Will 2014 be Europe’s Twitter election?

Obama four more years image from Twitter

Twitter was a major feature of the 2012 US Presidential elections, with a combined 14 million tweets during the Democratic and Republican Party Conventions and over 10 million tweets during the TV debate between the candidates in October 2012.

No less than three of the Brookings Institute’s Ten Communication Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Election relate to the game-changing impact of Twitter, including the democratization of political debate and commentary.  Pollster Stephen Mills commented in the Guardian during the campaign that “tweeters, not bloggers or pundits, will decide debate winners as politics shifts from a 24-hour news cycle to a 140-character one”.

So, will Twitter play a similar role during the 2014 European elections?

At a recent event organized by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at the University of Maastricht, Stephen Clarke from the European Parliament (EP) confirmed that social media outreach was an important element in the “Act.React.Impact” campaign.  The campaign is designed to encourage people to turn out and vote in the elections.  Looking back, Steve concluded that 2009 could be seen as the Facebook elections (the EP’s Facebook Page, which was launched in the run-up to the 2009 elections, has now gathered over 1.2 million likes) whereas 2014 was shaping up to be the Twitter election.

Although they are far from the figures seen during the 2012 US Presidential elections, the statistics from these early stages of the European campaign certainly seem to confirm that Twitter is regarded as a key communication tool by candidates, commentators and activists.  Consultancy Burson-Marsteller, which is monitoring the digital side of the elections, estimates that candidates are already posting over 2000 tweets a day on a wide range of issues.

#EP2014 tweets

Tweets mentioning #EP2014 are on the rise

It has been fascinating following the Twitter stream with the #EP2014 hashtag, particularly the discussions around the political parties’ nominations for Commission President (one of the main innovations in this year’s European elections).  The nominees announced so far are all active tweeters.  Since the beginning of 2014, the volume of tweets mentioning #EP2014 has been increasing steadily, with peaks during the last week of over 2000 tweets per day.

Example of a network map of tweets mentioning #EP2014

I have been using Topsy to keep an eye on the overall number of tweets, and also experimenting with Bluenod to create social network maps that highlight the most connected and influential participants in the conversation about #EP2014.  I would be interested to hear if anyone else is using analytics tools to try to get a picture of the extent and the nature of the online debate about the 2014 European elections.


Filed under Digital media, EU, USA

6 responses to “Will 2014 be Europe’s Twitter election?

  1. I wonder if an increase in broadcasters and celebrities on Twitter as well as Twitter is becoming more mainstream and advertisement driven will reduce the importance of Twitter in the elections. Twitter will be an important media for the election but perhaps the invasion of mainstream-mediatypes to twitter means that the prediction that “tweeters, not bloggers or pundits, will decide debate winners as politics shifts from a 24-hour news cycle to a 140-character one” no longer is valid for the overall twittersphere, but may still be in certain circles as Twittersphere becomes more fragmented with more users and more different types of users.

    At least in Denmark, I haven’t seen signs of a full use of online outreach, social media mobilization, and data mining in the election campaign. It feels a bit more haphazard and instinctive rather than fact based.

    There definitely is a Europe debate going on via Twitter and the internet, I think this will slowly but surely build up the missing European debate even if the traditional national mono-lingual media may not be willing to accept this as it is a threat to their business models. Trans-European media seem to still have a rough time and may never really work. Perhaps the network of http://www.thelocal.com/ may work even if this only is in English but so are the main EU-media such as FT.com, TheEconomist and EUobserver

    Twitter is very important for me in the election campaign just as it is for the rest of my life and communication. However, I don’t think that Twitter on its own will be a determining factor for my result in the election, it will need to be supplemented by other ways of interacting and getting to know the voters.

    For the municipal elections in Denmark, Twitter and social media did not have as large an impact as the social media pundits had predicted though the pundits will never admit. Perhaps the European Elections will be different because the electoral district is so much larger. Denmark is one district for the EP elections. But I guess time will tell.

  2. LOOG Jean-Yves

    V interesting indeed

  3. Twitter will certainly play a more important role in these elections, I hope so :-). However we must put that role into the right perspective. According to Eurostat, more than 50% of the population participate in social networks in just 12 EU countries, and more than 2 persons on 3 in no more than 3 countries! This means that in all other countries less than one person on two use social networks. I wonder what is, in these social networks, the FB/Twitter ratio but I have the impression that FB is still predominant. What this means? That Twitter is not used or, worst, unknown by a large majority of people in Europe and that by consequence its influence or impact will be relative during the next elections.
    (it’s up to us to change all of that 😉
    Eurostat source: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&plugin=0&language=en&pcode=tin00127

    • Claudio is right to remind us that social media use is still far from universal. However, the evolution since the last European elections is striking. In 2009, Facebook was just five years old and had 360 million users worldwide (cf 1.23 billion today – http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/feb/04/facebook-in-numbers-statistics). When Eurobarometer first asked about people’s media habits in Autumn 2010, 33% reported that they used social media (18% daily, 15% two or three times a week). In the most recent survey in Autumn 2013, this had risen to 44% (30% daily, 14% two or three times a week). Back in 2009, the small group of social media “early adopters” in the EU institutions (helpfully listed by Antonia Mochan in this blog post – http://euonym.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/european-commission-early-adopters-on-twitter/) would have fit into a small meeting room. The development of this European online public sphere over the last five years does change the political and communication context for the 2014 elections. But what impact will that have in practice, and how can we measure and analyse the effects? I’ll be returning to that question in my next post.

  4. Pingback: Encuestas non-stop | Elecciones Europeas 2014

  5. Pingback: How diverse is the online conversation about the European elections? | European Union 2.0

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