Social Media Column: Dear City Canada

Published in the July 23, 2013 issue of The Edmonton Sun.

Linda’s social media column can be found every Tuesday in the Edmonton Sun.

Dear City Canada, Write a love letter to your city

Dear Edmonton: You have grit, you have soul, you have colour and tenacity. There’s nowhere I’d rather call home.

Drivers will begin to see love letters to our city, written in 140 characters or less, starting next week.

The love letters, which will be displayed on a billboard, are part of a national campaign called Dear City Canada.

Earlier this year, Dear City Canada asked people from across the country to tweet short messages about their city.

Some of those messages have already appeared in digital screens in malls across Canada.

Other messages started appearing on billboards in major Canadian cities earlier this month and beginning July 29 messages in prairie cities will make their debut.

“It was a chance to give people who live in these cities a public voice, a chance to see their own words reflected back to them at this grand scale, on this billboard, and we really wanted to engage people to talk about their own cities,” explains Sharon Switzer with Pattison One Stop.

Switzer came up with the idea for Dear City Canada then partnered with Spacing, a magazine and blog network that encourages readers to think about how they can shape the public spaces around them.

“They engage people who are really interested in cities, urbanists who care about their cities, so the idea was to get people who really cared about their own cities to talk about it a bit,” Switzer says.

The Edmonton billboard is located at 97 Street and 111 Avenue and will cycle through five Twitter love letters from July 29 to August 11.

Edmonton is one of 18 cities across the country to feature billboard love letters.

Switzer says the social and digital aspect of the project was crucial to its success.

“I realized that if you want people to engage, and in very few words, Twitter is perfect,” she says.

“This project wouldn’t exist without social media. People submit their letters digitally, they play on digital screens and digital billboards and it was completely spread through word of mouth online, through blogs and Twitter.”

The hope is that the messages will encourage people to be proud of their city and spark a conversation about public space.

It’s certainly a unique way to use a billboard and at the very least should bring a smile to the face of a driver who comes across the love letter.

Although only five tweets will be showcased on the billboard, Switzer says there were about 50 tweets in total submitted from Edmontonians.

I’m surprised there weren’t more, given how active and proud of our city the local tweeting community is.

Switzer says the campaign went so well she’s planning on running it again next year.

Follow @DearCityCanada for more information on the project and @SpacingEdmonton for more on local discussions on urbanism.

Some Tweets of the Week

@TammyKaratchuk: Every morning, I awake to the sound of what must about 30 birds chirping outside my window. Beautiful way to wake up! #yeg

@kale_mac: Fireworks from my sofa. #jasperave #highrise #yeg #goodview #fireworks

@TrickyNag: A wonderful afternoon with @FreewillPlayers and Dream. 5yo loved it so much he wants to be an actor! #yeg #yegarts

@stef081: So many #yeg summer festivals. So little time. #iheartedmonton

Click here to read the column on the Edmonton Sun website!

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