Great meeting the digital leaders from the EU Commission Representations

The newly appointed Digital Leaders in the Representations offices of the European Commission in the Member States came to Brussels for training in early December. This presented a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues from the Representations and to explore the work of the Digital Leaders. Appointing specialists in the field of digital communication and social media is a very important step to coordinate communication efforts between the main seat of the European Commission in Brussels and understand and deal with national and local issues in the all European Union. The Representations play a major role implementing one of the goal of EU institutional communication which is speking with one voice while being united in diversity. It was a great day and hopefully an experience to repeat.

To know more about what the Representations are already doing on social media, have a look at Representations’ Facebook and Twitter lists

The European Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow

I was happy to participate to “Web, Mobile, Social – The Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow” at the Committee of the Regions

listening to Robert Andrecs, Head of Unit “EUROPA Site”, European Commission, DG Communication and Dana Manescu, Head of the Social Media Sector, European Commission, DG Communication.

The European Commission’s online communication has become a significant component of EU political communication. It aims to reach new audiences and connect with citizens and stakeholders on the platforms they prefer and the devices they use. The Commission’s web presence is undergoing a massive digital transformation programme which aims at putting users’ needs first. The new web presence will be “mobile first” and integrated with social media. Find out more about the Commission’s web and social media communication and its plans for the years ahead.

A question that was raised during the debate was “how can the EU communicate with one voice?” This is indeed a challenging issue for institutional communicators of such a simultaneously diverse, intricate but united organization and I believe a similar challenge is raised for other similar international organizations like the UN. This is was a good opportunity for me to mention the European Union’s presence at Expo 2015, the biggest event of 2015 and the biggest event on nutrition ever organized. The participation of the European Union at Expo 2015 is a project managed by the European Commission (more precisely by a task force of the Joint research Centre) but it is a European Union-branded project. In our communication we always refer to ourselves as European Union. This is a challenging task but it definetely helps EU and institutional communicators get an idea of how communicating on common global goals benefits the overall understanding of a European project.

See my intervention at 56:56

Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations


The Twiplomacy report is par excellence the guide book to the use of institutional tweeting or, as they better put it, it is an annual global study looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs.

While some heads of state and government continue to amass large followings, foreign ministers have established a virtual diplomatic network by following each other on the social media platform. Here is the executive summary from this great work put up by Matthias Lüfkens and Marek Zaremba-Pike together at Burston Marsteller. I had the pleasure to meet Matthias and Marek at their presentation of the report at BM’s offices in Brussels last July (See video below and my short intervention at 40:57)

For many diplomats Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft and not all Twitter exchanges are diplomatic, real world differences are spilling over reflected on Twitter and sometimes end up in hashtag wars.

“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world,” India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in his inaugural message on his new website. Within weeks of his election in May 2014, the @NarendraModi account has moved into the top four most followed Twitter accounts of world leaders with close to five million followers.

More than half of the world’s foreign ministers and their institutions are active on the social networking site. Twitter has become an indispensable diplomatic networking and communication tool. As Finnish Prime Minister @AlexStubb wrote in a tweet in March 2014: “Most people who criticize Twitter are often not on it. I love this place. Best source of info. Great way to stay tuned and communicate.”

As of 25 June 2014, the vast majority (83 percent) of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.

Most Followed World Leaders

Since his election in late May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister @NarendraModi has skyrocketed into fourth place, surpassing the the @WhiteHouse on 25 June 2014 and dropping Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) into sixth and seventh place with more than 4 million followers each.

Modi still has a ways to go to best U.S. President @BarackObama, who tops the world-leader list with a colossal 43.7 million followers, with Pope Francis @Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono @SBYudhoyono, who has more than five million followers and surpassed President Obama’s official administration account @WhiteHouse on 13 February 2014.

In Latin America Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina @CFKArgentina is slightly ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos with 2,894,864 and 2,885,752 followers respectively. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff @dilmabr and Venezuela’s @NicolasMaduro complete the Latin American top five, with more than two million followers each.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta @UKenyatta is Africa’s most followed president with 457,307 followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame (407,515

followers) and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma (@SAPresident) (325,876 followers).

