Mar 4, 2021 - Technology

Urban social media tracker Zencity acquires civic polling platform

Animated illustration of emojis floating above a city skyline.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Zencity, a company that tracks citizen sentiment on social media for local governments, announced Thursday it is acquiring civic polling firm Elucd.

Why it matters: Keeping tabs on citizen's feedback and responses to government actions has become a key job for local leaders who are dealing with multiple crises brought on by the pandemic.

What they're saying: The companies say the combination will give cities, counties and law enforcement agencies a digital platform to track a community's opinions, reactions and needs in real time. This will help local leaders address skepticism and misinformation related to measures to contain COVID-19, as well as efforts to roll out vaccinations.

  • "City leaders are making life-changing decisions every day. They need to be able to see what's working and what's not," said Eyal Feder-Levy, CEO of Zencity, which is based in Tel Aviv.
  • Elucd conducts smartphone polls of demographically representative populations, providing near-instant feedback from a broad sample of people.
  • The companies say they collectively work with more than 200 cities.

Reality check: While plenty of people are using social media and responding to smartphone polls these days while they are stuck at home, the tools have limitations.

  • Relying only on digital mechanisms for feedback will inevitably leave out the voices of citizens who don't participate in social media or online polls.
  • The companies acknowledge this limitation, but point out that their methods are still more inclusive than previous citizen engagement strategies — such as town hall meetings — that have high barriers for participation.

The bottom line: "We're not suggesting it should be the sole measure of community feedback," said Michael Simon, CEO of Brooklyn-based Elucd.

  • Still, he said, his company's system allows governments to get a snapshot of a community's needs, responses and opinions during a very tumultuous time.

Go deeper: Cities track social media sentiment through social media

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