The EU bubble’s top-50 influencers were announced at the yearly ZN #EUinfluencer ranking in Brussels on September 12th, crowning Dave Keating, Brussels Correspondent at France 24 as this year’s most influential social media figure. The #EUinfluencer ranking, currently on its seventh edition, looks at the impact of Brussels-based EU influencers on social media including on X, LinkedIn, Mastodon, TikTok and Instagram.
An impressive second place went to Jean Quatremer at Libération and third place to Jon Worth, EU transport commentator, campaigner and writer (see the full list of the top 50 here). The top ten also included both Theresa Fallon from the Centre for Russia, Europe, Asia Studies (CREAS) and Katie Owens at the European Commission’s DG SANTE.
Other movers and shakers in the top ten included Andrew Stroehlein, last year’s winner, from Human Rights Watch, Eddy Wax from Politico, Javier Blas at Bloomberg and Ariel Brunner at Birdlife Europe and Central Asia, who was the biggest jumper gaining an impressive 30 places in the ranking.
The event, which ZN CEO Philip Weiss hosted, comes amid ongoing turmoil in the digital space as uncertainty spreads on the role of X (formerly Twitter) and currently the most used social channel by the EU bubble, the rise of AI, pending elections and an increasing amount of disinformation.
With the 2024 elections less than a year away we can expect this “disturbance in the force” to have a significant impact on upcoming political campaigns. Europe has, on average, an 80% internet penetration rate (Source: Statista) and that means that the battle for attention will, to a large degree, be held online. If the Brussels bubble does not adapt their strategic approach and find ways to diversify their online presence, they might miss out.
Evolving to an EU bubble without X marking the spot?
The current state of flux for X could mark the beginning of radical changes as Brussels wakes up to the fact that “their” social platform is no longer offering stability and influencers fragment across different platforms.
We all know strong story and clear message can deliver amazing results, but if you cannot get it to your audiences because they have moved to a new digital space, it means very little. Brussels’ often slow-paced approach needs to speed up and urgently discover that political success during the 2024 election period will require more than just one digital channel – it’s time for more strategic #Hyperthinking!
So where should you go? Well, social media has always been much more than just X and digital communications offers more opportunities than just social media.
Yes, it’s easy to throw all your efforts into a single channel and hope everyone sees it, but this is no longer a realistic approach. This is also true when influencers want to target a small group in Brussels, such as certain policy makers (the niche within the niche so to speak). If half of your target audiences are on X, some on Mastodon and others on LinkedIn, then it’s key to ensure you have a good channel mix to reach these (seems logical right), or simply risk not being heard.
And while you are adapting your strategy to target more diverse media, don’t forget that agility is and will always be part of the game. At ZN we regularly review the current state of digital media because it’s always moving! We actively evaluate, test and adapt our strategies to meet change. It’s a key requirement to ensure our clients stay on top of the evolution as we continue to drive their success. And this includes actively working with AI to support the enhancement of our ideas, ask it pertinent questions and discover its potential.
Diversification also means looking beyond social media and exploring other digital channels that will have impact. These are very diverse but can include email marketing campaigns, blogging, SEO, SEM, newsletters, digital advertising, traditional media and so forth. It’s high time to make the EU bubble aware that they need to get those eggs out of one basket and embrace a more strategic channel mix.
And having a more diversified channel mix also offers additional advantages. It is also a great way to combat disinformation, a key challenge for many today. False information is rarely spread across a single channel, and having a presence across more than one enables EU Bubble influencers to also quickly pick up on these and respond accordingly. The more you diversify, the more you can understand how information flows, and enable a timely and appropriate response.
In short, digital communications have never been as important to get messages across and making use of a single channel will simply no longer cut it. The time has come to urgently prepare for different possibilities and a willingness to adapt strategies as the landscape continues to evolve.
“‘Diversification of media channels is a challenge we are all facing to enable us get our message out,” adds David Keating, this year’s rank leader. “Five years ago, I would have said that an hour on Twitter is worth the time, but today we are all spreading that time across four or five platforms to enable us to reach our audiences. As the digital space continues to fragment, we all need to be aware that our audience is doing the same, and to remain relevant, we must follow.”
But where do you go? At ZN we have been mapping out effective digital channel mixology for 25 years and, as we evolve with innovation, we are continuing to support our clients’ success in this space.
So, what is available amid the turmoil? Here are some strategic thoughts to get your started:
Be engaging and follow your audiences
- First and foremost, content is king! The creation of interesting, engaging and audience relevant content is the baseline for your success on all channels.
- Be channel neutral! Don’t place all your bets on a single medium to communicate on, follow your audience. This means researching and analysing where the conversation is on a regular basis and shifting resources accordingly.
Get the basics right
- A great website and a blog: It sounds simple and basic, but the humble website continues to be a core enabler to driving your communications. In fact, it’s the second most important channel for marketing after social media according to a recent HubSpot report.
- Emails and newsletters are key: They allow you to organise your message, communicate on a regular basis and own your audience database (to prepare for a next platform upheaval).
Make effective use of multiple channels
- X is still the main hub of EU policy discussion – whether people like it or not (spoiler alert: they don’t). But it is deteriorating so we cannot be complacent and be ready to adapt at short notice. This means you should not make the mistake of quitting early, but you need to think of how to adapt your X approach to a more fragmented space.
- Mastodon: Mastodon is a decentralised social media platform that has attracted some key EU influencers, such as Jon Worth and Andrew Stroehlein recently. It’s seeing a growing number of engagements on specific topics, but it requires some expertise, time and effort to use effectively and is only useful is specific situations on specific topics. It is a very good example of a micro-niche platform.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is gaining traction as an alternative to X for corporate and professional conversations. However, it caters primarily to your existing network and ecosystem so is not ideal to reach out to journalists and policy makers.
- Instagram: Instagram is another platform that is being explored by the EU bubble. However, it is not yet clear whether it will be able to attract a large enough audience to become a major player in the online Brussels bubble space. Yet, on some key topics it is already gaining traction such as climate, youth and travel.
- YouTube is also often underrated by Brussels. Yes, it requires more effort to produce video content, but its impact and social shareability has proven to deliver results if it is part of an integrated multichannel approach.
- There are also number of other platforms that are worth exploring, including Bluesky (invite only) and Threads (not in the EU for now). However, none of these platforms have yet achieved the scale or traction necessary to become a major player. Time will tell so watch this space.
- You still need advertising, but you need to spread your budget across different channels from the relevant social channels to Google ads to Politico, Euractiv and more.
So, what’s the conclusion? The digital world is in a state of flux as platform providers scramble to gain a piece of an increasingly fragmented space as users in the EU bubble start to look for new homes for their content. Those who are prepared to embrace change, built on a strong diversified strategic channel mix that is target audience focused will come out as winners, but it will take time, energy and effort – as well as continued agility!
And yes, this is a hot topic currently, as highlighted by the flurry of articles and discussion across multiple platforms. This includes Nicholas Whyte’s recent blog post, Matthias Lüfkens’ view on this increasing fragmentation, Dave Keating’s reason for stepping back from X, Harold Thor’s overview of where some key influencers are going and Jon Worth’s perspectives. A recent article on Brussels’ challenge around X in Politico is also a must read here.
Ensuring that you stay #OneStepAhead therefore requires help and guidance from experts with the right experience and expertise. At ZN, we are excited to provide that help, building on our 25 years of experience, creativity, market knowledge and extensive implementation capabilities.
Curious to find out more? Then get in touch today via firstname.lastname@example.org or reach us via our social channels!