Last month ZN and polling agency ComRes held a conference on MEPs’ and EU professionals’ engagement with social media based on a new “Digital Pulse” study charting the rise in use of websites like Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter.
The following short interviews with some of the conference’s participants look at how social media can effectively be used by politicians, activists and Brussels insiders.
Facebook: “Useful for political debate”
Kristensen Thomas Myrup, Director of Facebook Nordic, lauded the “very high” use of social media by Brussels policymakers and influencers. He was particularly impressed that institutions sometimes reputed to be old-fashioned, like the European Parliament, were actually among the biggest users of Facebook and Twitter: “The MEPs were out in front. That was cool!”
It can sometimes be hard to interest citizens in debate. But with 900 million users, Myrup said Facebook is a popular and transparent way of engaging in discussions: “On Facebook you use your real name. And we think that’s very important for the debate that people that are on Facebook and debate are who they say they are.”
“The real world effect of something completely virtual”
Ian Andersen, external communication advisor for the EU Commission’s DG Interpretation, was struck by the extremely high use of Wikipedia by MEPs (88%) and other EU professionals (93%). He said this was “encouraging”: “In a sense European politics is already driven by a crowd-sourced information engine.”
Andersen also discusses how the EU’s interpretation service is using social media like YouTube and Facebook to prepare for an upcoming wave of retirements in the department. He explains how social media have enabled a massive increase in interest and applications for interpretation from target universities: “We’re very happy with the real-world effect of something that is actually completely virtual.”
How to engage with young people?
Kamila, an intern in DG Interpretation, talks about how to use the department’s Facebook page to engage with young people. The page is used as a way to directly answer potential recruits’ questions about career opportunities and to raise interpretation’s profile. How to arouse interest among young citizens? Sometimes a picture seems to be worth a thousand words: “People love comics. People love images. … We also share things that other people post or try to find fun stuff on Google, but usually we try to create our own content.”