A recent survey conducted by FleishmanHillard has shed light on how Members of European Parliament (MEPs) use online tools when consuming information and interacting with stakeholders. The study, which was carried out between April and June 2015, offers an insightful look into MEPs’ digital world. Here are some of the key takeaways.
MEPs on Social Networks
Of the 100 MEPs surveyed, 76% are active on Twitter and 88% are registered Facebook users. Almost all said they use either one or both of these social networks to communicate with constituents and other stakeholders.
What’s interesting is that Facebook and Twitter don’t just lead the way ahead of other social networks – they are more popular among MEPs than personal websites and blogs; when asked which communication channels they use, 96% said they use Facebook, 93% Twitter and 82% personal websites and/or blogs.
It’s also worth noting how the popularity of Facebook and Twitter has increased rapidly over a relatively short period of time. While in 2011 Facebook was considered an effective communication method by 61% of MEPs and Twitter by 31%, today those figures are 95% and 88% respectively.
Overall, 61% of MEPs said they or their staff follow social media conversations every day as part of their legislative work. And why wouldn’t they? Social media is a valuable tool that, when used effectively, can offer a window into how legislative procedures work and enable elected officials to communicate directly with online audiences in a less formal, more conversational context.
Transparency, Humor and Relatability
If there’s one thing that’s been given a lot of lip service within politics in recent years, it’s the notion of transparency. This, coupled with the fact that most adults are now active on social media, goes a long way to explaining why many elected officials are taking to social networks not only to stay adrift of relevant conversations, but to actively participate in them.
For example, last month Barack Obama joined Twitter as @POTUS. Though primarily an opportunity to communicate about what he does in a professional capacity, the President uses his Twitter account to talk about personal interests to which his followers can relate.
@MayorofLondon Boris Johnson is also active on social media, hosting monthly Twitter chats during which he responds to a wide range of questions. Though most of these concern “serious” issues, Johnson (who is well known for his sense of humor) also engages with those that allow his personality to come to the fore.
Some elected officials may still be uncomfortable with the idea of letting their guard down on social media. But many have now recognized that social networks enable them to communicate with followers and/or constituents in an uncharacteristically informal way, and that using this as an opportunity to show off their personality as well as their professional persona is something that online audiences welcome with open arms.