The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: URLs
Some of the previous studies suggested that URLs in tweets are a sign of engagement given the URL purpose to provide additional information and therefore engage a follower with the page content of the URL.
Although this might be the case, it is difficult to trace and monitor the clicks on the links, unless specialised URL shortening services also provide analytics along with the shortening tool service. Therefore the URL category was not treated as an engagement parameter in this research project.
“Sharing links is a central practice in Twitter” (Boyd et al., 2010, p.3), therefore it is common practice to add links (URLs) to a tweet body to enable followers find out more about the tweet content.
All URLs employed in tweets are normally shortened either by the tweet author (using a shortening software tool) or by Twitter itself.
The URLs in a tweet are a way to promote information in all formats such as pictures, video and texts. The URLs employed by Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor provide relevant information about what type of content they recommended on Twitter, and in what format this content was delivered to the audience.
The three account holders placed 1415 URLs in 1255 tweets out of 2048 (the total amount of tweets). There were 21 URLs either broken or mistyped, therefore I discarded them and considered 1394 URLs, which I validated myself, while visiting the webpages to identify their content category and format.
URLs and tweets with URLs vs. total of tweets
In terms of tweets employing URLs vs. tweet volume per user, EURes leads with 77%, followed by Commissioner Andor and Social Europe, 62% and 54% respectively, while 61% represents the user average (Table 1).
The number of URLs vs. the number of tweets including URLs is higher, meaning that there was more than one URL in each of the tweets (Table 1). Commissioner Andor led with 120%, followed by Social Europe with 107% and EURes with 104%, while the user average is 111%.
It is worth mentioning that 61% of tweets published by the three account holders contained 1394 URLs, meaning 1394 webpages. This is a remarkable volume of information which was distributed through Twitter to the three account holders’ followers in 2012. It would be interesting to find out how many people clicked on the URLs and why, but this is not the subject of this research.
Websites linked in the tweet body
I identified nine major groups of websites (where the 1394 URLs from the tweets highlighted) while visiting the websites linked by the URLs in the tweet bodies (Table 2). The information in the table is sorted in descending order of the URL total, from the largest to the smallest number.
The three account holders together had a particular preference for recommending other websites (20%, 284 URLs), employment policies (16%, 228 URLs) and employment policy news (16%, 222 URLs) published by the European Commission. The statistics in both Table 2 and Figure 2 reveal that EURes, Social Media Networks, other EU institutions, EC other departments, EY2012 and Commissioner Andor websites follow on in the next six positions.
In terms of individual use of URLs the results indicate that Social Europe focused more on promoting “EC EMPL Social Europe” (11% policies), the European Commission (EC) news covering mainly its policies and EURes activities. EURes focused more attention to its own website (10%). In second position was the “Social Media Networks”, where EURes was more active, while the “Other websites” category came in third position. The preferences of Commissioner Andor were “Other websites” (14%), in the first instance, followed by “EC News” in second position and “EC EMPL Social Europe” (employment policies) in the third position.
At individual level, the results illustrate different preferences: 1) Social Europe with 69% to content in 23 languages, 34% to content in English and 33% to bilingual content; 2) EURes with 87% of content in 25 languages, its own website, 44% of content in 4-22 languages and 24% English content; 3) Commissioner Andor with 61% trilingual content, 54% bilingual content and 42% English content. The figures validate the statements made by the three account administrators during the interviews. They explained that their preference for English content was based on website content being available mainly in English and also on the available human resources to handle this content on Twitter.
In terms of content category the first preference of the three account holders was to link their tweets to mixed content (69%), while their second preference was the “Text only” category (17%). The third preference was the “Video only” category with 12%, mainly video content on Youtube and EC Audio-visual gallery (Figure 4).
Social media and social networks are well represented among the nine website categories. The three account holders gave equal attention to linking their tweets to mixed content (69%). It appears that the most efficient communication occurred when the followers are redirected to a combination of text, pictures, videos, and rarely sound. The second option was to link to “text only” category (17%), mainly documents and other text-based communications (Figure 4). The third option was the “video” category (12%) which account administrators believe have some significant impact.
Most of the content recommended by the three account holders to their audiences (Figure 5) was in HTML format (93%), followed by PDF format (7%, mainly policy documents) and PPT format (0.1%).
About 3/4 of the tweets were linked primarily to webpages with content covering employment, social affairs and inclusion policies. This is an important achievement which shows the need to bridge the EC’s communication needs and readers’ expectations. It is obvious that the most featured websites through Twitter URLs are websites managed by the departments of the three accounts. The other websites contained related information to the tweets’ subjects which will be introduced in the next sections. It is worth noting the information volume that was handled through a 140 character content unit. The tweets occasionally contained more than one link depending on the communication needs of the users.
There was a balanced option of the three account holders to tweet links to HTML format (25%, 18%, 25%), which accounts for 93% of the user average, while PDFs came in the second position, the most utilised format for documents and other publications (7%). Surprisingly, Commissioner Andor occasionally linked to PowerPoint presentations (0.1%).
The most balanced language group was English where the three account holders are closer: Social Europe with 34%, EURes with 24% and Commissioner Andor with 42%.
Previous articles on the same subject
 Boyd, D. et al. (2010), Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter, HICSS-43