The inconvenient truth is simple: Social media will have zero impact on the outcome of the European Parliament elections 2014. Here are 10 simple truths about social media and the #ep2014*:
1. Social media will only help a few MEPs that have already invested heavily in their individual social media presences. Using social media during campaigns may look good – but only a long term commitment can deliver sustainable results. It’s simple: be authentic, build relationships and engage your audience. But: Using social media in a bad way is worse than not using it at all. Think about it!
2. We live in an echo chamber – the bubble is talking to itself. Nobody listens to voices with a different opinion. You only follow stuff you already like. Result: Social media is not a helpful tool for complex political debates. Welcome to the filter bubble!
3. 75 % of Europeans still get their political information on Europe from TV. “The Internet” is only the 4th most important resource for political information – and the preferred information sources on the internet are “information websites” – not social media.
4. Social media does not reach people who are already disengaged from politics. And even if there is more engagement it does not translate into a higher voter turnout. Statistically, young people are more engaged on social media but their interest / engagement in the political process is falling – both at the national and European level. Suggesting that social media will boost the turnout of young voters may be a false correlation.
5. The social media/digital divide: 41 % of Europeans have never used social media.
6. Twitter can reach journalists and opinion-makers. If used properly one can use it for multiplier effects. To use Facebook effectively you will need a proper budget to game their algorithm.
7. Data mining may not be working in Europe: Europeans have a different conception of privacy – and there is no fundraising angle (unlike in the US). Just ask yourself one simple question: Would you send a (party) political messages to a friend on Facebook?
8. Social media tends to punish moderate voices and makes it hard to structure political debates. European politics is all about finding a compromise – not a strength of social media debates. But this is also the reason why radical voices and populists embraced social media and are generally more successful using it – compared to traditional parties.
9. Is social media a tool to bypass traditional media channels? No! Early adopters and new media organizations will be the new gatekeepers.
10. #ep2014 campaigns will have a strong national angle. The use of social media is very different across Europe so we will not see a clear picture of its impact.
* Those were my talking points for a TV talk show a few days ago. This also explains the lack of context / nuances in the blog post – and is the reason why it is written like a tabloid story.