Twitter, an incentive to keep communications going

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Conclusions

Introduction

This set of articles reports on the 2012 Twitter communications of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL). The research focused on their communication content, purposes, features and patterns as well as some aspects on whether these communications could be categorised as social network or social media behaviour. According to the three account holders, namely Social EuropeEURes and Commissioner Andor, DG EMPL’s Twitter activities in 2012 were a pioneering stage.

twitternetwork

However, the results provide evidence that in 2012, the European Commission (EC) successfully integrated Twitter into their communication strategies, which year by year, has aimed to develop consistent and rich communications on the platform.

Twitter enables both personal and institutional communications. For example an institution may communicate with the public by bypassing traditional media: newspapers, radio, and TV. While in case of traditional media, the public consumes what media owners offer them, with Twitter the public is empowered to voice its needs and expectations and therefore co-author, influence and redistribute the content.

Communications content

The content published by Social EuropeEURes and Commissioner Andor  is a policy narrative which flows throughout the 2012 Twitter timelines, with peaks and dips that illustrate the communication and information activities tweeted on the platform. The 2012 communication “mood” tended to focus upon the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

The content was scalable and embedded some practical value, especially for job seekers. The content was also well tailored to suit different audience segments: for instance EURes addressed people in certain EU countries and Commissioner Andor hosted a chat. Although most of the content was based on specific policy vocabulary, the three account holders adapted and adjusted the tweets to ensure their accessibility to the audience. Therefore the content was meaningful and relevant to the audience and carried a solid social dimension by referring to the latest policy developments and events. The results clearly reflect the communication subjects and the trending topics, which contributed to achieving an efficient and successful communication throughout the year.

Engagement

The three account holders engaged with their audience to a degree and the most employed Twitter function was retweeting. Engagement increased during online and offline events, which showed a certain degree of interaction between the communicators and the audience. The chat hosted by Commissioner Andor enabled live temporality and synchronous communication, which is an essential Twitter function.

Audience

The intended audience, mainly based in EU countries, responded to the content by engaging with it differently, depending on the expertise level and interest of the audience. For instance, the EY2012 activities affected a significant number of senior people, while the chat was attended mainly by youth, given the chat topic, namely Youth Employment Package.

There were countries which responded better to DG EMPL’s Twitter communications according to their national economic and social contexts. Belgium was on top as the country is also the home of most EU institutions, which prove that a number of EU staff and key political figures endorsed the communications by redistributing parts of the content. Some relevant examples include Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Ireland and Greece. Spain and Greece experienced some crisis peaks in 2012 and it should be noted that the audience based in these countries was significantly engaged with the content. It is worth noting that in Spain, total engagement accounted for about 20% of the aggregate country engagement, which is a substantial figure. The UK came in third position because of two reasons: 1) a well organised network of DG EMPL’s counterparts at national and local level, who redistributed key pieces of content published by the three account holders, and 2) the content language, which was English, the language of the country and of most Twitter communications.

It appears that a significant part of the audience consisted of “elite” groups. Ordinary people preferred to get involved in EURes activities, some EY2012 activities and the chat hosted by Commissioner Andor. The “elite” audience, which was composed of experts, EU bodies and staff, national bodies, public figures and academia, showed the highest interest in the content. The results indicate that the “elite” audience redistributed (retweeted) parts of the content to their own followers at European, national, regional, and local levels.

Given the staff shortage and a number of limitations in terms of language coverage, the three account holders stated that they have achieved what they aimed to, even though the reciprocity of followers and followees is particularly unbalanced.

The results confirm that even though the account holders’ semantic profiles feature different basic attributes, they were able to complement each other and share communication tasks. The results also indicate that 8.35% of the followers engaged with the content. This ratio is closer to the standard 1/9/90 distribution on the Web in terms of content creation, customisation and consumption. Therefore the remaining followers could be the “listeners” who, in theory, consumed the content passively without engaging with it.

Communication limitations

At the moment, there is no standardised method to measure the level of engagement of the three account holders since there are no benchmarks validated by scholars.

