A few lessons from the European Digital Advocacy Summit

Digital advocacy is assuming an increasingly important role in Brussels. What’s working to engage European policymakers? Can social media platforms help you find other advocates? Which tools work best? These were some of the questions addressed at the latest European Digital Advocacy Summit in Brussels, organised by the Public Affairs Council.

At the event, public affairs executives shared interesting case studies, insights and best practices as well as EU officials shared their perspectives on social advocacy. This executive-level conference was designed for interactive engagement between participants and presenters. I couldn’t attend the whole conference but I had the chance to sit at the “Successful Online and Media Engagement” part with Bruno Waterield, Brussels correspondent from the Telegraph and Christophe Leclercq founder of EurActiv.com

In this panel a lot was discussed about the Eurobubble (or Brussels bubble), the so-called circle of (mostly foreign) professionals living in Brussels and working on EU affairs. For an international organization, it is certainly challenging to communicate at different levels of governance and reach different target audiences at the European, national and local level. What could we learn from that panel?

  • Use the (Euro)bubble as a bridge, not as a border

I often hear the claim that the Eurobubble (including EU institutions) only communicates to the bubble. This is clearly an incomplete statement since the EU communicates at levels of governance and addresses different groups of stakeholders according to the policies the work on. For instance the European Commission:

Having said that, I am also convinced that people living and working in the Eurobubble do not only communicate within the bubble but they serve as information ambassadors at the national level. The Brussels press corp mostly reports to their central offices in EU Member States and around the world, professionals in various fields often go home and tell people what happens at the European level, civil servants exchange opinions with their national administrations and so on so forth. This is why I prefer thinking about the Eurobubble (whatever that means) as a bridge between Brussels and the rest of the world rather than a self-centred echo chamber.

    • Keep yourself in the loop

What I know as a social media analyst is that I have still an awful lot to learn and that I am bound to keep myself in the loop in order to keep providing valid recommendations and understand how the digital world evolves. There is no short-cut in this learning process. This applies to all professionals working in communication. Spend at least 10% of your time keeping an eye on communication technologies, experiment and make sure you get at least a tiny grasp of what may come next in your field of work and expertise.

    • Use the online to reach the offline

In digital advocacy the offline cannot be separated from the online any longer. These two dimensions work best when they are connected, when they merge. Being engaged online should be (an optional) step one to make “real” connections.

Where you European Digital Advocacy Summit too? Share your views with me.

What happened on social media during the European elections

I spent the weekend looking at what people have been saying about the European elections. I’m quite sleepless but I want to share some of my findings with you before I leave for holidays tomorrow. In the middle of the day I was asked to send some comments about social media and the elections to Radio X (Brussels) for a programme they recorded with communications experts on the topic. Since I couldn’t write an extensive comment I took my phone and made a video comment.

This data is factual and the opinions expressed here do not reflect the position of my employer. Overall, I have collected and analysed over 1.2 million social media mentions related to the European elections. Most of these mentions were collected via Twitter, blogs and public Facebook posts. The pan-European hashtag for the elections #EP2014 was used over 583K times between 22/05 and 26/05 at 7:00AM on Twitter which is a pretty impressive result and went very close to my predictions ahead of the elections


In order to provide some context, in the past 30 days we could record roughly the same amount of mentions for #EP2014 and #Ukraine. European_elections_2014_social_media Most used words together with #EP2014 European_elections_2014_social_mediaDemographics of #EP2014 The biggest volumes of conversations were recorded in France, Italy, Spain and the UK. The most used languages recorded were English (29%), Spanish (21.7%), French(19%) and Italian (10.3%) European_elections_2014_social_media Continue reading “What happened on social media during the European elections”

What happened during Schulz’s #AskMartin chat on social media

On May 19 at 12:30AM candidate President for the European Commission Martin Schulz hosted a chat livestreamed via SPD.de  and collecting questions via the hashtag #AskMartin

For such a short institutional/political chat, and the timing (lunch time around most Europe) the volume of conversations was significant with over 1.700 tweets using #AskMartin posted on 19/05 (until 5PM). Most questions were serious but there were obviously provocative questions, funny ones (like the one below) and open criticism. Nothing out of the ordinary. Continue reading “What happened during Schulz’s #AskMartin chat on social media”

#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).

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?”

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””

Crowdsourcing a database for #EP2014 slogans

Dana Manescu, team leader of the Social Media Team in the European Commission, had a terrific idea ahead of the next European elections which will take place between 22 and 25 March.

SloganEUizer is a crowdsourced database that collects all slogans used at the national level by political parties campaigning for the upcoming European elections.

“They say social media messages ought to be short and sweet. Let’s see how sweet are the slogans for the EP elections.” writes the author. This is a database continuously built by Dana and several enthusiastic contributors. Have you seen a slogan somewhere? Please share it!

CaptureUPDATE 04/04/2014

sloganEUizer is now also on Twitter