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A few lessons from the European Digital Advocacy Summit

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By @marcoRecorder

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:

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10 tips to achieve great results on social media

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By Bela Dajka

I attended a social media conference in London which focused on how to get real and measurable results from communication activities on social media. Social media practitioners from a diverse range of companies and organisations talked about their experience, about what worked and what did not work. Most speakers focused their presentations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as the most widely used platforms, although some other platforms like Google+, LinkedIn, Vine, Pinterest, Snapchat, Soundcloud etc. were also mentioned. Here is my take-away from the conference:

SMR header

Tip #1: Be true to your brand

Social media gives a voice to your brand and allows you to drive your brand’s story. To be true to your brand, you have to know your brand and your organisation. A mismatch between social media content and the organisational brand can potentially confuse and upset fans and followers. Images posted on social media can be a powerful tool to shape the organisation’s brand identity. Classic FM, a UK radio station and the Woodland Trust are two good examples of using inspiring visuals that reflect and strengthen the organisational brand.

Tip #2: Know your audience

If you want to have a real conversation with your audience and achieve loyalty and a lasting engagement, you have to know them. It’s not only about demographics, although demographic data can help when creating and targeting content to certain segments of the population. This is more about knowing what your audience expects and eventually wants from your organisation. So, it is about listening. You have to show interest in your audience and don’t always interrupt their conversation. A new social media analytics tool called StashMetrics can help you better understand your audience. If you use Twitter, SocialBro is another tool to get insights about your audience and use these to build your strategy. The Museum of London’s strategic plan includes a novel approach to audiences. Read the full entry

Highlights from Social Media Week, Hamburg

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Social Media WeekBy @nialljudge

Niall works in the communication team of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and co-manages their social media accounts

In February, I was lucky enough to attend Social Media Week in Hamburg for three days. It’s a worldwide event that takes place twice a year in the spring and autumn for… funnily enough… a week at a time. It’s a coordinated week of events in 8 cities all over the world, with the most recent edition 17-21 February in Hamburg, Copenhagen, Milan, Barcelona, New York, Lagos, Tokyo and Bangalore.

There were close to 200 separate events, covering all manner of things such as Social Media Monitoring & Analytics; Legal Pitfalls in Social Media Marketing; the use of photos; Political reporting and campaigning; Social Media in the European Parliament elections, and so on. You can see the full schedule including videos for some of the events. Several are in English but most are in German so you can also use the opportunity to brush up on your Deutsch!

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Community Manager Appreciation Day in Europe

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By @marcoRecorder

Community Managers: You are the bestLast 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.

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Social media in 2013: our year in review

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By @marcoRecorder, @AmyJColgan, @PabloPerezA

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.

Table2

Follower numbers
Let’s have a look at what the European Commission achieved in 2013 in terms of social media followership of their central accounts.

Mapping the EU digital public sphere(s)

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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.

bluenod-ttseu

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).

#Twitter4Brands: 10 facts in tweets

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Branding on Twitter

by @PabloPerezA

London’s Tate Modern welcomed more than 500 social media people earlier this year for a series of presentations and stories about how Twitter can be used to help campaigns achieve their full potential.

This post is for those who couldn’t attend and want to find out more. We’ve summarised ten key points developed at the #Twitter4brands event in true Twitter style –140 characters or less.

1. When events happen in the real world they happen on #Twitter. From @usainbolt and @Pontifex to @BarackObama and @onedirection (Video)

2. Tune in with #Twitter – Twitter is the second TV screen: driving discovery and engagement with TV advertising

3. #Twitter + TV campaign, what do you need? A hashtag , social profiles, connect  ads w/ Tweets and engagement

4. A “moment” on #Twitter is about the intersection between interest and intent. Every time a user tweets, a new #marketing moment arises.

5. If #Twitter is the chatroom then hashtags are the channel. Hashtags enable brands to organise and steer the conversation.

