Keeping Your (Digital) Ear to the Ground: How Fort Lauderdale Heard its Wider Community
The City of Fort Lauderdale was able to identify that the opposition to the project came from a loud, vocal minority and was not the opinion of the majority of its citizens.
Most of the discussions on the topic originated from outside City-owned social media pages and sites, indicating the noteworthy reach and significance of the project within the community.
Zencity’s insights feed empowered the City by providing it with a breakdown of the online discourse trends and comments. Fort Lauderdale will continue to use the insights feed to monitor citizen feedback to ensure that the facility is fulfilling the needs of the community once it opens in 2020.
The City of Fort Lauderdale, FL monitored community sentiment and discourse after it accepted an unsolicited proposal for a new soccer stadium. The goal of this tracking was to accurately determine whether or not the majority of its residents, who had not actively approached the city, were satisfied with the decision regarding the proposal.
In March 2019, the City of Fort Lauderdale accepted an unsolicited proposal from former soccer star David Beckham and the Inter Miami Team. The proposal was to build a new soccer stadium complex on the grounds of the old Lockhart Stadium for the organization’s new soccer team, Inter Miami. The project plan includes an 18,000 person stadium, training facilities and additional amenities for the community such as parks, playgrounds, another stadium for local high school soccer games and more. The City’s decision created a buzz within the community since it was one of the last, large open spaces available for development in the city. A loud, vocal few expressed their concerns and displeasure directly with city commissioners and at homeowners’ association meetings. These few vocal individuals are highly engaged citizens that know how to navigate the city. As a result, they are usually the voices heard by the municipal administration and commission. In this case, the criticism that they presented ranged from concerns about traffic to discontent with the actual use of the land. In addition, the City was even sued by a rival bidder after the bidder’s own stadium proposal was rejected. Yet despite these instances of negative sentiment directed at the City, the administration did not have a clear picture of what the rest of the population of Fort Lauderdale thought of the proposal. Was the greater community aligned with the vocal few? The City needed to find a way to filter through all the organic chatter online and quickly find the answer to this question.
The Zencity Solution
Due to the public interest on the topic, the City of Fort Lauderdale turned to Zencity’s AI platform to analyze the multitude of discussions generated on local media, social media, blog posts, and other data sources. Initially, the opposition to the project was loud and very active when it came to their direct communication with the City. Zencity’s data revealed that their point of view was actually in the minority. The platform also showed that most residents had a positive outlook about the prospect of revitalizing the area with a new stadium. By building a project on the topic within the Zencity dashboard, the city management could track public sentiment in real-time when there was a public announcement on the progress of the project. The positive sentiment data from the Fort Lauderdale community validated the City’s decision when it decided to accept and proceed with the Inter Miami proposal.
Actionable, Data-based Insights
The insights feed highlighted noteworthy content and perceptions from the discussions on the topic. It also categorized the types of comments and online interactions generated by the majority of the community. This analysis revealed trends within the data by combining qualitative and quantitative analysis when processing the information. These comprehensive reports pointed out that most of the discourse surrounding the commission’s approval of the project actually came from outside of official municipality-run data sources, such as community social media pages and blog posts written by private citizens. They also revealed that residents even congratulated the City and council for approving the project.
Sentiment analysis showed that while there was a spike in the discourse about the rival bidder’s lawsuit, most Fort Lauderdale residents actually had a neutral or positive sentiment towards the City’s decision. For example, when it was first announced that the City approved the project, of the nearly 10,000 citizen interactions online discussing or engaging with the topic, only 289 interactions were tagged as negative by the Zencity’s language processor. A similar sentiment breakdown could be seen when the demolition of the old stadium was announced, with an interaction count of 1,002. The lawsuit, on the other hand, only had 391 citizen interactions, with the majority of discussions around the lawsuit noting the City in a favorable light. This data reinforced the conclusion that the majority of residents were in favor of the project. Moreover, Zencity will continue to be used by the municipal administration once the complex is open to the public so that they can easily identify any new concerns and gauge whether the community is satisfied with the facilities.
When the City accepted the proposal for Lockhart Stadium, it drew a lot of attention in the community, both good and bad. Zencity’s data showed us that most of the community backed our decision to activate the site and confirmed that we made the right choice.
Deputy City Manager, Fort Lauderdale, FL