Turkey’s @Ahmet_Davutoglu is the most followed foreign minister with 1,511,772 followers, ahead of India’s @SushmaSwaraj (1,274,704 followers) and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates @ABZayed (1,201,364 followers) Continue reading “Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations”

A few lessons from #Engagorday


This article was also published on the European Commission’s Digital Team Blog

Engagor Day is an event for all Engagor users and partners which took place in Ghent on May 8th, 2014 at the Eskimofabriek. The goal is to keep them updated on the latest feature additions and everything that is coming up. In other words, the Engagor Roadmap. Moreover, active Engagor users, such as NMBS/SNCB and Thomas Cook UK, presented practical business cases to inspire and inform their fellow users.

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Among the introductory presentations and case studies that were discussed, I particularly enjoyed the contribution from NMBS/SNCB. Jean-Marie Hoffelinck (Advisor Online Communications) and Kim Castro (Community Manager) shared the story about the launch of their public transport company on social in 2013 and how they executed this exciting challenge. NMBS/SNCB is the Belgian national railway operator and autonomous government company formed in 1926. Like all public transport companies, NMBS relies heavily on customer care servicing around 850,000 daily travelers and dealing with a whopping 10,000 tweets per month.

WHAT TRIGGERED NMBS/SNCB TO GO ‘SOCIAL’?

Being one of the first customers of Engagor, NMBS started monitoring back in 2011 to get a better grip on how, when, and where people were talking about the company on social. The volume and type of questions were especially important to get a better sense of the social media landscape. To support their launch in 2013, they realized they had to put a great amount of effort into finding the right team and company ambassadors to fall back on.

Opting for Twitter to establish an extensive social media presence was an obvious choice:

  • NMBS relies heavily on real-time communication. At NMBS, it’s all about context. In public transport, a tweet is often only relevant for 30 minutes.In terms of crisis management, NMBS dedicates all of their efforts to replying in a timely manner and proactively updating travelers with relevant information.
  • NMBS needs to solve travelers’ problems within an instant. For example, when someone tweets, “My train looks rather dirty today,” it’s in their best interest to act on it immediately.
  • NMBS wants to continuously improve customer care and give an accurate explanation as to why things went right/ wrong.

One of the most important starting points was a Belgian crisis which affirmed the importance of real-time communication. In 2011, the @stationschefBMO account was created after disaster struck at the Belgian Pukkelpop festival during a severe thunderstorm. This incident proved Twitter was the perfect medium to inform people when all other means of communication (calling, text messages, etc.) were being cut off.

CaptureMobile, and more importantly, social are great means to provide support in real-time. From that point onwards, they really started noticing the significant success of @stationschefBMO (a personal account belonging to one of their employees). It caught their attention because of the positive impact it had on their image spreading some positive vibes for their company in the social sphere.

Due to snowy weather on March 12th, 2013, train traffic was completely down in Belgium leaving hundreds of people stranded in trains and all the other travelers without any means to get to their destination. The country was plunged into a state of complete chaos, and thousands of tweets flooded the Twitter account of NMBS in just one day.

After the disaster, they realized that “it really takes a challenging crisis before you can solve something” and knew they needed to properly utilize tools to better serve customer complaints, feedback, and sentiment. This was another really important factor that forced them to take action and be prepared for any scenario.

In their presentation, the guys from NMBS presented 5 main recommendations from their experience:

1. Be active where your audience is
Before jumping into social media, determine when your audience wants your brand to be active. This way the community managers of NMBS are available in the right time frame, from 6 am to 10 pm, to provide customer care. During that time period, two people (Dutch & French speaking) are responsible for all the replying.

2. Operate with single points of contact (SPOCS) and detailed procedures
One really important thing NMBS learned is to find and involve internal specialists (or ambassadors) before the launch. What can you learn from them? How will they benefit your social media strategy? The next step is to create internal procedures for following up on a multitude of different questions, complaints, situations, etc. (FAQ’s). Refer your customers to your own existing channels. It’s crucial to direct them to your web pages, applications, etc. with links to cater for short, yet smooth replies.