However, there were two major limitations that the three account holders encountered: a shortage of staff in terms of content language coverage and Twitter’s non-existent reciprocity of follower-followee users, which normally promotes one-way communication. In terms of language coverage there is evidence that the content suited mainly an English speaking community as 96% of the tweets and 70% of the external content were in English. It may mean that non-English speaking users might have been excluded from accessing key information. This may explain the unremarkable and poor coverage in certain EU countries. In terms of follower-followees, with 3% of people followed by the three account holders, the communication looks unbalanced.

However, Twitter as a communication tool encourages this behaviour and evidence of this can be seen in how the platform is used by celebrities. Both practitioners and scholars would not encourage the adaptation of “celebrity behaviour” by institutions. Instead, an institution should expand their network of followees and try to listen to their information needs.

Communication patterns

The communication pattern of the three account holders could be portrayed as follows:

  • Standard institutional behaviour on Twitter with content based mainly on EU policy vocabulary combined with plain language, in English mainly.
  • A linguistic pattern dominated by positivism and some signs of genuine dialogue with the audience, notably during certain online and offline events. Positive communication aspects are demonstrated by the Losada Line algorithm and backed up by the commitment of the three account holders to genuinely serve an EU-based audience.
  • A well-developed Twitter strategy with no missing key communication points and clear and measurable communication objectives. This statement is based on the results and their related parameters which were discussed earlier against Lasswell’s paradigm, as enhanced by Heinderyckx[1] (1999).

Research challenges and limitations

The main challenge of this research was to identify all the relevant communication variables and place them into a coherent entity of a Twitter communication pattern. DG EMPL used Twitter as a complementary communication channel in 2012, in addition to traditional communication channels. Given the Twitter expertise level of the three account holders, the findings of this research could be applicable in other institutions.

A major limitation of this study may be the concreteness of its purpose: analysing only one policy package communicated by only one institution through a specialised department. Another drawback might be that the institution may employ different communication patterns with other policy packages. Other EU institutions or bodies may have different communication approaches on Twitter, therefore the study did not intend to generalise the findings but to rather feature a case study.

Another important limitation is the use of the CAQDAS tools, particularly LIWC, which ignored 31% of the tweet content, so valuable pieces of information might have been lost. This percentage could include specific policy vocabulary, which is not part of the LIWC dictionaries. A solution to minimise this drawback was to manually triangulate “word pairs – most frequent words – semantic nodes” and ensure relevant content categorisation through a human filter.

Twitter communication models and behaviours

It appears that the Twitter behaviour of the three account holders borrows features from the four standard behaviours adapted by Waters and Williams[2] (2011), but it does not completely conform to any of them. Therefore DG EMPL’s Twitter behaviour combines both one-way and two-way communication approaches with “publicity”, “public information”, “two-way asymmetrical” and “two-way symmetrical” communications, the last one being the prevailing behaviour. An explanation as to why the Waters and Williams models cannot be adapted could be the difference of both communication channels and the context of when the two scholars transposed the traditional model of public relations to Twitter.

Therefore, further research could look into these variables and come up with other solutions. Furthermore, the advice on Twitter good practice provided by Waters and Williams, which were checked against this Twitter communication example, could be further enhanced by future research to design a Twitter Netiquette, a Twitter code of good behaviour.

Further research

Further research should look at the way “elite” audiences transfer and disseminate the information to their own audiences and the tendency of the audiences to shift from the traditional paper-based communication supports to digital support, such as the social media channels when it comes to communicating EU policies to EU-based audiences. As about 7% of the external content recommended by the three account holders was in PDF format, further research may look at the readers’ preferences in accessing either traditional PDFs or the latest eBook formats (ePUB, mobi) for mobile devices, which are often used to connect to Twitter. The findings of this research may be just be a starting point for further research projects where scholars may investigate the communication approaches of a European institution or body addressing multilingual audiences on Twitter.

Further research may also investigate the reasons of supervised communications on Twitter and look at the way political and administrative communications overlap. Another point that future research projects may consider is how audiences perceive the mixture of the two communication types, political and administrative, and how the audiences understand the institutional communication behaviour of a European institution or body.

Even though the EC applies a strict institutional communication framework, based on restrictive guidelines for staff, the results demonstrate a special Twitter relationship between account holders and the audience. This relationship may raise a number of questions about social inclusion versus digital exclusion and how to minimise the digital divide. That may be an issue the Commission wishes to consider, in the context of social inclusion or other policies.

