." "These videos inspired me to help make the intersection in front of my school safer." "As a city councilperson, I can say that these videos have opened my eyes to things I have been missing all my life." "I am learning how to connect with my local government because of these videos ... the gaps and barriers are everywhere ... I point them out to my friends, family members, and classmates almost every day."

What tips or suggestions do you have for urban planners to use social media?

Share bite-sized educational topics and relatable scenarios that would involve urban planning. Play with social media trends to creatively weave in urban planning topics. When people ask questions or engage your post or content, reply and make sure there are pathways for them to go deeper or get involved. Be sure to tag and name in the text your [location] so the tools show your content to more local people. Be specific about where you are — street, town, or intersection. Tag local businesses, agencies, and elected leaders in your posts.

Sakshi Udavant is a freelance writer covering technology and trends around the world.