10 things the EU should probably know about social media

Posted by Mathew Lowry on 17/02/12
Tags: , ,  

The ever-excellent For Immediate Release (episode 638) put me onto 10 things you still need to know about social media / social business, by Olivier Blanchard (aka the Brand Builder), which sounds like every other post you’ve ever hear of.

But it’s worth a read (the hint is in the use of the word ‘still’). Despite Olivier’s focus on the private sector – where both customer service and marketing are mission-critical, not Nice-to-Haves as they are for the EU Institutions – it got me thinking about the gulf that still separates the EU Institutions from the effective use of social media.

So I thought I’d run down his list from the perspective of the EU Institutions, and see where it lead me:

1. “Social” is something you are, not something you do

This led to a somewhat pedantic debate on FIR, but my take on this is that you have to be social to do social. As Olivier puts it:

“If your company culture doesn’t focus on building relationships with your customers, then chances are that you won’t use social media to do it either.”

Now the EU has, for 50 of its first 60 years, never had to consider European citizens – the only relationships it had were with other denizens of the Brussels Bubble, and governments (the EP elections results show that the EP is no exception here).

This inward-looking culture runs deep. Transforming it into a social culture is an epic task, to say the least.

2. You cannot effectively outsource customer relationships to an agency

Given that my main client is an agency, you’d probably assume I’d disagree. I don’t. Partly because:

“Research and intelligence, sure: that can be outsourced. Creative? That too. Implementing technologies and helping you with strategy? You bet. Marketing, PR and advertising? Of course.”

But the actual interactions? That’s hard. I’ve been looking at this for a few years now, and my experiences to date are behind some of the posts in this blog (example). Essentially, an outreach team needs more than expertise in social media and in the content being discussed, both of which can be outsourced – they also need an escalation path for when the conversations get too technical (or too political), and that is pretty hard for a bureaucracy to outsource, particularly when you remember that these escalation paths need to span organisational boundaries, across which even angels fear to tread.

3. A blog is just a blog. It isn’t a magical trust and influence publishing converter for the web.

“Publishing propaganda or marketing content is just that, regardless of the publishing platform.”

Amen.

Some people in the EU Institutions got this right first time, years ago. Others still don’t.

More: Simon Anholt on EU Propaganda, and When is a blog not a blog?

4. Marketing on social media channels isn’t “social.” It is just marketing on social media channels

Amen. See Point 3.

5. Transparency isn’t just a word. If you don’t intend to practice it, don’t preach it.

This is a biggie. As I mentioned somewhere recently, we’re living in an age of transparency, whether governments and corporates like it or not. And in such an age, it helps to look good naked.

The EU, of course, has been covered up for a long time, but now people are taking a closer look, under the clothes, and finding that it doesn’t look good naked.

Changing this is such a cultural shift that in my pessimistic moments I just don’t think it can happen.

More: Does more transparency make better comms? and just about everything written by Ron Patz.

6. Change management, not social media tools and platforms, is at the crux of social media program development

If you’ve read this far and haven’t grasped this by now, perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Olivier puts it succintly:

“Because social is something you are, not something you do, most organizations cannot succeed in the social space by changing what they do and not who they are… “Social” speaks at least as much to your company’s DNA as it does to its business practices.”

As pointed out above, the EU Institutions’ history means that the DNA is a long way from being social. Adding a layer of doing social on top of the old processes, structures and mentalities is not a recipe for success.

7. People are more important than technology. Hire people who care about other people

Do I need to go into any detail about the impact the EU Institution’s Human Resources policies have on their communications work? No, I didn’t think so.

Suffice to say that this is again about DNA. Bureaucrats are generally process-driven, not results-driven. In any case, there are no rewards systems in place for encouraging them to care about anyone other than their hierarchy.

Olivier’s take on this is not particularly relevant to the EC (which, on the whole, is not populated by particularly unpleasant people), but it’s so damned funny I’m going to reproduce a paragraph anyway:

“If you hire and promote assholes, your company will be full of assholes. It doesn’t matter how much Twitter and Facebook you add to your company’s communications or how many awesome monitoring dashboards you buy… [because] an asshole on social media is still an asshole.”

8. Social media should not be managed by Marketing anymore than your phones should be managed by Sales

Olivier’s point is that social media is about relationships; the relationship a customer wants from a company is generally customer service; so why are the marketers involved?