Twitter, an incentive to keep communications going

The audience of the three account holders has been well profiled and represents only part of the EU population who have the ability to use Twitter. Even though the Commission has a strong corporate voice on Twitter, the results do not reflect a full public perception of employment, social affairs and inclusion policies and of Commissioner Andor, in all EU countries. The 2012 audience of the three account holders showed a certain degree of commitment where followers are loyal to an institution, even though the audience acted more as a consumer and multiplier rather than a content co-creator. It is obvious that Twitter mediates the EC’s communications to Twitter-based audiences while there might be audience segments that still need to be reached on other social media and network platforms and perhaps by combining the digital means with traditional communication means such as paper-based publications.

According to the results, Commissioner Andor acted more as a preserver of the political communication dimensions rather than a unifier of both operational and political communications.

The results indicate that Twitter is not only another means for self-promotion by the EC but also an innovative solution with which the institution brings something new in the way it communicates to the public. Twitter, which is a dynamic medium, has grown as an institutional practice as the research findings prove in the case of the EC. Therefore the EC communicates with the citizens in an attempt to bridge the gap between policy makers and policy beneficiaries. The EC experience is an example of how social media, and Twitter in particular, are used for both political and administrative communication purposes, even though Twitter communications need prior approval in most of the cases.

While ordinary people join Twitter every day, the organisations are still trying to find the most appropriate means to manage their Twitter presence. It appears that there is no universal recipe on how to respond to the information needs of people on Twitter. Therefore, in terms of communicating employment, social affairs and inclusion policies through its specialised department and the Commissioner in charge of this area, the Commission has moved from a pioneering stage to a more advanced use of Twitter and the results are already visible. Before 2012, the EC made the strategically correct decision to join Twitter by adding an extra communication channel to their existing channels, in a period of time when more communication was needed to enable an EU institution connect to its audience. In the case of the EC, the Twitter generic question “What’s happening?” proved to be the incentive to keep communications going. The research findings clearly indicate that, in 2012, DG EMPL used Twitter not as a means to overcome or minimise the effects of the crisis, but as a solution to enhance the communications with a loyal audience mainly based in the EU.

In terms of Twitter’s future, it is not possible to make predictions, as van Dijck (2013) stresses: “Since the meaning of microblogging has not stabilized yet and the ecosystem of connective media is still in great flux, predicting the future is like playing the stock market: you can monitor all elements meticulously and not be able to forecast turbulence, owing to the volatility of the system. (…) Twitter’s fate is dependent on its interoperability with other microsystems and also on the equilibrium between owners’ ambitions to exploit tweets and users’ motivation to keep tweeting” (p.88).

References

[1] Heinderyckx, F. (1999), Une introduction aux fondements théoriques de l’étude des médias, Liège, Cefal-Sup.

[2] Waters, D., R. and Williams, M., J. (2011), “Squawking, tweeting, cooing, and hooting: analyzing the communication patterns of government agencies on Twitter” in Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 353-363

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How to measure Twitter content polarity

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Positivity index

Scholars advise identifying the emotional value that is carried by the content itself while doing a content analysis. In the context of this research project, I thought that applying and calculating the Losada Line (also called Losada Ratio) would enhance the results and provide additional insights on communication patterns developed by the research subjects, namely Social EuropeEURes and Commissioner Andor in 2012.

Figure 1: Positivity index analytics based on Losada Line

Figure 1: Positivity index analytics based on Losada Line

The Losada Line is a visual representation of a scale where the values reflect the positive and negative dimensions of a written or an oral speech. The critical point is 2.9, which resulted according to a complex algorithm developed by Marcial F. Losada. A ratio of 3.0 to 6.0 on the Losada Line is the optimal range that reflects a normal positivity index. The index is calculated by dividing the ratio of positive emotions (posemo) by the ratio of negative emotions (negemo). Both “posemo” and “negemo” are two LIWC output values presented in Table 1 in this article.

