Expo Milano 2015: an outstanding opening of the European Union pavilion!

Last 9 May I had one of the most amazing days of my professional life. We inaugurated the European Union pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. All the work we have done for months has paid off amazingly with an incredible turnout and very inspiring words from both President Martin Schulz and High Representative Federica Mogherini.

“Europe is changing, flexibility is no longer a taboo and austerity is no longer a mantra” stated Mogherini. The High Representative also took the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to a big event like Expo Milano 2015, first and foremost the volunteers.

The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz expressed his pride in being part of a “unique and exceptional community of 28 democratic countries cooperating for peace, welfare and the future of the new generations.”

The promotion of the day started cross-platforms a few days in advance in order to create some pre-event buzz with stakeholders in the field of EU affairs and Expo Milan

After the ceremonial welcoming speech, Europe Day at Expo went on with the “Citizens’ Dialogue”, a debate between institutions and citizens that took place at the Expo Auditorium and welcomed thousands of citizens and high school students from across Europe.

The lively debate moderated by RaiNews24 Director Monica Maggioni tackled some crucial topics for Europe such as nutrition and environmental sustainability. The discussion also grew online through social media, with the official hashtag #EUdialogues (mentioned over 2000 times in the day).

EUDialogues

On social media this turned out to be one of the most successful Citizen’s Dialogue ever, especially thanks to the great inter-institutional cooperation between the many EU-actors involved

At the end of the Dialogue I had the honour of jumping on stage and getting a quick post-event statement by both Mogherini and Shulz on the the interaction and communication opportunities offered by this type of event. I must say I was thrilled at the very least.

Before the Citizen’s Dialogue started I asked a few students participating what they would have liked to ask to the President and the High Representative

Continue reading “Expo Milano 2015: an outstanding opening of the European Union pavilion!”

An awesome day the Social Media Trends Summit

It was a fantastic day at the EUROVISION Social Media Trends Summit in London. I really had great fun but, most importantly, I had the chance to meet some incredible communication professionals and at the same time promote what the European Union will do at Expo Milan 2015. I’ll write about my presentation in a separate post. Not because people are just waiting impatiently to read it (I’m not that disillusioned) but because the topic I discussed deserves a separate chapter. Besides, just the selfie you see below deserves another dedicated post 🙂

The summit had the target of exploring strategies and exchange knowledge and best practice in the field of social media for public service media with the wider European Broadcasting Union network. It was an aspect of social media I hadn’t been involved in before. Hence, listening from the experience of TV and radio producers was really interesting and I hope I’ll get a chance sometimes to work in the same realm.

Social media is now an integral part of public service broadcasting. Maximizing the use of social platforms has become key to making the case for public service media as it allows us to understand our audiences better and to be more relevant to them; to increase engagement and interactivity; to empower, curate and share stories and messages; and to become the most relevant source of information for our audiences.

Bringing reporters, producers and presenters together was the ideal set to understand how radio, TV and paper need to reshape their content and their way of working by integrating social media in their overall communication plans. In particular, in the past few years, I have been witnessing the tendency, from social media professionals, to over-discern themselves, from communication managers.

Social_Media_Trends_Summit As I said in my presentation:

Conversations about social media are diverging from conversations about general communication. It’s now time to make these two converge not diverge. You notice this in the way some businesses and organizations are set out. You find the community manager in an office separated from the PR team, who hardly speak to the press officer, who doesn’t have a clue about what the webmaster is doing. Community managers in 2015 need to be at the centre of communication, not at the corner

A significant part of the conference discussed how social media is reshaping journalism. A topic that Alex Volonté took a closer look at in his blog.

The conference saw the participation of many speakers, mainly from the Scandi-Anglo-Saxon world. It seems to me that Scandinavia is a great and comfortable place to promote innovation in communication and public engagement. There’s no corruption, everybody is young, everybody loves technology and people are not afraid to speak up. It’s a pretty different working environment from their south-European counterparts where political communication hides numerous hurdles towards transparency and accessibility. Apart from reminiscing the ideal world that Scandinavia creates in my mind, I particularly enjoyed four presentations:

Cilla Benkö, Director-General, Swedish Radio, was one of the most appreciated speakers at the event, as you can see from the tweets about her. A strong, decisive and pragmatic woman that seems not to compromise to mediocrity. To cut a long story short:

Social media is not only for the young generation. We must adapt to it and use it our best

When you can tell people that you work for the X Factor and MTV, you already start with a step ahead in terms of coolness. That’s what Laura-May Coope can say. Pragmatically, Laura explained how social media isn’t just marketing, posting, replying, favouriting etc… It’s a bilateral process where you both speak and listen. Otherwise, we would just call it broadcasting. It’s two-way communication. When she’s asked how she gets her stories, she basically says that she’s “always listening to social media.” Is there any other better and richer source for content? I don’t think so

The best story of the day was not about engagement or live-tweeting strategies. It was about how the digital presence of the Eurovision Song Contest came about. Believe it or not, it was (obviously) all because of a girl. Sietse Bakker, Eurovision Song Contest Event Supervisor, a loooooooooong time ago, wanted to impress this girl he liked. How, you ask? By making a website about the Eurovision. Long story short, he gets a job offer for that. Sure, there is more to that but this happened.