Probably because the relationship the company wants with the customer is to sell them something, not provide customer service.

If you think this doesn’t transfer across to the use of social media by the EU, ask yourself this: what do you want from your government? Services, and a voice in the laws you must respect? Or someone trying to sell you something?

9. Shut up and listen

Again, some thought is required to translate this from “what a company should do” to “what the EU should do”, because companies have both customers and competitors, and the EU has …?

“Pushing content all day long and measuring likes and impressions won’t get you very far… If your communications serve your marketing department more than they serve your customers or your business on the whole, you are probably doing it wrong.”

I guess the general point is that if the Institutions’ use of social media is aimed at making those doing it look good internally, rather than Being Useful to Europeans, then they’re probably doing it wrong. And to do it right: first, listen.

10. Any consultant, “thought leader,” agency or partner who doesn’t tell you these things isn’t fit to be consulted on the subject

As possibly the only communications consultant to the EU Institutions who blogs about EU communications, I like this one! ;-)

26 Responses to 10 things the EU should probably know about social media »»

  1. Comment by Craig Willy | 2012/02/17 at 16:49:35

    Excellent post. Some pols struggling to understand why no one goes to their website/blog would also benefit from reading this.

  2. Comment by Ralf Grahn | 2012/02/17 at 18:26:52

    @Mathew

    We are experiencing the greatest movement of civil society in Europe, across borders, with the protests against ACTA. Over 200 demonstrations last week and 2.35 million citizens signing the appeal to reject the anti-piracy treaty.
    What has the EU Commission done? It has repeatedly told people that their concerns are ghosts and that nothing changes (though the treaty is necessary).
    What has the EU Concil done? Stayed in its bunker.
    What have most people writing and thinking about and analysing EU communications done? Skirted the issue.
    This has been the most successful campaign to date to unite Europeans, but can we say that (two of) the EU institutions have succeeded?

  3. Comment by Simon Blackley | 2012/02/17 at 19:04:04

    Good post, thank you.

    Social is in public, in writing, and in real time. Nothing in the experience of those responsible for communication in the Commission (or in most other corporate organisations) has trained then how to deal with this.

    I have begun to think that using social simply as a new marketing channel may be a necessary first step. At least that way some parts of the organisation start to use social, start to pay attention to it, start to listen. Individuals will lead. The organisation will follow. I hope.

  4. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/17 at 19:06:57

    @Ralf: Would you believe that the episode of FIR I mentioned above opened with a discussion on ACTA, spurred specifically by the demonstrations across Europe?
    And no, the FIR hosts didn’t mention any response from the EU Institutions. Funny, that.
    I think ACTA could be a useful case study to demonstrate the limits of the EU Institutions’ use of social media. Is anyone tracking any engagement by them on this issue?

  5. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/17 at 19:25:53

    @Simon, I fear you’re probably right that Marketing is the easiest channel ‘in’ to the Institutions for social media. There are certainly plenty of consultants peddling this view.

    The reason I fear it is because this channel is a dead end, and would probably do more damage to the EU than good (see points 8, 5 & 3), thus poisoning the well.

    A better route in would be via interactive Communities of Practice for more specialised audiences, as they focus on operational projects, not marketing&propaganda. As these require interactive technologies which the Commission’s own web publishing services generally don’t support, however, these projects are usually outsourced, which keeps the Commission at arms length from their own community, thus falling foul of point 2 (“You cannot effectively outsource customer relationships to an agency”).

  6. Comment by Hugh | 2012/02/18 at 17:34:15

    Haven’t we been here before? And more than once? Or am I just getting déjà vu from the apparently immortal anti-spam word that recalls the Oz contribution to blogactiv DNA?

  7. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/18 at 23:15:06

    You’re probably right. Remember, the “10 things” were by Olivier Blanchard. Although they were written for other business contexts, they resonated with me so much that the post basically wrote itself.

    When I riff off other posts like that, I will tend to revisit themes from my previous posts. Nevertheless, I usually find new ideas half-emerging from posts like these – or from their comments. These ideas then get developed properly in future posts.

    Another reason we may be repeating ourselves is that NOTHING IS BLOODY CHANGING. There’s a lot of talk, and even more conferences here in Brussels where people can repeat themselves even more. But as Ralf points out – and Simon confirms – it’s just marketing. Mere window-dressing. I don’t think the people on the streets will be that impressed.

