Digital visibility study: Evidence of the importance of showcasing and using networks for a city to attract investment

A multi-year study by ING Media entitled “The World’s Most Talked About Cities” ranked the top 250 places globally by their digital visibility. The sample included 751 cities in 168 countries and tracked the number of mentions across Twitter, forums, blogs, news, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook and Instagram in English, Chinese (simplified), Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Malaysian, Indonesian, and the city’s local language, representing over 90% of total online mentions.

The study found that digital visibility has a significant impact on investment, with the correlation between mentions and a city’s GDP often almost perfect, and provided a good predictor of why Paris, which recently overtook London as Europe's most valuable stock market, was a more likely rival to London’s financial sector dominance than Frankfurt. Cities, with Helsinki being a good example, that boosted their digital visibility using strategic campaigns also saw an almost immediate increase in global city rankings in subsequent years. These rankings impact on investment, tourism, and talent attraction. A study that focused on the UK also illustrated that networks are key to increasing the impact of local initiatives, particularly for smaller cities. The study also explored the impact of the global pandemic, showing that cities experimenting with new types of content and using technology to better benchmark and target messaging were able to leverage the significant reduction in quality coverage.