The positivity index is as follows: 4,14 for Social Europe, 7,12 for EURes and 4,01 for Commissioner Andor while the average user ratio is 4,32, which is optimal (Figure 1). According to Losada Line algorithm, Social Europe and Commissioner Andor produced content with a normal positivity index while EURes appeared too positive, being placed at above 6.0 (7,12). According to Tausczik and Pennebaker[1] (2010), “assents and positive emotion words measure levels of agreement” (p. 32).

References

[1] Tausczik, Y. R. and Pennebaker J. W. (2010), “The Psychological Meaning of Words: LIWC and Computerized Text Analysis Methods”, in Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29 (I) 24-54, Sage Publications

Twitter linguistic patterns

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Linguistic patterns

As mentioned in the previous articles, I used LIWC as one of the software tools to establish the linguistic patterns developed on Twitter by the subjects of this research.

23_linguistic_patterns

LIWC was able to detect about 69% of the dictionary words which were part of the input provided by Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor in 2012. The remaining 31% of words may be part of EU terminology that is uncovered by the LIWC dictionaries.

Only 35 information categories and sub-categories, which are relevant to this research, were selected out of 80 in output. They are: linguistic processes, psychological processes and personal concerns.

Each category is introduced in the next paragraphs.

Linguistic processes

  • Word count: the largest tweet corpus is of Commissioner Andor (17,782 words in 716 tweets), followed by Social Europe (15,843 words in 934 tweets) and EURes (6,837 words in 398 tweets). It appears that Social Europe used a condensed communication style since their average word count per tweet is about 17 while EURes had more than 17 and Commissioner Andor about 25 words per tweet.
  • Dictionary words: 69% user average of words were captured by the program, based on its incorporated dictionaries. The remaining 31% may represent EU terminology, which LIWC dictionaries may not contain as they are based on informal and not on a specialised vocabulary.
  • Total function (or style) words: only 34% of the tweet corpora represent function words. A possible explanation would be that due to the 140 character limit, Twitter users rely more on content words to convey a clear message and keep function words (such as pronouns, articles and prepositions) to a minimum. LIWC distinguishes between content and function words. Content words are the backbone of a message (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs), while function words connect, shape, and organise content words (pronouns, articles, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, negations, quantifiers and common adverbs).

They do not have any meaning by themselves but they allow a psychological insight into how people think, feel and connect with others. They are short and used at very high rates but they are also hard to detect in a conversation flow or written text. Function words also require social skills and social knowledge to be used properly: the speaker assumes the listener is familiar with the communication context. According to Pennebaker[1] (2011, p. 33) “the speaker assumes that the listener knows the context”.

  • Total pronouns: EURes leads with 8% followed by Commissioner Andor (4%) and Social Europe (3%) while the user average is 4%. In terms of personal pronouns use, EURes is in the leading position again (6%) followed by Commissioner Andor (2%) and Social Europe (2%).

Personal pronouns captured my attention. For example, “people who pay a great deal of attention to other people tend to use personal pronouns at high rates” (Pennebaker, 2011, p.291). First person singular pronouns were not used often (less than 1% user average). First person plural pronouns reflect a social connection to a group. I noticed a 2% use for EURes and less than 1% for the two others which may indicate that EURes is more “inclusive” by creating a convivial and cooperative environment. Second person pronouns represented about 3% use for EURes, who often address themselves directly to their followers to engage in a more spontaneous way and get closer to the audience. Since EURes offers practical solutions, their tweets often include questions such as “Are you interested in working in Norway? You can read more about it here”.

  • Verbs: the three account holders have a preference for using the present tense (5% user average) and tend to equally use the past and future tenses (less than 1%). The use of the present tense proves a dynamic communication.

Psychological processes

  • Affective processes: both positive and negative emotions (posemo and negemo) will be introduced in the next article as a Losada line. It is worth noting that, according to LIWC output, Commissioner Andor’s content is placed in both the most positive and most negative categories (see posemo and negemo in Table 1). This could be explained through the use of specific words associated to unemployment, in the context of the crisis. However, the positive dimension is visible in the efforts proposing relevant legislation in order to overcome the crisis.
  • Cognitive processes imply perception, learning, and reasoning to facilitate thinking and remembering. Less than 11% of the content shows a certain degree of cognitive processes, which is visible in the Twitter messages (13% Commissioner Andor, 11% EURes and 9% Social Europe). Commissioner Andor’s tweets often placed a number of quotes from his speeches and some of his reflections on the subject of the policies. The account administrator confirmed that the Commissioner liked to tweet relevant quotes from his speeches, which were enhanced with personal reflections.

