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Posts tagged with: Twitter

Few people are interacting on Twitter (and those who are aren’t the ones you’d expect)

On 18 May (18 days ago) I started a little experiment. Using SocialBro I started a private Twitter list called People Who Interact. This list was automatically created – out of everyone who either replied to a tweet I wrote, or RTed a tweet of mine. The summary of the results – a screenshot from SocialBro – is here:

twitter-interactSome elements of this are worth examining in some depth.

  1. I have 14261 followers at the time of writing on Twitter, and I write 186 tweets per week (according to FollowerWonk) – so 27 tweets per day. 52.5% of my tweets are @-replies, so about 13 of my daily tweets (or about 227 tweets across the whole 18 day period) will theoretically reach all the 14261 followers.
  2. My tweets have generated interactions – either replies or RTs – from 939 different users over that period. However only 562 of those users are people that actually follow me. 377 of them are people that do not follow me – that’s genuinely interesting, and far higher than I would have imagined. However the stat among my followers is more depressing – a measly 3.94% of the people who follow me actually had some sort of meaningful engagement with my tweets over an 18 day period.
  3. Don’t trust the gender statistic in the graph above – I have debated this at length on Twitter a number of times, and no-one can work out whether these stats are actually reliable.

All of this seems to confirm my intuition that my tweets get less and less effective – that tweeting things feels like tweeting into the ether, and getting decent debates and engagement going with an audience beyond my EU politics core people gets harder and harder. I’ll keep the experiement going for a while longer to see if and when the picture changes, but don’t hold your breath – as Twitter gets more and more commercial, and less and less equal, my fear is that this problem will only worsen further.


Twitter’s defective account suspension ‘system’

I’ve registered a whole bunch of Twitter accounts over the years for a variety of purposes. Recently two of these accounts were suspended by Twitter, and the process of what (didn’t) happen as a result requires a little bit more analysis. Both were suspended in late March 2015, and I contacted Twitter to appeal the suspensions shortly thereafter.

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The Aarhus EU Twitter Top 30

I gave a speech about EU online communications at Danmarks Medie- og Journalisthøjskole in Aarhus last year, and yesterday John Frølich – one of the professors there – e-mailed me to ask if I could suggest 20 to 30 EU Twitter accounts that his students ought to follow. So rather than just e-mail back some names, I have made a Twitter list of the 30 accounts, and I explain my rationale for including each of them here.

My emphasis here is on friendly and engaging people – the sorts of Twitter users who, if you ask them a question, they will reply, and people who do not use Twitter just to try to show how important they are. The list could easily have been twice as long, so apologies to those who did not make it. I have also included only personal accounts, and tried to achieve some sort of institutional balance.

So who are the 30?

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Politicians blocking users on Twitter

IMG_7731Yesterday evening I was browsing Twitter, and saw this tweet about serious allegations of election fraud by UKIP from Labour politician John Mann (Bassetlaw) retweeted into my timeline. Oh, I’ll retweet that I thought (I’m on John’s side here, not UKIP’s), but Twitter prevented it – it turns out my main Twitter account (@jonworth) is blocked by @JohnMannMP – see screenshot.

This perplexed me, as I have only ever twice tweeted John Mann – both of these tweets from 27 November 2013 (it required searching to locate as I couldn’t even remember them – thanks Andrés):

In these tweets my critique is at least as much levelled at Crick as it is at Mann, although confusing a social democrat with the populist right wing is a bit of an error in my view. But as those are the only tweets I have ever written to John Mann, I can only presume those are the reason I am blocked. I of course cannot tweet John Mann to ask because, well, I am blocked, and hence have no way to reach him on Twitter any more. I am also not the only one to be blocked by Mann, and be perplexed as to why. Are those tweets really reason enough to block someone?

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Why Twitter works better than Facebook for discussions about the EU

timmermans

Following my earlier blog entry about Twitter chats I was confronted by a familiar charge – ah, Frans Timmermans is a Facebook guy. He doesn’t like Twitter. That’s the problem. There are probably some pretty good reasons he likes Facebook, and not Twitter, and I will come to those at the end of the post.

But, sorry Frans, but I don’t “Like” your page on Facebook, and I have some pretty good reasons for that.