This is an awesome success story and it really embraces a set of recommendations I always give to neo-graduates: “Jobs ain’t waiting for you. In this market you have to stand out of the crowd and go get those jobs by the horns.” Sietse (kind of) did that. If you have an awesome idea, smart businesses will see it. Sietse is a terrific guy (see the tweets below as a proof) and the people at EVN Social loved his approach. Plus, he manages probably the coolest cross-country TV event in Europe. I mean, how can you not like the chap?

The reason why I need to talk about Alex Trickett, Head of sports at Twitter, is because Twitter Sports created some of the coolest social media analitycs-based charts I have seen during the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil.

Getting to the point of their strategy during big sports events, Alex share his five commandments

More videos from the event will come soon. I’ll keep you posted for any update.

Peace out.

7 reasons to follow the EU at Expo

Expo Milan 2015 will be the first real “social media World Expo.” Even though Shanghai 2010 did display a touch of social networks within their outreach efforts, Expo Milan invests and relies massively on social media. The goal of this intense use of social networks and digital connections is manyfold. Not only is this strategy intended to reach the expected 20 million visitors, but also to concentrate on those who won’t be able to make it to Milan and have an interest in debating how we can feed the planet now, and in the future.

“Seven” is both an Expo paradigm and coefficient: Expo Milan foresees the sale of seven times the tickets sold during the latest football World Cup in Brazil. Every day. Expo will welcome daily an average of seven times the visitors of Disneyland Paris at its maximum capacity. 7000 are the events scheduled to take place during the six-month-long fair. Should I continue?

The European Union will be there to make a strong stance and present openly how its policies, its aids and development projects and its scientific contribution to the global debate on food and nutrition. Here are seven reasons why you should follow this incredible project on social media:

  • One voice for the EU – The European Union as a whole will be represented in Milan. It will not be an institutional but an organizational presence speaking on behalf of all the EU institutions.
  • Alex and SylviaOur journal. Our trip. Our experience in real time through the European Commission’s widest digital network.
  • Thematic weeks Food is a realm that cuts across numerous fields of expertise. To cover as many aspects as possible of the global debate on nutrition, we dedicate social media thematic weeks to deepen the discussion, the information and the content on each specific topic covered by the EU.
  • Facebook – Our eyes, hears and mouth on the pavilion, on Expo, on the visitors. Day by day you will see everything there is to know about Expo2015 and the European Union.
  • Twitter – To keep yourself in the loop. Our events, our conferences, our statements, our guests and all the material shared and commented on by our digital network. Wanna be part of that? Follow @EUExpo2015 & #EUExpo2015.
  • Instagram – Our creativity expressed in a diary made of images. Ours, yours, the community’s. Be part of it!
  • LinkedInOur microscope on science, policy and development in the realm of global food and nutrition security. For experts, scientists and those who want an institutional answer to their questions about the future of food.

Our social media is strongly based on multilateralism. We publish, we listen, we engage. We are the real time voice of the EU in the biggest event of 2015

Anything more check out our website europa.eu/expo2015

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Open your ears: social media monitoring is not all about being techy

Open your ears

It is a common misperception to think of social media as different from traditional media. I believe that the more communication technologies evolve the more we must learn to see social media as part of “all media.” However, it is true that some aspects of media monitoring require a different perspective when talking about social media and gathering intelligence.

Do you know what’s been said about you, and where?

In a previous blog post I advocated how audience segmentation (the process of dividing a broad target audience into more specific subgroups) is key to effective communication output (the way we communicate).

When I was asked to prepare a presentation on social media monitoring to gather intelligence I realized how this also applies to communication input (the way we gather information to then produce communication output).

Knowing where people are talking about you and your activities is crucial. We’re currently in an era of information overload and learning how to listen and extract the information which is useful for our communication strategy is not an easy task.