It is also important to note the inclusive dimension of the cognitive processes, which is represented by words such as “and”, “with”, or “include” and reflects a high use of 3,2% for all three account holders. This may mean that specific vocabulary covering inclusion policy is well employed in the tweet corpora. The exclusive dimension is minor.

  • Relativity conveys information on motion, space and time. The size of both space and time lexical fields is significant: 7% user average for space and 6% user average for time. It is apparent that European Union countries, regions and cities are well represented in the communications. Time-wise, there are many references to event dates throughout the year 2012.

Personal concerns

Personal concerns cover information on work, achievements, home and money.

  • Work includes information about jobs and careers. With 9% user average, this category is quite remarkable (10% EURes, 9% both Commissioner Andor and Social Europe). It is obvious that this category is well represented as all account holders talk about job opportunities and job-related events.
  • Achievement covers information on earnings, winning and successes and represents 4% user average, which may reflect the efficiency of the policy communication as well as the considerable achievements with the events and guidelines. The peak of 4,2% for the Commissioner may be related to his missions and official visits abroad which were successful in 2012, according to the statements in the tweets.
  • Money represents 2% of the content and covers discussions about poverty, salary rights and others. Commissioner Andor is above the user average, with 3%.

Table 1: Selected LIWC categories

Table 1: Selected LIWC categories

However, even though LIWC offers insights into the language patterns of a user, we should also keep in mind that Twitter style is very different from everyday interaction. For instance, the three account holders may not have used many future tense verbs to reflect a future perspective but they are certainly goal-oriented.

[1] Pennebaker, J.W. (2011), The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our words say about us, New York, Bloomsbury Press, 2011

Communication trending topics on Twitter

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Trending topics

Identifying the trending topics of the communications managed by the three account holders on Twitter in 2012 started with processing the hashtags’ and extracting their occurrences. Comparing the most used hashtags with word frequency (not hashtags, but ordinary words), word pairs (pairs of words based on their proximity) and semantic network nodes may provide clear indications and relevant elements to identify the trending topics of Twitter communications. Both word pairs and semantic network nodes will be further explained and developed in this article.

Most frequent words with at least 52 occurrences

The list of the most frequent words in the unified tweet corpora of the three account holders, namely Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor in 2012, resulted from a WORDij procedure. The word frequency ranged from 465 to 2. I selected the first ranked 42 words with at least 52 occurrences only as from 52 to the next lowest level was a significant gap. The selected words included most of the hashtags and related words. Usernames, locations and other irrelevant words were discarded. The validated words as well as the discarded words (in grey) are placed in Table 1.

The most frequent word pairs

WORDij also extracts word pairs based on an algorithm that uses the rule of word proximity. The application placed 1934 word pairs in output, but I selected the top 32 word pairs. Their proximity makes sense in the context of the Twitter communications of the three account holders and relates well to the hashtag set and the most frequent words (Table 2).

Table 1: Most frequent words

Table 1: Most frequent words

According to Danowski and Park[1] (2013) the “order of words within pairs” is “maintained so that a pair (word A – word B)” is treated as a distinct entity from (word B – word A) (p.24).

Table 2: Most used word pairs

Table 2: Most used word pairs

Twitter semantic networks

Extracting the semantic network nodes with WORDij provided additional information to be triangulated with the other datasets to ensure that key information is not left out. Given some limitations of LIWC (the other piece of CAQDAS tool, which I used), I wanted there to be in place a “human” filter to ensure research credibility.

I created a set of spring-embedded graphs to check how the semantic entities grow from 5 to 30 nodes. The graphs show the gradual growth from the strongest 5 nodes to the following 5, 10 and 20 which enrich the network.