    PS And if they haven’t erased my DNA from Blogactiv, it’s not my fault (and not for lack of trying)! ;-)

  8. Comment by Simon Blackley | 2012/02/19 at 12:15:08

    Re ACTA engagement the most active (apart from a few MEPs) seems to have been @ECSpokesRyan.

  9. Comment by Ryan Heath | 2012/02/19 at 14:18:24

    A bunch of comments …

    1) I can’t help think how funny it is that the main person tweeting from them and the main blogging about how the EU institutions tweet are both Australian :) ) but thanks for noting @Simon and thanks for stimulating debate Matthew

    2) My favourite advice from the list is “if the Institutions’ use of social media is aimed at making those doing it look good internally, rather than Being Useful to Europeans, then they’re probably doing it wrong. And to do it right: first, listen.”

    3) but that brings me to three. I just don’t agree with @RalfGrahn that I or anyone else have been telling people that they are “ghosts” for fact-checking them on the ACTA issue. Somehow that means I and the Commission are assholes (to quote the funny advice from the original post) just because we are explaining the Commission’s legal advice and political view. I’ve had this criticism previously over the Kroes appointment of zu Guttenberg. I think some interlocutors need a reality check on this. Using social media does not oblige the Commission to agree with its users, or give into bullying (and I’ve had plenty of abuse on social media that I haven’t provoked.) . My job is to explain an defend Commission positions. I want to do it in the most useful and human way, but it really shoudn’t be a surprise that I do it on Twitter. I am not a passive complaint box. In other words: if you want the Commission on social media you have to be prepared to get as good as you give if there an actuall difference of opinon or fact between people in a conversation.

    4) I agree that most people in the Commission don’t yet “get” social media. That doesn’t mean people like me aren’t trying to change that. Anne and Bert are also doing a great job. If you want us to do a better job, then it’s important to work with open/supportive individuals to spread and embed your perspective. Some of that happens already, but in pushing for overall change, don’t overlook the helpful changemakers already active in the system.

    5) On the issue of how deeply the institutions understand and use social media … also remember the resource issues involved. We’ve got multilingualism considerations to bear in mind, big existing communications obligations (whatever you think of them), and a crisis to fight. All of that makes resource re-allocation hard; indeed I know some comms units that lost 10 people in the last 12 months. And not everyone has the time or interest to dive into communities of practice etc. Getting people to talk human and listen on Twitter would actually be a major achievement in that overall context.

    6) On European Citizens Initiative, I frankly don’t understand why ACTA activists aren’t joining up the dots with things like this. The amount of ACTA nonsense flying around is truly huge and a disservice to the people who have genuine concerns and deeply thought out opposition. ECI is a tool to deal with stuff like this. ok, it’s launch on 1 April is not perfect timing, but nothing is. And it brings me to my wider point. Even if you can’t use ECI for ACTA – use it for the underlying issue … copyright reform. If you really want to influence EU copyright law, then use ECI to get a credible alternative to the current copyright system on the table. Kroes is not in charge of this file, so she can’t promote reform alone. That would be a hell of a lot more practical that abusing us with ACTA conspiracy theories.

  10. Comment by Ralf Grahn | 2012/02/19 at 19:32:15

    @Simon Blackley and @Ryan Heath

    Naturally I did consider Ryan’s activity, although I painted the broad picture of the activities of the EU Commission. The bottom line was the job to explain and to defend the Commission position, which did not really allow for a meaningful discussion on how to proceed with ACTA.

    I have written often enough myths and half-truths in the ACTA debate, but I still see that the response from citizens is basically sound: a rejection of attempts (largely failed) to thrust a skewed IPR agenda on legislators, EU and national.

    This calls for a clean slate and a fresh start.

  11. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/20 at 11:51:47

    @Ryan, Many thanks for joining in. Although I’ve had a lot of people from the Institutions commenting here, I think you’re the first from EC>DG COMM.

    I don’t get many Australians either, but would you believe that another emerged this past weekend, and that his first comment also pointed out that Australian community engagement may be a little more In Your Face than many Europeans are used to? Unfortunately he prefers to remain anonymous (got any brothers?).

    I totally agree with you that the Commission should not be a passive complaint box on social media. But while the Australian in me totally goes for ‘giving as good as you get’, I know from experience that this is not always the best way to achieve your goals when things get heated.

