December 19, 2010
It might seem strange for me to say this, but lately I’ve been wondering whether the EU institutions are now paying too much attention to social media.
But let’s not lose sight of the basic fact that serious investment needs to be made on the Institutions’ sites in terms of (in no particular order or rigour):
- audience-driven, non-organisational information architecture
- search engine optimisation
- content structured for the web which explains why, as well as what: particularly illustrations, animations and audiovisual which are useful, as opposed to:
- designed-to-be-viral YouTube ads which say nothing, explain nothing, and are as contagious as fossilised Kleenex;
- Smiling Happy White Families from American stock photo sites. There, I said it.
- document libraries and news resources which tie related items together and don’t require a PhD and two hours to find
- coordination to avoid redundant information
- coordination to ensure up to date information
- timeliness (proactive and reactive)
- basic interactive tools for programme and event support
- dynamic web publishing (yes, the EC still publishes static files …)
and half a dozen other basic things which sites like EUROPA need to get right.
This is not a question, as Ron Patz recently posted, about EUROPA competing with Google as a method for finding EU documents.
In fact, Google is almost always the best method for finding a document, if you know what you are looking for. If EUROPA was only serving hyper-specialists in EU affairs, all it’d really need to do would be to publish documents with decent metadata and invite people to use Google.
I’m exaggerating to make my point, which is that any website is a lot more than a document repository, and EU websites must serve a huge array of audiences, from hyperspeciaists seeking the latest detailed information to those stumbling across EUROPA for the first time, and everyone in between. In many languages.
Hey, noone said it was easy. Which is basically my point.
I really do think social media has a lot to offer, but getting these basics right is important, too, and this requires a sustained, ongoing effort – a site like EUROPA doesn’t get ‘done’, to then be forgotten. So I’m wondering whether the newfound fascination for all things Twitter may distract resources from the basic task of providing acurate, up-to-date, readable, comprehensible information about what the EU is doing, why and how.
This is not an optional extra – if the EU can’t inform Europeans what it is doing, why, and how, we shouldn’t be surprised they are increasingly disenchanted.
And a solid EUROPA base, finally, is absolutely essential to any active social media campaign.Mathew Lowry