At 1600 CET today, First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans will do an online chat on Twitter and Facebook* – tag is #AskFrans. Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc will do the same on Monday 27th April at 1400 CET – tag there is #ITS2015chat.
Oooooh, look, little users of social media! Come and ‘chat’ to the Commissioners for an hour! Look at how interactive I am!
So the Commissioners can thereafter resort to form and then broadcast out pictures of them shaking hands with people, or retweet quotes of theirs spoken at events, for the rest of the time.
Put it another way: Twitter chats are convenient interactivity-washing – they demonstrate some engagement, but strictly on the Commissioner’s own terms, and at a time they themselves set. In the case of Bulc and Timmermans it therefore means that @-replying them at any other time is like tweeting into a black hole. Not only is next to impossible to get a reply from either of them, but it is also a perfectly reasonable assumption that none of the everyday tweets written first person in their name are actually written by them. If you doubt it, look for any sort of normal Twitter interaction here from Timmermans or here from Bulc – you won’t find any. Malmström and Georgieva are the exceptions in the Commission, not the rule.
That doesn’t mean these chats are useless – they are better than nothing. But they are far from being the solution for good online communications from Commissioners!
* – yes, I am aware that Timmermans is more of a Facebook fan than a Twitter person, but Twitter is the social network for EU policy discussion, and all Commissioners are present on it.