    I didn’t follow either Guttenberg or ACTA closely, as I try and avoid getting drawn into every debate – my main interest is how to improve the quality of all debates on the EU. But I do remember both issues differently.

    I remember thinking that you handled the Guttenberg shitstorm too robustly once or twice (i.e., flinging some back). You might score points that way, but you won’t convince the 90% who are bystanding and reading when you descend to the same level as abusive critics. Be the better person in the debate.

    I learnt this the hard way, by the way (been called a Hitler apologist yet)? Come on, let’s compare war wounds! ;-)

    For ACTA, however, I didn’t get the same impression. The difference between these shitstorms, in my view, is that one decision is complex and debatable, and the other (sorry) is simply indefensible. In a world of social media, the EU is going to have to get better at both debating and defending its decisions, and not taking indefensible ones. But I don’t expect you to react to this particular issue!

    As for points 4 & 5, I can only report the view from outside. From where we stand, we see a lot of talk and at least one workshop/seminar/conference every week attended by ‘social media experts’ who have never built an interactive website in their lives. But precious little action, and certainly very little deep consideration of the implications (organisational, knowledge mgt, etc.) which social media holds. And it’s not as if any of this is really new – it was ten years ago this month that my INFSO team launched the first Community of Practice on EUROPA.

    But I totally agree re: resources. It’s not just quantities, however, it’s also how people are hired and managed which is at fault – see point 7, or Cedric’s post and ensuing discussion.

    One last point. You write “If you want us to do a better job, then it’s important to work with open/supportive individuals to spread and embed your perspective.

    This is one of the main reasons I maintain this blog. But don’t you think it should be a two-way street? Revisit the first paragraph of the present comment, and remember that I created Blogactiv, and this blog, over 4 years ago. That’s a long time to wait! ;-)

    - Mathew

  12. Comment by Ryan Heath | 2012/02/20 at 12:40:14

    Thanks Ralf, Thanks Mathew

    Your points are all fair in my view.

    And, by the way, while I am not sure where to take it – I requested a blogactiv.eu blog last night. It’s something I have been thinking about for a while, and partly because I’m not in love with the Commission’s wordpress template, I thought blogactiv could be a good way to get started. The problem may be that I won’t be using the blog primarily as a discussion tool (at least at first) but initially as a transparency tool. That is – I don’t think you should need to have a press pass or know me in order to get more access to Kroes’ thinking. But I also want to be realistic that I personally don’t have time to debate every point – most of my effort has to go into airing the point in the first place, and opening up the links I have with all people who comment and report on what Kroes does.
    (it will also be simpler than filing every line to take on my computer – I’d rather just have the info out there and be able to point people to it when asked). So I guess there I am saying I don’t expect the blog to be popular, but that I am not going to try to be popular, just to serve the people who want the extra info.

    On your last blog comment points Mathew ..
    1) I think I probably am too defensive in debates, but I’m also stuck – it’s not just my personal position being argued, so I think Commission accounts are always going to be more defensive than a personal account would be.

    2) One of the consequences of the social / digital revolution is that it’s left institutional communications in a bit of flux. It’s not clear what exactly a spokesperson’s job is anymore. And at the midday press briefings of the Commission we are sometimes used as human Google searches instead of people sharing political messages … some of that comes through in my own social media approach. I want to share interesting info and I want to pass on things that Kroes thinks, but I get frustrated when people want answers to everything just because I am there and have the Commission label attached. I have a responsibility to understand that interest, but social media users also have the responsibility to be reasonable if they want answers. For example, I can’t just answer new questions on behalf of other Commissioners. That is boring, but the EU is necessarily complicated – it’s the world’s largest democractic experiment after all.
    It’s tough but social media opens up a expectation gap, just as it opens up new ways to engage. We need to find some way to get the institutions to do more while also educating people to be realistic; that if you don’t get full and immediate answers it’s not because the system is working against you, just that it is moving slower than you would like to re-tool for this new digital world.

    3) which brings us to what the institutions are doing to go digital. Well, we’ve cleared the first hurdle – the debate about whether social media accounts can be controlled. They can’t and that’s now clearly understood in the institutions. But what is lacking is more than a few good examples. That’s why I am prepared to just do things like start as blogactiv account as a spokesperson. That is more valuable that preaching to the converted at yet another seminar.

