Kosmopolito is one of the best bloggers in the eurobubble. He recently wrote The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014 which I find a very good and punchy piece on one of the main events of 2014 in Europe. Although I disagree to some extent, I think it is laudable that experts in the field are openly feeding the debate. In his article he points out “10 simple truths about social media and the #ep2014.” See my comments below each point. It would have been complicated to put all this in a blog comment so I preferred writing a dedicated blogpost about it.
1. Social media will only help a few MEPs that have already invested heavily in their individual social media presences. Using social media during campaigns may look good – but only a long term commitment can deliver sustainable results. It’s simple: be authentic, build relationships and engage your audience. But: Using social media in a bad way is worse than not using it at all. Think about it!
1. I don’t find the first point convincing, I actually think it debunks your assumptions. “Social media will only help a few MEPs that have already invested heavily in their individual social media presences.” You are basically saying that the MEPs who have invested on social media will have an advantage compared to those who haven’t. Doesn’t this mean “having an impact?” This is for instance very visible in Italy where the EP elections will be (maybe coincidentally) lead by the two leaders and parties that have the highest followerships and highest levels of investment and engagement on social media.
2. We live in an echo chamber – the bubble is talking to itself. Nobody listens to voices with a different opinion. You only follow stuff you already like. Result: Social media is not a helpful tool for complex political debates. Welcome to the filter bubble!
2. I disagree to a certain extent. “Following” somebody doesn’t’ necessary mean to agree with that person or institution. However, it is true for most (not all) people, that we live in a social media self-built echo chamber.
3. 75 % of Europeans still get their political information on Europe from TV. “The Internet” is only the 4th most important resource for political information – and the preferred information sources on the internet are “information websites” – not social media.
4. Social media does not reach people who are already disengaged from politics. And even if there is more engagement it does not translate into a higher voter turnout. Statistically, young people are more engaged on social media but their interest / engagement in the political process is falling – both at the national and European level. Suggesting that social media will boost the turnout of young voters may be a false correlation.
4. Disagree. The demonstration of the opposite is still visible in Italy. People who are disengaged and most importantly disillusioned by politics are reached by new political movements which use social media extensively (i.e. Pirate party, and most ALDE)
5. The social media/digital divide: 41 % of Europeans have never used social media.
6. Twitter can reach journalists and opinion-makers. If used properly one can use it for multiplier effects. To use Facebook effectively you will need a proper budget to game their algorithm.
7. Data mining may not be working in Europe: Europeans have a different conception of privacy – and there is no fundraising angle (unlike in the US). Just ask yourself one simple question: Would you send a (party) political messages to a friend on Facebook?
7. This is actually happening. People on Facebook do express largely their political views.
8. Social media tends to punish moderate voices and makes it hard to structure political debates. European politics is all about finding a compromise – not a strength of social media debates. But this is also the reason why radical voices and populists embraced social media and are generally more successful using it – compared to traditional parties.
8. I would correct “European politics is all about finding a compromise” with “politics is all about finding a compromise.”
9. Is social media a tool to bypass traditional media channels? No! Early adopters and new media organizations will be the new gatekeepers.
9. Is social media a tool to bypass traditional media channels? Yes, in finding and filtering information. Especially, the trends of using social media (first and foremost Facebook and Twitter) as tailor-made newspapers are irreversible.
10. #ep2014 campaigns will have a strong national angle. The use of social media is very different across Europe so we will not see a clear picture of its impact.
10 It will certainly be challenging, but the tools to provide such in-depth analysis are well available on the market.