What EU politicians and lobbyists should know about web 2.0 and social media

MEP 2.0 workshop

I’ll be co-moderating a workshop at the European Parliament on 10 November called MEP 2.0 Workshops, whose objective will be to present Twitter and its benefits to members of the European Parliament.

While doing some research to prepare this workshop, a friend of mine and co-founder of the “EU Girl Geeks” group, Caroline De Cock, mentioned a book she had just published, called Lobby.EU: A Survival Guide to EU Lobbying, Including the use of social media.

I’d like to share with you my impressions of the book and some of its lessons I will in return share with MEPs.

The best of two worlds

iLobby book coverNow I’ve had my fair share of EU community law readings and institutional decision-making processes when studying political science, so I have to admit I skipped the first part, which provides a good overview of the EU institutional and legal framework, rather quickly. However, I immediately spotted the relatively jargon-free style and the great sense of humour, which holds promise of a rather enjoyable reading, despite the subject’s utter dryness.

Check out www.ilobby.eu for more info and to purchase the book

The second part of the book is dedicated to EU 2.0 and talks about lobbying and politics in the social media age. And I think that this separation in two parts really makes sense: after all, Caroline describes social media for lobbying and politicians more as an evolution than a revolution. Therefore, the main message could be “as a lobbyist, know your basics first before you enter the mysterious realm of social media”.

Social media is not rocket science!

What Caroline goes on to explain and demonstrate about “EU 2.0” is extremely clear and useful. She gives tips, describes the use of social media among the various EU institutions, and more importantly explains what works and what doesn’t in an area that is still very much in “try, fail, try again” mode.

There are two recommendations in particular which I recommend any politician or wannabe politician should follow:

  • Whatever your social media savviness, make sure that you first register your personal name or that of your party or organisation on as many platforms as possible. I’m still appalled by the fact that a majority of politicians have not understood this.
  • Being on Facebook is not enough, you still need to decide whether to create a profile, a page or a group. Caroline’s explanations and table are the best thing I’ve read so far on this topic – so I recommend you go and read it too :).

I’m also happy to notice that without being involved in her book, Caroline comes to the same conclusions as I did while using social media during the volcanic ash cloud crisis on behalf of EUROCONTROL. Indeed, her golden rules on using social media closely mirror the lessons learned I have shared at several conferences (see my presentation).

Caroline will forgive me I’m sure for summarising them here for you:

  • Be there
  • Show your human face
  • Act in real time whenever possible
  • Speak, listen, reply
  • Paranoïa is good – control is utopia (I highlight this one especially for EU institutions)
  • Link and sync when appropriate
  • Please the eye
  • It won’t kill you to be funny.

I agree with Caroline that the rise of social media already impacts EU politicians and lobbyists, but that it is not a radical shift in their way of communicating.

I however personally believe that in order to master the golden rules defined above, politicians in particular will need to endorse a new mindset which could eventually result in a radical reshaping of our representative democracies…

Time will tell!

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