- to support Commission departments in their digital ‘clean-up’
- to put forward ideas for a leaner, more cost-effective Commission website.
We were asked to create some sketch-ups or wireframes showing what a new site might look like by June this year. This work began last month when some new recruits joined the team.
With three months still to go, people are already talking about the European elections on social media. But will social media actually make a difference? And, perhaps more importantly, can we get beyond speculation and measure the impact of social media on the 2014 European elections?
In this post, I’m going to take a brief look at three areas where I think social media could potentially have a quantifiable impact.
Social media and voter turnout
During the 2010 US congressional elections, a research team led by the University of California in San Diego studied the voting behaviour of 61 million Facebook users. The researchers looked at the impact of a “get out the vote” message delivered to voters via Facebook, as well as an “I voted” button that allowed people to inform their Facebook friends that they had cast their vote. The study concluded that the Facebook campaign generated 340,000 additional votes nationwide. Interestingly, it found that people’s behaviour was influenced not just by their friends, but also by friends of their friends. (See further information about the study on the UCSD website.)
It’s not currently clear whether Facebook will be used in a similar way to get out the vote during this year’s European elections. If it is, evidence from the UCSD study suggests that it could potentially have a quantifiable effect on voter turnout.
This month we are deep in user research. Part of our work to clean up the Commission’s websites has us doing a huge stocktaking exercise on the main reasons why people come to our sites.
As one of our colleagues put it: it’s about making our online publishing about demand and not just supply.
Last Monday, 27 January 2014, was Community Manager Appreciation Day, a day to recognise and celebrate the efforts of community managers around the world using social media and other tools to improve customer experiences.
Jeremiah Owyang initiated this international event in 2010. People are encouraged to send sincere Thank You notes to their online community managers. People using Twitter include the #CMAD and #CMGR hashtag in their tweets about this event. Many online community managers and vendors in the social media marketplace post blogs in appreciation of their community managers. Cities with large concentrations of social media focused businesses, such as Boston, Austin, and San Francisco hold in-person meet-up events to celebrate and honour those who represent and support their online communities.
From web analytics to digital analytics: getting the full picture of our digital communication’s effectiveness
By Angelo Strano
Dagmara Swistek and I recently attended the Master Class Web Analytics organized by the European Parliament run by the Digital analytics expert Nicolas Malo. It was a useful training session and also very refreshing to see an inter-institutional community of EU web analytics experts come together to share their experiences and learn from each other. I guess we shall leverage more on this kind of cooperation in an era where the buzz about big data is spreading more and more every day, though we need to fully grasp what it really means to us and our corporate digital communication.
Here’s a few highlights and key insights of the day:
- The concept of Web (-site) Analytics is shifting to Digital Analytics (i.e multi–device, multi-platform including particularly social media): if we don’t want to miss the big picture we need to analyse digital data collected through all interactive channels to better understand and serve our end-users
- Core “behavioural “metrics (i.e. visits, page views, bounce % etc.) MUST be complemented by/interpreted with “attitudinal” metrics which tell us i.e. why users visit or leave a page or section and whether they were able to complete their task or not . This should be done with the help of surveys, usability tests, interviews, etc. since web stats alone will not tell the whole story
- Competitive analysis is crucial to benchmark our performance against similar/comparable organisations. Some free tools are available on the web which can help us understand our metric trends and user paths against our peers i.e. governments, international organisations, etc.)
- Organisations must choose their own analytics reporting model (i.e. centralised and decentralised approach) but nonetheless reports should be built around maximum 3-5 Key performance Indicators (KPI’s) and not a flood of metrics and data that have little or a very technical purpose and are difficult to read. Format and frequency of reporting should be based on end-users’ needs rather than “pushed” by all available information.
More on the current and future trends in digital analytics can be learned by visiting the Digital Analytics Association website.
Assessing our performances is key to understanding how we can improve. In this post we want to share with our readers about how the European Commission’s central social media accounts have developed – in terms of followership, engagement and the volume of conversation we are now having across our social media platforms.
Let’s have a look at what the European Commission achieved in 2013 in terms of social media followership of their central accounts.
- The European Commission’s Facebook page grew from 75,730 fans on at the end of December 2012 to 229,582 fans one year later – an increase of just over 200%.
- The European Commission’s central Twitter account went from 88, 534 followers on at the end of 2012 to 172,263 at the end of 2013, a 95% increase.
- At the end of 2012, The European Commission’s Google Plus page had been added to 261,972 circles. At the end of 2013, that number had risen to 710,887 circles, a jump of 170%.
- The European Commission’s YouTube channel went from 8790 subscribers at the end of 2012 to 22,503 subscribers at the end of 2013 – an increase of just over 150%. Read the full entry
Visitors to our office might be struck by the vast number of post-its covering the walls. For a team working in digital communications it seems quite a low-tech way to work! But it’s there for a reason and without our wall space we would be lost!
