Reviewing our MEP digital trends survey: fewer bloggers, more Facebook and Twitter users. Why (and so what?)

February 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm 7 comments

In our recently published survey on the online habits of Members of the European Parliament, we found that:

  • 69% of MEPs use social networks (mainly Facebook) up from 33% in 2009
  • 34% are on Twitter, up from 21%
  • 29% write a personal blog, compared to 40% in 2009

So we’re witnessing a shift towards the snappy interaction of social networks, and a move away from the more content driven blog.

I’ll look at two things here: i) what might account for this trend; and ii) some ideas on what the trends mean in practice.

Why the shift away from blogging towards social networks and the like?

It’s not hard to see why Facebook and Twitter appear more enticing than blogging:

  • They both have ready-made audiences which may likely include MEPs’ constituents. Why bother with blogging, which is more time-consuming and does not have a ready-made audience?
  • In that vein, Twitter and Facebook may just seem easier to maintain, given that there isn’t much content to produce. At first glance, writing 140 characters definitely seems a breeze compared to a full-on blog post.
  • Election frenzy is over. Back in 2009, MEPs running for re-election were presumably eager to do everything in their power to showcase themselves to their electorate. That incentive is obviously reduced beyond election time.
  • The EP’s social media team has been extremely successful on Facebook (their blog is also successful, to be fair). Presumably a shining example to MEPs?
  • Facebook is all the rage. 500 million and users and that. Everyone’s talking about Twitter too. So presumably a fair bit of bandwagon hopping has taken place.

What does it all mean?

This is the trickier question. What does all this mean in terms of MEPs’ communication with constituents and others?

On the surface, it seems like good news: MEPs are eagerly adopting tools that connect them to people at the click of a button and provide Europeans a channel to engage in the political process through dialogue with decision makers. Indeed, some MEPs like Marietje Schaake and Sophie in ’t Veld, or Commissioners like Neelie Kroes (no coincidence they’re all Dutch) are engaging in conversation and using Twitter to ask questions and learn, and presumably thus improve their ability to do their job.

However, in another sense, the figures are misleading. Another finding in the report shows that MEPs who blog and tweet think “expressing views directly” is more important than “engaging in dialogue” (by a margin of 60% and 30% in blogs and on Twitter respectively). Clearly, listening, learning and conversing play second fiddle, and you could ask: what’s the point of telling people stuff if you’re doing so in a Facebook feed or in 140 characters? Not much.

As for the drop in blogging, personally speaking I think it’s a shame, although understandable: I know from experience just how hard it is to maintain a blog. However, blogging is a fantastic medium to express views and opinions in more detail, and some MEPs reach large audiences through their blogs, like Dan Hannan and Holger Krahmer. Is the fall in blogging a trend? No, I suspect we’re in a consolidation phase, where the MEPs who appreciate the medium carry on and others who like the idea of blogging give it a go, but where fewer experiment because it’s in vogue.

Another thought is that blogging is a way to kick start conversations on Twitter or Facebook. Which begs the question: if MEPs are not blogging but are instead using Twitter and Facebook, yet many are not engaging in dialogue, what are they using the tools for? Probably to post press releases, or to state that they’ll speak an event and other such information.

In conclusion, although the findings indicate that a number of MEPs are using the channels to engage, we should take them with a slight pinch of salt. Having said that, the trend is for more MEPs to start using the tools “properly” and I have no doubt that the more they see others gaining from engagement, the greater the appropriate adoption rates will become.

Equally, I have no doubt that I’ve missed some observations, so – as ever – please feel free to add, expand, agree or disagree in the comments below. Thanks.

Steffen

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Entry filed under: EP Digital Trends Study, European Parliament. Tags: , , , .

How do MEPs use the web? FH’s 2nd European Parliament Digital Trends Survey FH Podcast: Kroes and digital – interview with Ryan Heath

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jamesynwa  |  February 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I was surprised the Fleishman Hillard blog post never addressed the issue of how MEPs rated the benefits of blogging/social media. As you noted, it’s a decent concern to wonder how they have missed the main benefit of these new platforms: to “engage in dialogue.” Broadcasting views directly is for the mainstream media – not for Facebook or Twitter. Even blogging is meant to provide a forum of discussion for Web 2.0 users.

    I elaborated further on this topic in a recent blog post as well, feel free to check it out and provide some feedback!

    http://bit.ly/gWD2MR

    Reply
  • 2. jamesynwa  |  February 24, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Correction: The post I meant to refer to was from Eye on FDA, written by a lawyer and FH employee. It’s a personal blog that isn’t associated with Fleishman Hillard. The post can be viewed here:

    http://www.eyeonfda.com/eye_on_fda/2011/01/growing-role-of-social-media-among-policymakers.html

    Reply
    • 3. fhbrussels  |  February 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      Hi James. Good call: yes, numerous MEPs are not using the tools properly i.e. engaging, and they’re losing out for that very reason. Hence the reason why they don’t rate Twitter as an especially effective tool, probably. I’m optimistic though: numerous MEPs are engaging with constituents and others, and I’m sure it’s just a question of time before we see a snowball effect.

      Reply
  • […] and other interested parties, and to inform themselves on policy matters. A few weeks back we analysed reasons for and consequences of MEPs’ use of social networks and blogging. This time, we’ll look at what the figures mean for the Public Affairs professional operating in […]

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  • […] and other interested parties, and to inform themselves on policy matters. A few weeks back we analysed reasons for and consequences of MEPs’ use of social networks and blogging. This time, we’ll look at what the figures mean for the Public Affairs professional operating in […]

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  • 6. Posts I’ve published elsewhere « Steffen Moller  |  March 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    […] Reviewing our MEP digital trends survey: fewer bloggers, more Facebook and Twitter users. Why (and s… […]

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  • 7. The MEP survey: six months on « Public Affairs 2.0  |  June 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    […] the key findings, and for an analysis of the findings, I’d recommend Steffen’s posts here and here. As ever, if you have any comments and questions, please fire […]

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