3. Strive for simplicity in handling mentions
NMBS uses only one SPOC and handles every mention on this account. NMBS really stresses on the fact that you shouldn’t look at how your company and team is organized internally when structuring your social profiles. Creating accounts is striving for simplicity, and if necessary, create only one single account or SPOC.

4. Understand and learn the language of your customers
The monitoring phase of NMBS in 2011 was crucial to help them better understand the type of questions they would encounter, and more in detail, understand/learn the language of their customers. Knowing what the customer expects from you is necessary to translate your own internal, and often complex, jargon into a language customers can easily grasp.

5. Great people make up for great social agents
At NMBS, it’s all about identifying the strengths of the company. No company is perfect and there’s no point in covering up your mistakes. Train your social media team to always reply as a human first. NMBS used a specific training phrase for their social media agents to fall back on: “I’m a person at the NMBS/SNCB and I’m going to help you the best I can”. This motto makes it clear to continuously act as human beings, unafraid to acknowledge that you don’t always have access to the right answers immediately. However, you will do the best you can to ensure smooth replies.

#TellEurope on social media: who won this round?


After a first debate in Maastricht, and a second in Florence, The main candidates to be the next president of the European Commission have held their final debate before the 2014 European Parliament elections yesterday.

The candidates are:

The debate, organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), took place in the chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. It was moderated by the Italian journalist, Monica Maggioni.The debate displayed significant levels of engagement on social media (over 99.000 mentions of #TellEurope were recorded in the past 6 days on social media, of which almost 90.000 were recorded on 15 May).

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Mentions of #tellEurope on social media 11-16 may 2014

In terms of Twitter mentions yesterday’s debate doubled the debate in Maastricht (90.000 mentions yesterday vs 47.000 in Maastricht).

Comparison of #Eudebate2014 mentions VS #TellEurope

Continue reading “#TellEurope on social media: who won this round?”

#EUdebate2014 and social media: who won?


As Tony Barber puts it “With flashes of wit, much earnestness and a certain reluctance to go for the jugular of their opponents, four candidates for the European Commission presidency broke new ground on Monday night by holding a live televised debate designed to drum up public interest in the May 22-25 elections for the European parliament.”

Whether some people disagree over the interest, the engagement or the passion displayed by the four candidates, I think this was a very good exercise for the creation of a European online public space, as already theorized by Tony Lockett. Almost 46.000 mentions of #EUdebate2014 on 28 April represented a quite significant value in terms of engagement around the first real pan-European debate for the candidates to the Presidency of the European Commission.

CaptureHow involved were the people on social media? Let’s have a look.
Here is a wordcloud of the most used words on social media together with #EUdebate2014.

CaptureWe see the hashtags related to the campaigns of Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstadt (#withJuncker, #nowschulz, #guy4europe) were rather prominently used together also with reference the great selfie taken ahead of the dialogue.

By the way, for a collection of European elections-related selfie you should check out this Pinterest board by Dana Manescu Continue reading “#EUdebate2014 and social media: who won?”

What the “EU Tweets of the Week” teach us about the rewarding effect on social media


A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to hear Kasper Peter‘s presentation about the EU Tweets of the Week, a creative product by viEUws, an online media organisation providing an analysis of EU policy developments. I found it very interesting to hear what is behind this product which has gained quite some success in the Eurobubble as you can also see from their increase in Twitter followership in the past 3 months.

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source: Twittercounter

In my opinion, their success is partly due to their grasp of the “rewarding effect of social media” and because the product goes straight to the point and targets a very specific group of people: professionals in the bubble.

We often discuss about the topic being rewarding on social media. Giving your audience a reason to come back, being engaging, interactive and interested in your content. The EU Tweets of the Week is one of the best example I have seen of the embodiment of this principle. Apart from collecting suggestions under the hashtag #EUtweets, the guys behind the scene are also monitoring the entire Brussels twittersphere and choosing the best comments directly related to the most important events happening each week.

“People are trying to be on the tweets of the week” said Kasper, and I agree with him. I can see a trend in trying to be more breaking news and more engaging on key political issues in the Brussels twittersphere. I can’t say that this is  because of the EU Tweets of the Week but certainly I can see people interested in trying to “make it there.”