Figure 1: Semantic network; 5 nodes and 3 minimum link values

Figure 1: Semantic network; 5 nodes and 3 minimum link values

The semantic networks of the three account holders, based on the unified tweet corpora, with 5 and 30 network nodes are presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Figure 2: Semantic network; 30 nodes and 3 minimum link values

Figure 2: Semantic network; 30 nodes and 3 minimum link values

The semantic network nodes were analysed and compared against the hashtags, the most frequent words and word pairs. The relevant nodes which are also hashtags are found in Table 3 (#). The discarded nodes are greyed. All nodes (Table 3) are listed in reverse order to show that the strongest nodes are placed at the bottom, which may symbolise a foundation on which the semantic network is built.

Table 3: Semantic network nodes

Table 3: Semantic network nodes

Hashtags vs. word frequency and word pairs

Hashtagging was somewhat applied inconsistently and the existing hashtags could not provide a clear and complete picture of the communication trending topics managed by the three account holders. Hashtagging was performed more accurately by Social Europe and the Commissioner. Often no hashtag or multiple hashtags were assigned to one event or policy.

For example, European Job Day (#EJD) and European Online Job Day (#EOJD) were also tagged as #Job, #Jobs, #onlinejobday, #onlinejobsday, #EuropeanJobDay, #EuropeanJobDays, #EuropeanJobsDay, #jobfair. This was also the case with the Youth Employment Package (#EmplPackage, #Employment package, #EmploymentPackage and #YouthEmploymentPackage).

There were also two similar hashtags: “#poverty” and “#poverty12” which were assigned to different subjects. The first was associated to the 11th European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty (Homelessness and Housing Rights in the Context of the Crisis) while the second was associated to the Second Annual Convention of the platform against poverty and social exclusion, which is a long-term future strategy of the European Union.

Correlating the four information sets ensured that key and relevant information is elicited in order to get an accurate picture of the communication trending topics managed by the three account holders on Twitter in 2012.

Based on the information I extracted from the individual and unified tweet corpora, I established a list of words, which I searched for in each individual tweet body.

The trending topics I identified are listed along with the words I checked for by searching in the corpora. While checking each tweet body to place it into the right trending topic, I considered it as only one occurrence even though the tweet body might have had one or more hashtags, one or more word pairs or semantic nodes covering the same topic. The topics are ranked according to the occurrences of the content entities. A content entity is represented by either one of the following: a hashtag, a word pair or a semantic node.

  1. Current EU social policies and programmes (607 content entities) including labour market, social dialogue, social investment, social security, Eurofound, #crisis, market, #social, conference, policy;
  2. European Job Day and European Online Job Day: ( 596 content entities) including #EJD, EJD, #EOJD, EOJD, #job/#jobs, job/jobs, day;
  3. Youth Employment Package: (447 content entities) including #youth, #employment/#unemployment, package;
  4. 2012 European Year for active ageing and solidarity between generations (EY2012): (358 content entities) including #ey2012, year, #active #ageing, #solidarity, #generations, awards;
  5. Jobs for Europe: (252 content entities) including #jobs4europe and jobs4europe;
  6. Poverty Convention: (87 content entities) including #poverty12;
  7. Youth Employment chat hosted by Commissioner Andor: (66 content entities) including #youthempl and chat;
  8. Youth Guarantee: (28 content entities) including #youthguarantee, guarantee.

Trending topics number 3 and 8 are two new political initiatives launched in 2012 and, if approved, would be implemented as EU policies and programmes in the forthcoming years.

Trending topic number 6 covers a major long-term initiative which forms part of the Europe 2020 strategy and is currently implemented in the EU. It is a major political priority to overcome the effects of the crisis, such as poverty and social exclusion. These trending topics have got political weight and represent strategic points for the further development of the EU.

Trending topic number 7 is the Youth Employment chat hosted by Commissioner Andor in which he discussed the Youth Employment Package and Youth Guarantee with young people.

The three tweet corpora were placed into individual monthly files for convenience in searching and finding the time references. The related hashtags, nodes and word pairs were counted according to the topic they belonged to. After manual counting, the figures corresponding to the occurrences were placed in a separate spreadsheet. When this work was completed, I grouped all the entries of the three accounts in a single table, which generated the chart in Figure 3.

