Some years ago, when we had lots of snow every winter, the City of Tartu introduced a new campaign, calling citizens to report on the people in their neighbourhood who always keep the public sidewalks in front of their homes clear of snow and ice. This campaign became a tradition and in 2012 it was held for the fourth time. 100 best homeowners got a snow shovel and a thank-you-card from the City Government, and the addresses of the houses were published in the media, on the official website of Tartu and on the Facebook Page of Tartu. People could send reports either on the Tartu City website by using a very simple feedback module, in the ’old-fashioned way‘ by calling the maintenance line or by leaving a comment on the Facebook Page of Tartu. All in all, 250 addresses were reported during the campaign. Most of the reports came through Tartu City website, whereas maintenance telephone and Facebook (where it was advertised twice) got equally few reports. On Facebook, people tended to praise the campaign instead of reporting anyone and suggested giving the shovels to those people who do not keep the sidewalks in front of their homes clear of snow.
- Since in Estonia it is the homeowner’s responsibility to keep public sidewalks infront of their homes clear of snow and ice, previous campaigns have used warnings and fines. The aim of this campaign was to acknowledge and say thank you to those citizens who have performed their duties remarkably well. It also aimed at drawing other citizens’ attention to this hard work and make them think about it
Since there were rather few reports on Facebook, it can be assumed that social media (Facebook in this case) are regarded to be less official channels than the city website. Facebook is rather seen as a place to express one’s support for the case and give one’s opinions. As most feedback came through the city website, we can infer that people trust this site the most. The same trend can be observed about other cases of getting feedback from citizens – there is much more feedback given on the website than through any other channels. Facebook is the place where people actively „like“ different topics, but rarely get involved in serious discussions.
The amount of feedback given on the website may also indicate that the younger generation who are more active in social media and do not visit the city website so often, are not that interested in the daily maintenance problems. And those people who take interest in the maintenance of streets and notice these things thanks to their life experience may not entirely trust Facebook as a means of giving feedback.
Recommendation1 It is necessary to use different channels in order to get comprehensive (involving different age groups and social groups) feedback.
Recommendation2 You should consider that social media is not perceived as an official information channel. It is rather seen as a place where you can show your sympathy and support.
Recommendation3 In order to reach a younger target group, invitations in the social media should differ from those published in other channels. These invitations should talk to young people in their language.
Recommendation4 When you have to engage younger target groups it might be worth your while to create an app that would appeal to young people.