    I think interested/open people just have to get on and do interesting things, and do them openly and transparently so everyone can see the results, and hope that helps to turn the tide a bit quicker. If we wait for some overall Commission decision, or a single high-level mandate, it will never happen. But if a small group leads by example – and I’m trying – then I think the change will happen. That’s what I really like about Cecilia Malmstrom’s efforts for example; it’s obvious that Kroes would be into social media, but it’s not obvious that a portfolio looking at crime and justice would be. We need more less expected examples to show that social media really can work in all situations.

    For what it’s worth there are now more than 80 INFSO people active on Twitter and Facebook and they have a free hand to just be interesting and useful to their followers. That’s a pretty cool ecosystem that has sprung up and knitted itself together in just over one year, following the lead of Kroes’ twitter and blog. What we really need is another DG to follow suit now ….

    And the final thing I learnt is that if you are interesting you get impact. When Kroes spoke out about SOPA and the PVV website for example, she got 2,000 and 800 new followers within a day, respectively, on Twitter. That isn’t why we spoke out, but it proves that citizens will appreciate and respond when you give them a reason. And there are plenty of other people-focussed portfolios around the Commission that could make similar connections.

  13. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/20 at 17:26:29

    Wow, Ryan, where do I start? After more-or-less 4 years of silence, suddenly an avalanche of common sense! ;-)

    Whatever you do with an external blog (here or elsewhere), it will be valuable because you will be experimenting, making things happen, and that is the single best way of pushing things forward. There are always a lot of people ‘at the bottom’ of any large organisation with a lot of ideas, but in a hierarchy like the Commission they don’t feel able to Try Stuff Out until someone in a leadership role (and as a Spoke that includes you) does it first and makes it OK to Try (and by extension OK to Fail, although that happens a lot less than most people fear).

    Totally with you on the way people just expect you to Be There, answering every question under the sun, as otherwise “you’re not being responsive”. I tackled this a little in Can EU social media scale to the EU?, which itself grew out of discussions around a previous post about the importance of a well built EUROPA site to any EC social media strategy.

    While at least part of the expectation gap results from EUROPA failure, there’ll always be people preferring to Tweet you a question rather than look it up themselves. For them, I recommend LMGTFY, as a bit of humour goes a long way!

    As for other DGs, well there are some individuals in other policy DGs experimenting with online communities and social media. Right now it all looks disconnected, though – a scattered archipelago of experiments, with no infrastructure connecting it all together. The problem here (once again) is probably the static nature of EUROPA. Most social media strategies need a good foundation to build on that knits a cloud of social media accounts into something greater than their sum, and that can’t be done by publishing flat HTML files.

    But that’s a topic for another post …

    PS No, it wasn’t obvious Neelie would launch into social media. She was previously the Competition Commissioner, and the fear I and others had was that she’d carry over that (necessarily) secretive culture. Her openness was a pleasant surprise.

  14. Comment by Craig Willy | 2012/02/21 at 18:15:15

    “One of the consequences of the social / digital revolution is that it’s left institutional communications in a bit of flux. It’s not clear what exactly a spokesperson’s job is anymore. And at the midday press briefings of the Commission we are sometimes used as human Google searches instead of people sharing political messages … some of that comes through in my own social media approach.”

    I agree journalists who do this are not doing a good job.

    But it is kind of clear: It’s defending the Commission’s position which sometimes means defending the European Council’s dog’s dinner compromises for which the Commission may have actually had a small role in coming up with.

    In these cases I don’t think EC spokes should be the primary ones in front of the journalists. It serves almost no purpose. I think this especially for the euro crisis. Really they should be hauling out Merkozy’s (or whoever can speak for Council) and Draghi’s spokes for explaining Europe’s economic decisisions (the reasons for double-dip recession, a high-value euro, ECB policy).

  15. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/21 at 21:44:33

    Thanks for that, Craig – it builds on a number of points, and adds a new dimension to another.

    To begin with, as said already, sometimes the spokesman’s job is to simply take the flak for a decision. I was talking about Neelie’s decison to appoint Guttenberg … but sometimes the decision was made by the collective of the EC, or another Institution, or indeed by a few Member States. What’s a spokesman to do? Simply defend it, or become part of a wider Online Community management team? But how can that possibly scale?