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

The eight trending topics cover the core communication content which was planned for distribution via Twitter. The topics were confirmed by the account administrators in the interviews. The topics formed part of the communication priorities of the European Commission in responding to the crisis on the one hand, and on the other they were in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy[2] (the EU’s growth strategy for the current decade). The topics reflect most of the employment, social affairs and inclusion policies, with a special focus on the generic theme of the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012). It is worth noting the complexity of the policy content and the professional skills of the communicators in making accessible such content to different target audiences. The topics, as ranked earlier, illustrate different communication approaches, from traditional content distribution (featuring official texts) to an online dialogue (Twitter chat) hosted by the Commissioner himself. Therefore, Commissioner Andor and his team together with the other operational accounts’ administrators tried to sustain a genuine two-way communication to ensure openness and willingness to listen to people’s voices and needs.

The European Commission’s role is to propose legislation and in this context the creation of the Youth Employment Package was also based on both official and public contributions. The online dialogue (Twitter chat) is just an example of the Commissioner’s willingness to value the input of people.

A common dimension of the trending topics consists of a set of tailored measures to help people overcome the effects of the crisis: increasing social dialogue, ensuring social security, finding a job, helping young people gain employment, relying on top level key policy makers to identify suitable solutions to the crisis etc. Both the Youth Employment Package and Youth Guarantee are being implemented and the effects will be soon visible, according to the Commission’s official reports.

More information to come in the next articles.

Previous articles on the same subject

Tweet me a URL and make your communication richer

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Content languages and hashtagging

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

References

[1] Danowski, J.A., and Park, D.W. (2013), Celebrities in the mass and internet media and social network structures: A comparison with public intellectuals. Manuscript. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois at Chicago

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/

Subjects communicated by the European Commission’s EMPL on Twitter in 2012

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Communication subjects

All tweets published by the three account holders, the subjects of this research project, namely Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor in 2012, were copied onto a separate spreadsheet to prepare the raw data for coding.

Figure 27: Tweet subjects per user and subject average (%)

Figure 1: Tweet subjects per user and subject average (%)

I identified six categories of tweet subjects:

  1. EU Social policies and programmes, which also include all the projects funded by the EU programmes managed by DG Employment:
  • EU employment strategy: Employment package, Youth employment, New Skills for New Jobs
  • Social protection and social inclusion
  • Social partnerships
  • Europe 2020 initiatives: Youth on the Move, Agenda for new skills and jobs, European platform against poverty and social exclusion
  • Working in another EU country
  • Funding opportunities
  • Rights at work.
  1. EY 2012 groups all the events and activities organised within the frame of 2012 the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012:
  • Opening and closing conferences of the EY 2012
  • European and national activities related to the EY 2012
  • European Year Award Ceremony (projects and initiatives in the framework of the EY 2012).
  1. Other events includes all non-EY 2012 events such as conferences, debates, campaigns, EURes events, initiatives, press conferences and both online and offline surveys related to the events:
  • EURes online and offline events (European and national events)
  • Business visits of Commissioner Andor
  • Youth employment chat hosted by Commissioner Andor
  • The Employment Policy Conference “Jobs for Europe”.
  1. Publications contains official survey reports, statistics, studies, news and press releases, speeches and factsheets:
  • Eurofound Quality of Life survey (2012)
  • Eurofound European Working Conditions Survey
  • Press and blog articles
  • Eurobarometer public opinion surveys
  • Eurostat statistics reports
  • EC’s White paper: an Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions
  1. Guidelines are the practical aspects of the EU Social policies and programmes: general advice, Human Resources assistance, practice examples and online resources featuring job-hunting tips. They were mainly provided by EURes and its network of advisors in the member countries.
  2. Others includes non-related news to the previous categories, EURes partnership agreements with European and national bodies, job and internship opportunities.

Each tweet body was analysed, coded and placed in the relevant category. If a tweet body focused on more than one subject, it was coded and classified according to the dominant subject. For example, if the tweet covered both EU Social policies and programmes and publications, it was placed in the dominant category and not in both. When coding was completed, the data was sorted to have the items grouped by category and counted accordingly.

The results are presented in Figure 1.

The tweets featured a wide range of subjects from communicating the policies to pan-European and national, regional and local events. The subjects cover almost all communication activities that were planned by the communicators in the year 2012, according to what they stated in the interviews.

