Posts tagged ‘Facebook’
Reviewing our MEP digital trends survey: fewer bloggers, more Facebook and Twitter users. Why (and so what?)
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.
As part of our continuing quest to seek out new and interesting people implementing digital we bring to you this podcast with Florent Le Montagner and Barbara Quilez. They both work at the European parliament web communications unit specialising in Facebook and Twitter outreach respectively. We spend a lot of time trying to harness internet tools to create a dialogue and in public affairs it is often the institutions that we want to engage. For Florent and Barbara it is the other way around, they endeavour to improve the European Parliament’s online communication. We invite you to listen in as they discuss their particular challenges with Steffen.
Last week, the popular Dutch social network site Hyves was bought by one of the largest Dutch media groups Telegraaf Media Group (TMG). TMG is particularly known for its daily mainstream newspaper De Telegraaf but also owns other publications, websites and radio stations. Hyves and several parts of TMG already collaborated on projects in the past. Whilst looking for new cross media marketing options, TMG emphasises that “Hyves will remain Hyves”, not changing its character or identity.
In the Netherlands, Hyves is more popular than Facebook. It recently launched Hyves Mobile, allowing Hyves Mobile Friends to call and text each other for free. The transaction by TMG has started discussions on whether such coexistence is sustainable for the long run in a country as small as the Netherlands. The CEO of Hyves sees Facebook and Hyves as complementary due to the latter’s local relevance.
Last week saw Fleishman-Hillard host a panel debate on the use of digital tools in public affairs and politics at the European Public Affairs Action Day. The videos of the contribution of our three speakers (Alexander Alvaro MEP, Pat Cleary of FH DC and Mark Redgrove of Orgalime) are now available on our YouTube channel here.
Here is the contribution of Alexander Alvaro MEP in two parts. The Q&A session of the panel discussion will be uploaded in coming days.
Thanks to Aart van Iterson, a former colleague now at Cambre Associates, who points out by email that our current survey of the use of the internet by Members of the European Parliament is not the first time we have undertaken to research how digital tools are being used in Brussels.
Back in 2000 the then GPC (even then an Omnicom company, but at that stage still to become part of ) teamed up once again with Simon Leysen of Morris & Chapman to conduct “a first of its kind survey investigating primarily how the Brussels based international community use email and internet in their work.”
The highlights of the 2000 survey included the following:
- The Brussels based international (EU political) community generally prefer first contact to be established via e-mail rather than by letter.
Over 90% of respondents directly receive and process their own e-mails.
- For almost half of those surveyed, the Internet has become their main source of information.
- Before dealing with an organisation, over 70% of respondents say they will visit the organisations’ web-site first to obtain background information.
- Close to 50% of survey participants prefer to download large amounts of data as opposed to receiving it in its original format.
Despite being less than ten years old, our findings from 2000 have an air of a different era about them. Almost like finding that more than half of us prefer the car to the horse to get to work.
In looking at the online communication activities of our MEPs, we should therefore not be too harsh. Much has changed in the tools we all use to communicate in a very short time. At the last European elections the likes of YouTube and Twitter did not exist, google was not a verb and Facebook was only accessible to students at Ivy League schools. With this in mind, the use of any of these tools by MEPs, even just a third of them, is truly impressive. What’s more, I am sure that in another nine years our findings from 2009 will seem so beginning of the century.
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Today we launch the results of our European Parliament Digital Trends Survey – www.epdigitaltrends.eu It examines how Members of the European Parliament are using the internet to communicate with their voters as well as how the same MEPs use the internet to inform their daily legislative work. As such, we hope that the results are interesting both for MEPs and for Brussels public affairs practitioners.
In summary MEPs are using the internet to communicate to voters but are not yet for the most part using all the tools available. No doubt MEPs have come a long way since the last elections, but there is still a road to travel.
For public affairs practitioners we believe that our results support the view we espoused when we started this blog 2 years ago. Like all of us MEPs are going online for information to inform their decisions. To be effective, our public affairs strategies need to integrate digital communications into their toolbox of tactics. Digital can not replace traditional tools such as contact programmes and media relations it complements them, rendering our activities more effective.
On the microsite www.epdigitaltrends.eu you will find the following:
- Our main results with supporting statistics
- An e-brochure
- A full report
- A library of downloads, including graphs and the raw data for you to make your own analysis and graphs
- Commentary from MEPs
- An opportunity for you to post your own thoughts
- The charities we supported in conducting the research
- The methodology we used – sample size etc.
In the coming days we shall be taking time to reflect on what the different parts of our results mean for public affairs practitioners in Brussels on this blog.
Thanks to all MEPs who participated and to the hardworking FH team who made it all possible (everyone in the office played some role but in particular I’d like to thank Mike, Reg, Veronique, Liliana, Julie, Carey, Aurelie, Tim, Michele, Jay, Clara and Rosie)
We look forward to your reactions to the results on the microsite and to having a debate on this blog about what our survey says about digital public affairs.
In Sweden it’s also interesting to note the proliferation of the use of social media. All main candidates, irrespective of their political belonging, are using blogs, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to interact with potential voters on the Internet. The US presidential election campaign in 2008 is a source of inspiration and all Swedish candidates are eager to imitate Obama’s success in campaigning through social media.
Swedish MEPs’ willingness to embrace digital communication channels is a factor well worth bearing in mind for anyone wanting to engage with these MEPs in the next European Parliament. More about these trends soon in an FH report about how MEPs use digital tools.