6. Just as you have a brand hierarchy, a hashtag hierarchy is key to fully leveraging  your content. Brand. Product. Campaign. Reactive.

7. Always on. Be present at peak moment of interest. Create a content calendar. Be ready 4 real-time answers. Capitalise opportunities.

8. Is your audience on the sofa, on mobile or online? Targeting Tweets by interests ensures brand presence at peak moments of intent. https://business.twitter.com/targeting

9. A range of targeting options ensures reaching customers, prospects and gaining more advocates.

10. What do people retweet? 1st freebies, 2nd pics, 3rd fun comment, 4th sales

photo credit:1st one mkhmarketing via photopin cc / the other pics and graphics courtesy of Twitter UK

Who’s tweeting in Antarctica?

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Who’s tweeting in Antarctica? Hardly anyone apparently. After trying “The one million tweet map” you do wonder if the four tweets from Antarctica come from some super-developed penguins or some researchers or explorers tweeting in – 70° temperatures.

It turns out that the few tweets from the region come from a strange account called @googuns_staging which posts nothing but strings of letters and numbers, like b39e65fa00000000, every 5 minutes. Apparently, this has been going on since 2009 creating over 350,000 tweets. I’m not sure what’s behind it. Some have pointed at international espionage or maybe it is just somebody having fun.

Anyway, this introduces what “The one million tweet map” can do. TOMTM is powered by Maptimize and maps the last geolocalized tweets delivered by the Twitter stream API. The map is updated in real-time and displays the latest one million tweets that have been posted since your login. Each second, about 20 new tweets are added and the 20 oldest tweets are removed to keep the same number of points on the map.

One cool feature is the ability to zoom in on a cluster, which splits into smaller clusters until, once you’ve zoomed all the way in, you’re presented with a single tweet which you can click on and read. That way, you can explore your own neighbourhood or visit some remote village in Greenland to see what’s going on there.

You have the option to turn on the heatmap view and monitor the “temperature” of tweeting volumes worldwide. It’s quite interesting for instance to see how Twitter is popular in certain West African countries or in the Arab Gulf in comparison to North African or Central Asian countries .

Furthermore, this tool gives you the most used hashtags worldwide in real-time. The screenshot below was taken on a Friday and obviously #FF seems the most used hashtag of the day.

TOMTM is a good tool to have a quick snapshot of the world’s tweeting volumes and discover interesting Twitter facts. It is certainly interesting for mapping reports when close geographical details are needed. Definitely worth a look!

Tools Tuesday: Tweriod, cause timing matters

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Written by @marcoRecorder

Timing is a key variable when analysing online publishing and promotion. While we try to make the best out of our social media channels we should not neglect the “t” factor and make sure we are posting at a time that would guarantee maximum exposure and visibility.

It is a common misperception to think that Twitter is a sort of guessing game, especially when it comes to timing. In particular, if you have a huge number of followers it is unlikely that will all display the same uniform presence on Twitter throughout the day or the week. For the sake or your social media strategy it is essential to know when you will (statistically) get the most exposure. If you want your followers to see your tweets, you need to post when they are online.

Compared to other social media platforms, Twitter users post much more regularly so it is easy for an individual tweet to get buried in the feeds’ waterfall. To get your tweeting timing right you can use Tweriod, a free tool that runs an analysis of your followers providing the best time to tweet.

To sign up you need to grant the service access to your Twitter account like any other app, without posting and promotional tweet on your behalf. Within 10-15 minutes, it generates a report which you can consult on your Tweriod dashboard but you can also receive it via direct message or e-mail. Unfortunately, free accounts can only generate one report every 30 days.

Tweriod’s dashboard is easy to understand and offers a number of interesting details about the timing of your Twitter account. The report shows you what times you have the most exposure, and breaks it out into weekends, weekdays, and specific days of the week. It also shows you what time most of your followers are online, and again breaks it out into weekends, weekdays, and specific days of the week. It even includes an hourly breakdown of your online followers.

