Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain boast some of Europe’s most digitally visible cities, according to built environment-focused PR agency ING Media, which conducts an annual ranking of Europe’s most talked-about cities. 

Almost half of the cities mentioned in the report's Top 50 are from these three countries. The study tracks online mentions on social media and news over a calendar year. The latest survey covers 2019, which is the second year it has been conducted.

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London remained in first place in the rankings followed by Paris in second and Madrid in third. However, Istanbul has risen to fourth place in this year’s list – replacing Rome – followed by Barcelona in fifth place. 

As well as London, UK cities Manchester and Glasgow also ranked in the top 20, coming in at 10th and 19th place.

Overall, London and Paris dominated the online conversation, with the two cities sharing nearly a third of online mentions between them. London had the most mentions in the news as well as on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Many northern and eastern European capital cities, including Berlin, have fewer mentions on social media, despite scoring highly on online news coverage. In comparison, Istanbul, Barcelona and Valencia received more social media coverage but ranked comparatively lower in news coverage. 

Politics and culture dominate

Trending topics linked to online mentions this year were dominated by politics and culture, rather than sports as in the previous year’s survey. For example, cities such as Copenhagen, Milan and Amsterdam trended following digital links to Korean boy bands. 

Other topics that led to a spike in online traffic included political activism, particularly in relation to climate change.

The report illustrates how hard it is for cities to rise in the rankings but how relatively easy it is to fall. Glasgow climbed the highest in this year’s rankings, rising four places, whilst Tallinn fell by the most, falling by 18 places.

By tracking social media and online news, the ranking emphasises the importance of online conversations and digital visibility in promoting cities as brands, ING media said.

The report concluded that there was a correlation between countries with more highly ranked cities in terms of digital visibility, and economic performance. 

As the research is based on data compiled in 2019, Covid-19 has not impacted the findings. 

Leanne Tritton, managing director at ING Media, said the ability for cities to “communicate clearly and effectively with their people both online and on social media” will be more important than ever in light of the pandemic and the changing digital media environment.