We tend to think that effective monitoring is about being techy or using the most advanced tools or the most elaborate algorithms. At the social media team in the European Commission we are often asked “How can I find influencers on topic X or Y” or “what tools can tell me exactly who to follow on a particular topic.” I’m afraid the answer is: there is no magical tool. Tools will help ease your workload but you should not forget the so-called “human touch.” No matter what monitoring platform you are using or monitoring project you’re setting up, you will always need some manual background research work.

Choose the appropriate monitoring technique

We can distinguish different types of monitoring activities on social media. These are mainly based on:

  • The amount of information that needs to be processed.
  • The duration of the event/topic at stake.

Roughly I could identify:

  • Continuous monitoring
  • One-off monitoring
  • Short-term project-based monitoring
  • Long-term project-based monitoring

Continuous monitoring

“Taking the temperature” of the social media interactions and shared content in relation to your activities is very important. Whether you do that through a corporate monitoring tool or via different platforms, every-day monitoring allows you to be reactive and keep close to the action. It is by monitoring the trends, the data and volumes of information on a daily basis that you will be able to understand when values are unusual (unusually high or unusually low) and to promptly react when needed.

One-off monitoring

This usually refers to monitoring activities which are done una tantum. They generally end with prompt reports and are used to assess the performance of specific activities. They are good to evaluate events such as conferences, debates, press briefings, campaigns etc…Was the event successful? If not, why? Can we do something to counterbalance? This type of monitoring should be used to answer these questions.

Short-term project-based monitoring

Short-term project-based monitoring can be set-up when a particular “opportunity window” opens (alteration of trend and detection of unusual values). For instance, if you are continuously monitoring discussions on social media about “finance” you will be able to notice when significant amounts of discussions suddenly start revolving around related topics like legislation, transactions fees or regulation. If any such topics is of particular concern for you, it would be interesting to follow a procedure similar to what you can see below.

Social_media_monitoring

1. After identifying the issue (i.e. huge concern on social media about upcoming financial regulation) you should measure how far the issue has expanded on social media. This can be done by measuring reach, engagement, shares and retweets, likes etc…

2. Further ad hoc monitoring will allow you to identify influencers and to be able to understand the sentiment around the topic (positive, negative, neutral)

3. After that it is recommended to make a decision on how to engage on the topic with the right stakeholders and suggest a publishing/output or rebuttal strategy.

4. Once this is done, it is necessary to reassess the situation and report it back to the people in charge who will verify if the issue is over or continues.

5. If the issue continues, go back to step 1

If you make step 5 it means that your short-term project-based monitoring becomes long-term.

Long-term monitoring project

These are monitoring projects that are on-going and for which you cannot foresee an exact end date. It’s good to keep an eye on these projects regularly on long intervals or when timely events may lead to values alteration.

Of course there are cases that require the implementation of monitoring projects that go beyond what we have presented here. Nevertheless, whatever monitoring activity you think of setting up, it is important to consider:

  • Consistency

Stick to consistent measurement and reporting techniques. This is key to providing effective benchmarking.

  • Sustainability

Organise your monitoring activities according to the resources you have at your disposal. Although it is very important to monitor your presence on social media, it also requires considerable resource investment. Try to find a sustainable balance between your workload and time spent on social media monitoring.

  • Essentiality

With the help of social media monitoring tools, either expensive custom solutions or free online platforms, you will be able to gather enormous amounts of information. Think about who you are reporting this to and stick to what really matters. Information overload is your worst enemy.

Time for some social media spring cleaning


It is in the job description of all Community Managers to try as many digital and social platforms as possible. Mainly for two reasons:

  • Know what’s on the market
  • You never know at an early stage, which platform is going to fly

This winter has been unseasonably warm in Italy (where I spent my Christmas) so I thought I could aniticipate my spring cleaning. It is time to rationalize and put aside some of the platforms, blogs, newsletters I’m not really following and I lost interest in.

First thing first, I needed to clean up my Twitter followership. I like making connections and building communities. That is actually a significant part of my job. Nevertheless, for my personal network I realized I needed to massively rationalize the information (over)load I receive everyday. Mainly, this information comes from Twitter. To do that I used the free version of ManageFlitter which helped me greatly. There’s still some clean-up to do but my Twitter feed is now way more pleasant and manageable that it used to be and my engagement rate got higher straightaway. Simply, I now manage to follow those accounts that really matter (to me).

Then, it was time to get rid of some social media platforms I wasn’t using anymore or didn’t serve my professional needs. I’m not writing to discredit these companies but just to present my personal experience on a topic common among many communication professionals.

