Posts tagged ‘Twitter’
Last night – at 8:50pm GMT – Twitter turned five years old and it got me thinking.
I openly admit to boycotting Twitter when it was launched (echos of protesting “I don’t care what Betty ate for breakfast” spring to mind). But I equally admit to being a convert five years later.
Some thoughts on why
1. Twitter can help sort the headlines from the fun stuff, and the urgent news from the background material.
A useful tool in tracking the latest news out of Libya or Japan, Twitter can also draw your attention to an article you might otherwise have missed by browsing a webpage. Case in point: I only came across the Financial Times’ rave review of EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva through their tweet of it:
Twitter is great for communicators. But it is also great for listeners. While searching for who was tweeting on Twitter’s birthday, I came across this from European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek:
@jerzybuzek: “Happy 5th birthday to #Twitter – one year+ for my account, essential way for me to communicate”
Buzek –or the person who manages his Twitter account- averages some five tweets a day and talks about everything from current events to internal Parliament decisions. But he also takes an obvious interest in anyone who responds to his tweets and regularly responds. True to the 2011 EP Digital Trends study, the EP is waking up to social media.
3. Twitter can bring on the funny – but more importantly, the creative.
Reducing a message to 140 characters can be challenging, but it also encourages communicators to have a clear and attention-grabbing message. It is a great tool for creativity in sectors that might not immediately be considered creative – just ask mutual fans of logistics and Salt-N-Pepa:
Funny. Informative. And a reference to a 80s music “classic”.
Point is, as Tris Hussey of the Vancouver Observer keenly observed, “For something that was so geeky when it started out that even geeks didn’t know what to do with it, Twitter sure has taken off like a rocket.” And I find it useful, both professionally and for the fun stuff.
Where will Twitter go from here? The Guardian gives a few interesting indications: “40% of tweets originate on a mobile device […] with 5.3 billion mobile phone users in the world, and 90% of the world’s population in reach of a mobile phone network, Twitter has a far better chance of reaching everyone first…”
[Just starting out on Twitter? Here are some tips on how to get started.]
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.
Yesterday I was privileged to attend a meeting about the Citizens’ Consultations with a keynote speech from Viviane Reding, Vice President of the Commission. As a discussion about citizen interaction within Brussels policymaking, it was the perfect venue for the announcement by Toute l’Europe of their new website Tweet Your MEP, a tool they developed in cooperation with Europatweets.
Even now there are still some Twitter skeptics around in public affairs. ‘What is the point?’ they ask, ‘surely it’s not as if the MEPs ever reply?’ Well actually some do… But Tweet Your MEP is here to encourage and open up dialogue even more. Each MEP has a profile through which they can be directly tweeted and then reply. It aims to be a host for direct dialogue between MEPs and citizens. The website has an interactive map and thematic search. So new Euro-commenters can find their MEP geographically or the more experienced by which policy area they are interested in.
With its bright and clear design the website should be very accessible. It will be launched in French, German, English and Dutch and a translation feature will make sure that all 27 languages are able to use the site. So far so good, you never know, maybe this tool will help change the way MEPs communicate and show people that they are listening? Either way we will be following with much interest. Log on for the launch at 2pm on 22nd September and see if Tweet Your MEP will live up to our expectations.
We like it when a neat idea, some good will and a little Twitter get together:
Paul Smith, a 34-year-old freelancer, returned from his honeymoon with the travel blues.
Yearning for another trip, he decided to try to get from the UK to Campbell Island, 200 miles off the coast of New Zealand in less than 30 days.
Paul made it all the way to Stewart Island, off New Zealand, before getting stuck. (Stewart Island’s slogan, by the way, is “Island of Tranquility,” so it is actually not a bad place to be stranded…)
A recent Telegraph article explains how Paul did it:
- Ferry ticket from Newcastle to Amsterdam (tweeter named Leanne)
- Train to Paris (two French tweeters)
- Free bed at a hostel
- Train to Saarbrucken
- Lift in car to Frankfurt (German tweeter Andrea Juchem)
- One-way flight from Frankfurt to New York (tweeter called Owen, using Air Miles)
- Spare bed in hotel room (tweeter from Yorkshire named Mark)
- Then travel to and stays in Washington DC, Chicago and San Francisco by plane, train and car (US tweeters)
- Flight to San Francisco (Zurich-based tweeter)
- Car to Los Angeles
- Free flight from LA to Auckland (Air New Zealand)
- Ferry to South Island
- Lift to tip of South Island (tweeter named Smiley)
- Sailed to Stewart Island.
In the run up to the 9th June parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, the first ever election debates took place through Hyves and Twitter – on the same day. Hyves for breakfast and Twitter for dinner. The 30 minute debate on the Dutch social network Hyves (see earlier blog post on Dutch social media) was considered quite ‘relaxed’ and friendly, whereas its Twitter counterpart was perceived as rather stressed and direct. On Hyves the 50,000 viewers could not actively participate in the debate. Twitter did allow this in its 90 minute session, which subsequently led to mass chaos.
The jury is still out on both digital debates. On the one hand, the large interest of the public to participate in or follow the debate demonstrates an increasing interest of the people in politics in general. On the other hand, the efficacy and legitimacy of these communication channels for this specific purpose are, ironically, up for debate themselves.
As there were no webcams involved, how does one know whether the candidates are actually behind the computer and typing themselves? It may well be that the entire campaign team is gathered behind the keyboard. Some argue that these online platforms can only result in superficial debates as succinctness and speed are of the essence. Furthermore, while the perception was created that the public would truly be able to interact with the politicians it actually turned out to be a one-on-one between the candidates. On Twitter, the responses of the public sort of got lost in the crowd, whereas the candidates maintained visibility. People also complained about the limited time available for the debates.
Therefore, this first digital exercise should teach Dutch politicians to be careful in considering social media as merely a marketing tool. It is not a one-way street. Particularly, as its constituents increasingly consider it part of their right to democratic participation.
As to the effectiveness of these Dutch debates, I can only say: have a look at the number and length of responses shown in the Dutch news bulletin and see whether you find this dazzling. If so, it could mean several things; either these platforms are just not suitable for such debates, or the debate was not set up properly. Another possibility could be that maybe you are not as accustomed yet to these high speed digital channels as you thought you were. Or maybe, just maybe, your Dutch needs some work…