I think the same applies to Jimmy Kimmel‘s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets. The rationale behind this is “be mean to celebrities and you might end up in one of the biggest TV shows in America.”

I understand in the (Euro)bubble the rationale is a bit more limited, like “talk cleverly about EU policy making and you might make it to a moderately viewed Vimeo-hosted 3 minutes show targeting exclusively a limited circle of professionals” but hey, that’s actually what all we want in the bubble.

Keep up the good work.

eu-tweets-of-the-week-martin-schulz-trick-euwishlist-oscar-for-italy

A response to Kosmopolito’s “The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014”


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) Continue reading “A response to Kosmopolito’s “The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014””

#Talkdigital blogging competition: have your say on European digital communication!

The next European elections will take place all around the European Union between 22-25 May and it’s a good time for us all to reflect on the direction we want the EU to take. So we have a question for you – how do you think the EU could better communicate with citizens digitally? If you could suggest one big thing about European digital communication what would that be?

Share your ideas in this blogging competition! The winning idea will be published on Waltzing Matilda, the blog of the digital team of the European Commission, and the author will be invited to speak at EuroPCom2014.

You can submit your entry until 15 June 2014.

Send your entry by email to the Commission’s social media team with the subject “#TALKDIGITAL BLOGGING COMPETITION” or leave us a comment to this post. Continue reading “#Talkdigital blogging competition: have your say on European digital communication!”

Measuring communication effectiveness on social media


This article was published on the European Commission Digital Team blog

When talking about measuring effectiveness on social media it is indispensable to talk about monitoring or, as many like to call it, listening. Listening is one of the most important yet it is one of the most often overlooked uses of social media. Listening to where your audience is, gives you an indication of how to address them in the most direct and adequate way.

Apart from that, monitoring leads to reporting and something which we should not neglect is to be “understandable” to the final readers. When you stick around mostly with people sharing your own expertise you might forget that your reports could go to people who are not familiar with your jargon or vocabulary. This is why lately I can’t stop thinking about this scene from “The Internship.

In today’s market, we really have a wide choice upon the indicators we can get. Even though a lot of data is available, that doesn’t mean you should drown in a sea of indicators! Here are some recommendations I would like to put forward on communication effectiveness on social media.

  1. Focus on relative rather than absolute data
  2. Consider engagement as currency
  3. Reports are “Step 1” for your next digital activity

Understanding the difference between “relative” and absolute” helps you gain a deeper sense of what your target audience or the influencers among your community are doing. 10, 1.000, 1.000.000 are just numbers. Whether these apply to likes, shares, retweets or followers, mere numbers won’t tell you much about your social media presence if they are not benchmarked. Compare your latest conference, Twitter chat or digital event with other similar activities. The same can be done for major online events that have had global or more circumscribed reach.

Everybody is obsessed with number and especially with followers. Well, that partly makes sense since the bigger the followership, the highest the message’s reach. So why is Twitter founder Evan Williams advocating a move away from the follower count? “People like the illusion of quantitative success in social media. Numbers are meaningless though without engagement, without interaction with your audience that moves them to action.” Evan Williams is in fact advocating the importance of the retweet over the follower and he’s absolutely right. The number of followers you have is a false comfort and an unreliable metric. But the number of interactions you get is actually very valuable.

While followers, fans, plusses are indeed indicators of popularity, getting followers per se should be a strategic communication goal. Instead of focussing on followers, focus on being engaging, making people share their views, opinions, questions. This is all very valuable content to understand what your target audience and online stakeholders are looking for. Focus on rewarding your followers with interactions and accessbility and don’t forget to be “human” by giving people a feeling that a person, not a machine is running the account.

Reporting is not the end of this. It’s actually the beginning. The insight you have got about your performance, about the influencers in your topic, about the demographics of your conversations will serve as Step 1 for your next activity. This will help you refine your strategy for next things to come. Be more prepared and already build a network of people you want to interact with. Network creation should be one of your goals. A network where you are identified as a reliable and important source of information and expertise.