  • Xing – Xing experienced a bit of a hype between 2007-2009 but the growth of LinkedIn from 2010 onwards almost killed this German based social network, that managed to survive by creating their own niche. Xing is a platform for enabling a small-world network for professionals. By displaying how each member is connected to any other member, it visualizes the small-world phenomenon. Like LinkedIn, basic membership is free but many core functions can only be accessed by the premium members. I believe it is still useful in those niche environments and countries (mainly German speaking) where the platform developed. About 76% of all pageviews come from Germany, 90% from the D-A-CH area, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.[7]
  • PearlTrees – Perhaps it’s my fault. I was a Pearltrees early joiner but I never manage to get their USP. Pearltrees refers to itself as “a place for your interests.” Functionally the product is a visual and collaborative curation tool that allows users to organize, explore and share any URL they find online as well as to upload personal photos, files and notes. If this platform has potentials, I didn’t get it. Sorry.
  • Hi 5 – It doesn’t make much sense to have a Hi 5 account if you don’t live in Nepal, Mongolia, Thailand, Romania, Jamaica, Central Africa, Portugal or Latin America. I used it for some time when I travelled often to Portugal.
  • Most Social Media Marketing Newsletters – Social media  marketing (especially US-based) is becoming so obsolete. I can’t even stand witnessing the proliferation of self-appointed social media gurus writing useless guidebooks and charging 1.000s of $ a day for trainings on how to open a Facebook page. I think Europe is maintaining more an “all-comms” approach rather than focussing exclusively on SMM. I was happy to unsubscribe from useless newsletters and I will now stick to people with interesting and practical insights. On the issue of EU affairs newsletters, you can share your opinion on Kosmopolito‘s blogpost What is your favourite EU affairs newsletter

Which social networks have you tried and dumped?

Share it in the comments below.

The European Year for Development: a great opportunity to spark debate on millenium development goals

The EU is the biggest donor of the official development assistance in the world. Four years after the adoption of the Agenda for Change (the European Commission’s blueprint to refocus its development aid to make sure that it reaches those sectors and countries which need it most), 2015 is the ideal time for donors and stakeholders to come together to look at what has been achieved so far, and most importantly, what still needs to be done.

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Despite the current economic downturn, support for development remains high across the EU, with some 85% of EU citizens saying that Europe should continue helping developing countries despite the economic crisis, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey (Euractiv.)

The European Year of Development 2015 will be a key opportunity to raise awareness of development across Europe, and to show European taxpayers know that every euro spent on development benefits both people living in some of the world’s poorest countries, and EU citizens themselves.

The European Year for Development 2015 is the first year designated with such a global theme, since European years have been designated thematically since 1983.

haiti-school
Pupils playing outside a school built with EU funds in Haiti

The initiative originated in Latvia. The European Year for Development 2015 will take place in Riga on 8 January, as part of the events marking the beginning of the first Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Commission representatives, communication experts, as well as figures from the NGO and business sector all agreed that the European Year for Development 2015 should provide an opportunity to reach out to a wider public regarding the importance of the development agenda. Possible new alliances are being sought with youth and women’s organisations, local authorities, and unions.

The various events during the European Year of Development will focus on 12 themes. The month of January will be dedicated to the theme “Europe in the world”, February will focus on “Education”, March on “Women and Girls”, April on “Health”, May on “Peace and Security”, June of “Sustainable green growth, decent jobs and businesses”, July on “Children and youth”, August on “Humanitarian aid”, September on “Demography and migration”, October on “Food security”, November on “Sustainable development and climate action” and December on “Human rights and governance”.

Among the major events of the European Year of Development are a Belgian opening event with Bozar and Africalia to be held on 17 January, a gender event in Latvia on 2 March, the European Development Days on 2-3 June, as well as a closing event by the Luxembourg presidency on 8 December.

In addition, the Committee of the Regions highlighted another major event, called “Assises of Decentralised Cooperation”, to be held on 1-2 June in Brussels, with 800 to 1000 participants, many of whom would come from developing countries.

Follow #EYD2015 and on Twitter and their Facebook page for more updates.

To Rotate or not to rotate? A question for the EU Council Presidency on Twitter


An intersting point has been raised by Matthias Luefkens for Europe Decides about having a rotating Twitter account for the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Considering the management of these accounts, the piece does raise some interesting point. I have left my contribution in their comments section.

Cattura A problem I could already foresee with Matthias’ solution is “what to do with all tweets?”Meaning that, for instance, tweets from @gr2014EU would now look like they were made by @IT2014EU.
An EU Presidency still remains a very team-based or national-based effort. The accounts that get closed after the term do work as archives of their achievements.

What is your take on this? Share it in the comments section below or joined the conversation on Twitter.

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”