See for instance in the analysis provided to @EU_Commission Twitter account:

  • During weekdays the Commission’s account is statistically most likely to get best exposure between 12PM and 1PM and between 3PM and 5PM.
  • Regardless the day of the week, we can see a trending curve suggesting that our posting would reach maximum exposure from the late morning to the late afternoon.

Don’t guess your tweeting timing. Have this app help you know when your followers are online.

Keep calm…and hashtag

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Written by Marco Ricorda @marcorecorder

It is true. Beethoven used the # to compose his immortal music and certainly wasn’t doing so with the intention of joining a Twitter chat or to check what people were sharing in the Hapsburg Empire in the late 18th century. He also had the choice of using other musical keys ♭ or ♮ and he knew how important it was to find the most suited to his music.

Memes apart, whether you are working on your next digital campaign, trying to attract buzz towards your latest online event or simply spread a message it is essential to create the best hashtag to achieve your goal simply. As bizarre as it sounds, hashtags are becoming an integral part of our lives. Just think that, the American Dialect Society crowned “hashtag” the word of the year, the French Commission Générale de terminologie de néologie recently adopted mot-dièse as an official new word and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag…it is such a global social world.

Every hashtag has its own purpose and it is not a waste of time to investigate how you can optimize it. In the Social Media Team at DG COMM we often have to go on a “hashtag creation journey” where we gather for brainstorming sessions filled with question marks, possible scenarios, predictions and white boards full of suggestions. Nevertheless, at the end of the day there has to be only “one hashtag standing” (or maybe two). By thinking backwards to our most recent brainstorms, I could identify a few main principles we tend to stick to while forging a new hashtag, Namely, these are:

  • Purpose
  • Originality
  • Appropriateness
  • Format
  • Branding

Purpose

What will the hashtag be used for and who will be your target audience? As advocated  in a previous post, audience segmentation can  help you understand to who you are communicating  to and how your target audience behaves in social media. This should be a two steps process:

Firstly, think about what you want to achieve. Are you looking for buzz, to gather a specific community, get scientific feedback, get your word out, be viral, etc…?
Secondly, think about who you want to target. Are you hoping to involve everyone, a few selected journalists, experts, pundits, etc…?

These questions largely depend on your target audience. If they are part of a small special interest group and are interested in closed conversations, creating a viral, trending tag would not be a priority so much as creating a tag that works well for the group members.

Originality

It is not compulsory to be unique but it is better to be original. If the hashtag you have in mind is being used already it will be hard to make it stand out of the crowd. You can make an exception if the hashtag you have in mind has been used scarcely. A number of free tools can help you check on the hashtag’s availability such as Hashtracking, Hashparty, or the simple Twitter search.

Appropriateness

Always cover your angles. Before you settle on a hashtag, consider whether there might be any negative fallout. Even if the hashtag has never been used, it could be “owned” in the sense that it is already a common phrase familiar to others and being used in a context unrelated to your digital activity. If your hashtag is unintentionally offensive or inappropriate (also in other languages), it is unlikely to generate the outcome you look for.

Format

Nothing kills a conversation quicker than running out of space. Don’t choose a long hashtag. There is not an ideal size for a hashtag but think how every character you’re using is one character less than the 140 you have at your disposal. i.e. #thisimyawesomenewhashtag will get you somebody’s attention but will kill the engagement. Less than 9 or 10 characters should do it.

It’s interesting to use initials, acronyms and abbreviations to keep your hashtag short. This works especially when your audience is already familiar with such form of shorthand like our recent #EUDeb8 or occasionally adding in the year like in #EYC2013.

Branding

Keep your goals in mind. Your hashtag will be promoted via other channels than your social media platforms. Whether you intend to use it continuously or intermittently it is good to consider how linked to your identity it is. Make sure your hashtags work as reflection of your long and short-term goals. Nevertheless hashtags are a user-generated feature of Twitter. Once you have your “newborn”, be ready to promote it via your traditional channels too and think of it as the “plaque” all users will identify YOU with.