    Which also touches on another issue of the major challenges facing EU communications – the fact that each Institution communicates for itself, but for the vast majority of people it’s simply “Europe”. As long as Spokespersons focused on the Brussels press corps, who knew their way about the Bubble, they didn’t have this problem. But a spokesman on social media is in two-way contact with anyone who knows the right hashtag, and most of them won’t know nor care about organisational niceties. Expect more misunderstandings, and hence hostility.

  16. Comment by simonfj | 2012/02/22 at 07:38:37

    Pretty nice discussion guys,

    I was amazed to hear there are 80 comms guys inside the EC doing stuff. Sure would be nice to have ONE page which introduces them. That is a pretty cool number of ‘misfits’ to use as examplars. But it’s unlikely we’ll get the less progressive to move until we develop “an (interactive) ecosystem” for these guys and make them the inhouse fashionistas.

    As Mathew says (so nicely) “Right now it all looks disconnected, though – a scattered archipelago of experiments, with no infrastructure connecting it all together”. Oh yeah. We have all these forums/consutations scattered/buried around the europa domain. E.g. http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/collectiveawareness/index_en.htm
    http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/page/home
    http://trade.ec.europa.eu/consultations/index.cfm

    What a mess!

    Hey, it’s the same in every public institution, globally – divided by specialist departments, whereas their outside worlds – common citizens – coalesce, firstly around language, and then around community of interest (or “disciplinary-centric groups” if you want to use the edu world’s preferred description).

    I can’t help but wonder why there’s this separation between the (so called) “social” media and the old/established stuff, especially in the EC where there’s a huge (& costly) silo of talent. http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ Surely all every bureaucracy is after is an easy way to not just pump out a message, but put some structure on the way its response is handled. So why are they separated?

    The primary challenge, surely, is to how to just explain a message, both ways. OK, easy to say and hard in discovering how to do. But, it’s not up to insiders like Ryan to defend it. That seems to be a common misconception, especially in the early stages of an institution becoming interactive. Educating people to a new system takes time and loads of patience, inside and out (“We need to find some way to get the institutions to do more while also educating people to be realistic”). It’s been an interesting time over the past decade of watching 2% (say) of the stone throwers (at the glasshouses) slowly learning to become gardeners. 98% to go. (ARGhhh!. No hair pulling now)

    We at least agree on one thing (I hope). The main reformulation, it seems to me, is getting people into the habit of sharing. So the idea of having one individual run a blog is a bit naff. Wouldn’t it be better to have a blog that a few peers inside an institution could share? You know how it works; people learn from watching what others do.i.e how they collaborate.

    After that, it’s a matter of hunting around & combining a few more tools so the job is easier to do, and repeat, and improve. http://www.katelundy.com.au/2011/09/06/the-digital-culture-public-sphere/

    I gotta finish with a response to NOTHING IS BLOODY CHANGING. It has of course. The social atmosphere has changed. This conversation couldn’t have happened 2 years ago. I wouldn’t, e.g., stick my head up if there weren’t women like Nellie and Kate who were wise enough to employ some comms people who are willing to attempt to open the glasshouses. It’s certainly been no small purgatory to endure the last decade, as our gov institutional media evolves to reflect participatory, rather than representative, democracy. But that’s where we are today.

    The thing which really has me going is your comment Ryan; “ECI is a tool to deal with stuff like this”. So which institution(s) will issue the citizens’ ECI (online) account? I made one comment on http://www.bloggingportal.eu/blog/the-week-in-bloggingportal-acta-the-crisis-and-a-half-naked-eu-commissioner/comment-page-1/#comment-1017

    So tell me, have you ever heard of a federations? https://refeds.org/resources_info.html

  17. Comment by Bert Van Maele | 2012/02/22 at 11:42:31

    To me the key thing about social media in the Commission is point 6 :Change management is at the crux of social media program developmentimportant. The tools are easy enough to use and there are enough people in the house that can use them. It is the context in which they can be used that is not yet changed. As @euan has put in his recent book: Organisations don’t tweet, people do. The organisational thinking should change. We need indeed to think in terms of people. But getting things started always depends on a couple of people to show the way for the others. This new “generation” of EU officials is there: @Avaltat, @LionelSola, @Dana_Council, @dicknieuwenhuis, @cjbxl, @AnneCbxl, …. and many more. But the critical mass is not yet there.

  18. Ron
    Comment by Ron | 2012/02/22 at 11:54:54

    The reason why people like Ryan are “bombarded” is that there are still to few relevant voices out there that
    a) the digital public can actually bombard so the few that are out there are expected to be the gatekeeper at which to address and
    b) that there isn’t yet an effective system of referral for requests that someone like Ryan could use to say “Hey, ask @CommissionExpert251 for this subject.