Three months ago our team, a new one put together to clean-up the Commission’s online communication, started working using a project management technique known as scrum. It allows teams to work in a more agile, efficient and ultimately rewarding way. Its roots are in the IT world but its principles and methods can be applied to any type of project.
Scrum in a nutshell:
- We are organised in teams of 4-5 people and we work in short periods of 2-3 weeks known as Sprints;
- The priorities for each Sprint are set with our management who go through our ‘backlog’ (our high-level ‘to do’ list) and decide on priorities;
- Based on these priorities, the team then draws its work from the backlog for the next Sprint, and decides together how to accomplish the work.
- The team commits to finishing that work in the next Sprint;
- Each team has a section of wall where we write our work for the Sprint on post-its and put it under the ‘To do’ ‘In progress’ or ‘Done’ column;
- the team meets every day for a 15 minute stand-up meeting and answers three questions:
- What have I accomplished since the last stand-up meeting?
- What am I working on today?
- What impediments or obstacle are in my way?
- The Scrum masters (we have two and I am one of them!) help remove any obstacles that the team face and helps keep the team focused on the goal of the Sprint.
At the end of the Sprint there is a review session for all team members and management where each team demonstrates what it has done.
As I have tried to argue in previous posts on this blog, digital media are enabling the emergence of an online public sphere (or spheres) where issues related to the EU are debated across national and linguistic borders.
But how can we make sense of the tangled mass of conversations that are taking place on different platforms? I think that social network analysis is one technique that can offer some potentially interesting insights.
I was introduced to social network analysis during my Fellowship at the University of Washington earlier this year. Lance Bennett’s class on the Politics of Digital Media touched on network theory, including Yochai Benkler’s seminal work The Wealth of Networks, as well as practical applications of social network analysis to protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. I was also impressed by the work that Katy Pearce is doing at the University of Washington using network theory to analyze the political communication landscape in the Caucusus (her “adventures in research” are documented on Katy’s blog).
In order to get a better grasp of social network theory and to see how we might use it to analyze the EU digital public sphere, I invested some time studying the literature, experimenting with tools like Nodexl and Gephi, and following an excellent Social Network Analysis MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) taught by Lada Ademic from the University of Michigan.
But, after a while, I have to confess that I ended up feeling frustrated and confused. The material and the tools that I found were too complex, and I was bewildered by the huge range of different parameters and mathematical formulae. I just wanted to create simple visualizations of social networks that I could understand easily, and that could be used as a basis for analysis and strategic communication decisions.
Then my colleague, Marco Ricorda, from the Commission’s social media team, introduced me to Bluenod (“a simple way to visualize and organize your communities”). The developers at Bluenod have done a great job producing a simple interface that allows users to create social network maps using any Twitter hashtag or username.
I used our recent “Telling the Story” conference for EU communicators to test Bluenod. The #ttsEU hashtag we used for the event generated a map of 1353 tweets from 140 users. I can only include a screenshot of the map in this blog, because WordPress does not accept the embed code generated by Bluenod, but you can access the interactive version of the network map here.
The map clearly shows who were the most connected participants in the online conversation (larger nodes = more connected). It helps to identify different subgroups in the conversation (interesting for an event like this one, which brought together representatives of different communities – regional policy, agricultural policy, employment and social policy, fisheries and maritime policy …). The visualization from Bluenod also shows the most popular hashtags that were used together with the #ttsEU hashtag, as well as a handy grid with images of the people who participated in the online conversation linking to their Twitter profiles.
Bluenod provides a useful complement to quantitative analytics tools like Topsy. For those of us who are interested in understanding and participating in the EU digital public sphere(s), social network analysis offers a useful way to identify key influencers and map different communities. I can see plenty of practical applications (for example, topical hashtags like #ttip and #ep2014 produce interesting results).
Last 5 December I have had the pleasure to attend the iMinds conference in Brussels. iMinds is an independent research institute founded by the Flemish government to stimulate ICT innovation. iMinds brings together companies, authorities, and non-profit organizations to join forces on research projects.
The theme of the event was “driving digital innovation in Europe” and the leitmotiv of most presentations during the day was “What if…?” This question is the foundation of every invention, but of course an invention does not always turn into innovation. Because most challenges cannot be solved by a single effort or organization successful and innovative ideas need a structure.
One of the first lessons at this regards was given by Bart Decrem (SVP at The Walt Disney Company) who talked about his personal experiences in the Silicon Valley and his involvement in various projects and start-ups, leading up to the acquisition of his mobile gaming company Tapulous by Disney. Bart provided insight into the Disney strategy on mobile content and talked about the next big things he sees coming in digital technology.
A little while ago, Google+ launched what it calls ‘Community pages, and it’s an avenue we have started looking into. Up to now we’ve been focused on developing our official European Commission page, sharing general EU news and information However, with the launch of Communities, we have the opportunity to create a sort of ‘thematic’ social media network within Google+, and be a lot more targeted and specific with the content we can share.