The first, and most minor problem, is my issue with the word. To me “Like” implies endorsing something. Follow (on Twitter) does not. I in no way endorse Frans Timmermans. Oh, you’re exaggerating will come the riposte, yet when I “Liked” Guy Verhofstadt in his bid to become Commission President, friends of mine fired back the accusation that I was wrong to Like Verhofstadt as he’s a liberal and I am leftie. What you like on Facebook comes with a social norm attached. If I saw a journalist Liking politicians it would raise a question mark about their impartiality, and there are personal friends of mine who refuse to Like anything political on Facebook because they fear what work colleagues will make of it.

Second, Facebook is useless for thematic discussion. I might have some interest in what Timmermans does on Better Regulation in Brussels, but I also have interest in what a dozen other politicians might have to say about that. Putting it another way, I want to be able to consume content from people and to consume content by theme. Only by Liking the Facebook pages of a dozen politicians could I possibly follow a thematic debate, and even then it would be split up all over Facebook without any coherence. Hashtags on Twitter are what can hold a thematic discussion together – hashtags on Facebook have never proven to be nearly as effective.

Third, Facebook controls what I see, while on Twitter I am to a much greater extent in control of what I see (and my obsessive use of Twitter Lists and filters in Tweetbot helps further). The problem is Facebook’s News Feed, and its algorithm that will only show me – on average – 1 in 20 posts from a politician’s page, and then according to factors Facebook determines rather than ones I determine. That might be handy for information I was not looking for (it throws up significant developments in friends’ lives, for example) but it’s pretty horrid if I am trying to follow a debate.

Those then are the reasons Twitter works better for EU political debate than Facebook does in my view.

Then finally my feeling about why Facebook appeals to Frans Timmermans: because Facebook inspires a kind of fan-like fervent following for this most supremely confident and charming politician, who gives the impression that he is rather a fan of himself (perhaps with good reason). Frans seems to be more about Frans than he is about the issues – you Like Frans because he is Frans and worth following. That feels good for his ego. And that’s a perfect match on Facebook.


Commission Twitter-chats: interactivity-washing

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 14.40.50At 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.


Two very special #EUtweetup dates – 23rd April, Brussels and 29th April, Berlin

EUTweetupsKnollAndor

I am very happy to announce two further dates in the #EUTweetup series. For the next two tweetups we have some special guests!

On Thursday 23rd April, from 1600, in Brussels at Wild Geese (new location – Metro Maalbeek (map)) we will be joined by Jason L Knoll – follow him on Twitter @JasonLKnoll and his blog can be found here. My connection with Jason is one of those extraordinary things that can only happen on Twitter – he is a high school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, with a fascination for European politics, and I have even done a Skype call to his class to explain the European Parliament to them. Yet I have never met him in person – to be put right on 23rd April! Please note: due to Jason’s schedule he will be present from 1600 until approx 1800, and thereafter the tweetup will continue!

On Wednesday 29th April, from 1830, in Berlin Gorki Park (normal location – U8 Rosentaler Platz (map)) we welcome László Andor, former Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the Barroso II Commission. You can follow him on Twitter @LaszloAndorEU and his Wikipedia page is here. Andor was one of the most interesting Commissioners to follow on Twitter, known for his forthright comments to journalists, and his views about his country of origin. He is now a Fellow at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

Please note that the precise location of these Tweetups has not yet been confirmed, but put the dates in your diaries folks! I’ll add the venues here as soon as they are confirmed. For these tweetups the format is as it ever is – anyone is welcome, come along for a short while or stay the whole evening, and meet in real life the folks you argue with on Twitter. No need to register, and follow #EUtweetup for the latest information, or tweet that tag if you have questions or can’t find us on the night!


The vexed issue of politicians on Twitter – is it really them?

malmström-barrosoI’ve never met European Commission for Trade Cecilia Malmström in person. But from tweets exchanged over the years with @MalmstromEU I have some picture of what Malmström must be like as a person. From serious discussions about the implementation of Schengen (her previous Commission post was Home Affairs), via deleted tweets about TTIP, to joking about Barroso’s farewell speech (see screenshot), so I develop a picture of a straightforward and open person, someone ready to listen, and one with a sense of humour. And all of this even though I politically disagree with her. Twitter in other words allows me to separate the person from the issue to a certain extent.

The crucial issue here of course is that the tweets in question actually come from Malmström herself. No member of staff would ever dare write the tweet about Barroso and the Bye Bye Barroso bingo game!

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