    I’d say opening a blog for comprehensive answers is a good idea, and I wonder why the spokespersons’ service hasn’t done this yet. Get 1 question and answer it on Twitter – get the same question 20 times and answer it on the blog and refer to it on Twitter/Facebook/during a press conference. This would also help to scale up if the demands become too massive, because any Commission official or other social media discussion participant could then refer to the answers already given; and if the public disagrees with these answers, a decent (or sometimes indecent) political debate could develop below every answer – a debate from which the spokespersons or even the Commissioners may be able to learn. Make it some kind of Wiki in which always one answer is the official answer by the Commission and invite the public (or bored translators) to make inofficial translations into other languages.

    Finally, I think indeed that the role of a spokesperson on social media should be to be the angry, aggressive watch dog of her/his master, but there should be at least a second person who can be more of a community member helping to link questions and answers and not being seen as the defender of political lines developed to make the master or the institution look good.

    I could go on, because as you can see throughout Mathew’s blog for the last years, these discussions are not entirely new. Those of us involved in EU social media for years have asked EU institutions persistently – like Mathew has indicated with his remark “After more-or-less 4 years of silence, suddenly an avalanche of common sense!” – to get involved in the ways they are now forced to become involved. Had the institutions done this, let’s say three years ago, they would have had enough time to learn to now be able properly to deal with the fact that everyone is entering social media and thus potentially the debates that take place there.

    But I will not go on… ;)

  19. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/22 at 15:01:17

    @Bert, I’ve decided EC social media types are like buses. You wait 4 years for one to turn up, and then 2 turn up at once. Thanks for dropping by ;-)

    I don’t want to give the mpression that I don’t agree with you – you’re right that organisational change is a huge challenge, and you’re right to prioritise it, but I believe it still remains one challenge among many. Unless you include the problems posed by scale, internal communications, multilingualism, transparency, confidentiality, escalation routes, Institutionally-based communications and more (see previous posts) as all fitting under the organisational change banner, of course!

    But I believe any strategy you develop needs to look beyond these operational issues and first ask itself what social media can actually do for the EU as it is today.

    So here’s a short thought experiment: let’s say you achieve the organisational changes you require. You how have a shiny new generation of people across the EC who are empowered to use social media, and you’ve got the internal networks, language skills, policies and so on worked out and bedded down.

    Will that then allow social media to be used to rehabilitate the EU in the eyes of the public?

    I suspect the change has to go a lot deeper than that – in effect, social media will only really work for the EU when it is used to show how things have changed; presenting social media as the change will mean that it remains window dressing.

    Because, in the end, all you’ll end up doing is defending things like ACTA – deals stitched up the old fashioned way by an EU which those it governs don’t understand and largely believe does not represent them.

    Am I being too downbeat? I am working from home with lungs full of crap, which may be a factor. After all, I’ve been arguing for over 10 years that the read/write web (as we used to call it) will help communicate EU policies, programmes and achievements better. But that was before I grasped the awful depths of the euro crisis.

  20. Comment by Mathew Lowry | 2012/02/22 at 15:16:36

    @Ron, thanks for dropping by. The problems you mention are, as you say, not new.

    In fact, the cross-EU thematic portal architecture agreed 10 years ago this month would have created both the public interfaces and the internal communication networks required to efficiently handle social media-based requests. Effectively, the Editors from the various DGs and Institutions behind each portal become online community managers and social media outreach specialists for the portal theme, representing the EU as a whole in that space.

    One of the features we suggested for these portals in 2003 was an interactive FAQ system, where people could submit a question (if not already answered). The CMS shunts the Question to the appropriate portal Editor, who gets the Answer from their expert colleagues and publishes it (and translate it if resources allow). The Answer then gets promoted outwards, and used whenever anyone else asks a similar question. The system would allow users to comment on the Answer, too, allowing for further clarifications in public.

    You’re right that this could be done using a multi-user blog, but the iFAQ system has the advantage that it doesn’t ask every expert in the EC to have a public face. Many don’t want one.

  21. Comment by simonfj | 2012/03/05 at 01:14:29

    Hey Matt, Burte, Ryan, Ron,

    I was giving the conversations around this blog and the others inside; primarily the matildas. http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/waltzing_matilda/%EF%BB%BF%EF%BB%BFnew-and-improved-newsroom-on-europa-eu-get-the-first-glimpse/

    It strikes me that the various (EU) media teams haven’t separated between the old (broadcast) media approach and the new interactive/social media approach. ie. we can compare between the link above, which is a good improvement in addressing “the old model” ,and “the new” http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/index_en.htm

    I appreciate that my link to the refeds went down like a lead balloon. But the point I was trying to make is that, so far as addressing the new media model, we need to focus on the (EC) Single Sign On. That’s eID or e-Signature in Eurospeak. If you want to see the progress here then probably ‘WAYF’ is a good Google search. It’ll give you an insight into institutions sharing stuff between insiders and outsiders by ‘federating’ the degree of access any one user can have around various networks/domains/web sites.

    Just to give you an insight into my/network engineer thinking. i’m trying to get media people (web orientated) and the inter-institutional network guys to understand one another. (You want access to a global interactive TV station. No probs. http://www.surfnet.nl/en/Hybride_netwerk/SURFlichtpaden/Pages/lichtpaden.aspx )

    All of these things come down to agreeing upon an SSO/eID which is issued by .gov institutions. Then we need to have agreements put in place between institutions which allow individuals to access “services” or “resources”. http://www.geant.net/service/edugain/resources/Pages/home.aspx

    I’ll admit that this is purely an engineering overview. That’s why we need to have the management/government guys involved. Technically, it’s a piece of piss. But socially, it needs a few decisions made. http://www.geant.net/service/edugain/about_edugain/how_eduGAIN_works/Pages/home.aspx

    Thankfully, it seems like a bunch of sunburnt southerners are socialable enough to make it happen. BTW, It’s the same in Oz.

  22. Comment by mathew | 2012/03/05 at 21:31:42

    Thanks for all those links! I’m tackling this problem in a couple of projects, actually. As ever, the organisational challenges are the most insuperable.

    But the technologies are now so ‘there’ that there’s really no excuse for not allowing – say – visitors to EUROPA to sign on with a single account and access whatever they have been given access to. Not so easy when the dominant content management system on EUROPA doesn’t allow any interactivity, though.

    On the other hand, DG Information Society has had an ‘Information Society account’ for its stakeholders to access its online services for the best part of 10 years (I think even before Google did).

    As the saying goes: “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”.

  23. Comment by simonfj | 2012/03/05 at 22:41:04

    I can see your ducky feet paddling madly under the EU waters, and it seems the same can be said for the other commentators on this page. It’s the same on every domain centric.gov and .edu bubble. How many times I’ve heard “the org challenges are almost insuperable”, especially around the parliament sites.

    We can all see what needs to be done. But how, e.g., do you take Ron’s idea to Monica and suggest that her survey form asks “Do you have a question?” which is routed to a FAQ page managed by a subject expert (or better still a forum of experts; some of which won’t be insiders). http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/waltzing_matilda/%EF%BB%BF%EF%BB%BFnew-and-improved-newsroom-on-europa-eu-get-the-first-glimpse/
    Such things are very small, time consuming steps to (as it’s been put to me many time) “who knows where?” “Her users are professional journalists not the greater unwashed. (we are led to believe)

    To change the culture one needs to address the most common factors first and the MOST common is the idea of an ID – issued by one institution(al domain) which enables access rights to levels of service/resources on another. That’s a network challenge, not a web one. And if you look through the edugain site, you’ll see it is not one which is, technically, that challenging.

    I’d really like to see if we can bridge the gap between (as I call them) cheese makers (like yourself) and the (network) mousetrap builders. There’s a prospective session at this annual event I’d love to see our thread sharers and Matildas’ attend, even if it’s remotely. https://tnc2012.terena.org/core/event/5

    Any chance we could do a series of web conferences?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»

  1. [...] 10 things the EU should probably know about social media [...]

  2. [...] starts loving Brussels (quite positive!). Mathew advises the EU institutions on social media (quite nice!). OpenCorporates co-develop an EU Business [...]

  3. [...] 10 things the EU should know about social media [...]

Leave a Reply »»

*
To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture.
Anti-Spam Image

Mathew Lowry’s Tagsmanian Devil rss

The European online public space, online communications, communities and the EU, semantic technologies plus whatever else catches my eye. more.



Advertisement