It is obvious that the communication actions are somewhat replicated at national, regional and local level. Even though most of the content was available in English, the administrators justify the minor coverage of missing languages through the need of establishing a common communication language between the communicators, stakeholders and the audience.

It is also important to note the concrete communication dimension which is visible in the guidelines: assistance to job hunting, workers’ mobility, social protection and social inclusion, to name a few. The publications play a significant role in disseminating the major aspects of the employment, social affairs and inclusion policies together with official statistics and reports published by other European bodies (Eurofound, Eurostat, Eurobarometer reports).

The top subjects of the unified tweet corpora were as follows: other events (29%), EU social policies and programmes (25%), others (14%), EY2012 and publications (both 13%), and guidelines (7%). The administrators validated the tweets’ subjects but not necessarily in this order.

More information to come in the next articles.

Previous articles on the same subject

Tweet me a URL and make your communication richer

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Content languages and hashtagging

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

 

Tweet me a URL and make your communication richer

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[1]., 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).

Table 1: URL overview by account

Table 1: URL overview by account

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%.

Figure 1: Links and tweets with links vs. total of tweets

Figure 1: Links and tweets with links vs. total of tweets

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.

Table 2: Website categories

Table 2: Website categories

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.

Figure 2: Categories of websites linked in the tweet body

Figure 2: Categories of websites linked in the tweet body

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.

Websites’ languages

In terms of user average the website language options were as follows: approximately 68% of the URLs pointed to English content, 13% pointed to content in 23 languages and 9% pointed to bilingual content (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Websites' languages

Figure 3: Websites’ languages

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.

Content categories

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).

Figure 4: Content categories

Figure 4: Content categories

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.

Content format

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%).

Figure 5: Content format distribution by user

Figure 5: Content format distribution by user

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

Case study: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Time metrics

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Content languages and hashtagging

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

[1] Boyd, D. et al. (2010), Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter, HICSS-43

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Time metrics

The quantitative results were grouped into eleven information entities that were created after processing the 14 information categories collected into a spreadsheet: tweet date, time, language, tweet body, hashtag (#), mentions (@), URL in the tweet body, retweets (RT), RT author, favourite, favourite author, replies, reply author and reply body. Initially the “carbon copy” (cc) category was included in the list, but later discarded during the research as there were few relevant occurrences. The time metrics are introduced and discussed in this article.

Figure1: Aggregate daily tweets

Figure1: Aggregate daily tweets

Aggregate daily tweets

The aggregate daily tweets (Figure 1) reveal key information on the Twitter behaviour of the three account holders: Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor. The highest daily tweet density, which shows the busiest day of the week, was recorded as follows: Social Europe on Thursday, EURes on Saturday and Commissioner Andor on Wednesday. EURes had constant Twitter activity and its daily tweet distribution shows a consistent density throughout the week except for Sundays, which is the lowest. EURes had its peak activity on Saturday. Social Europe’s Twitter activity increased gradually from Monday to Thursday and decreased from Friday to Sunday. Commissioner Andor’s Twitter activity had two peaks, the first one on Wednesday, and the second one on Friday. His first peak activity on Wednesdays might be explained through the need to share important pieces of news and decisions following the weekly European Commission’s college (all 27 Commissioners in 2012) meetings taking place on Wednesdays.

The lowest tweet density was recorded on Sunday for all the accounts: Social Europe with 8 tweets, EURes with 4 tweets and Commissioner Andor with 8 tweets. Sunday was therefore the least busy day of the week.

The daily and weekly averages were calculated by dividing the total number of tweets by the number of days and weeks of the year 2012. The results place Social Europe on top with a daily average of 2.5 tweets per day and 17.9 per week, followed by Commissioner Andor with a daily average of 1.9 tweets per day and 13.7 per week and EURes with a daily average of 1.1 tweets per day and 7.6 tweets per week. Wednesday was the busiest day of the group, if the three accounts are counted together. The daily average of 5.6 tweets per day of all three account holders shows a regular daily behaviour on Twitter.

The aggregate tweet volume also varies from one user to another. The aggregate weekly distribution is about 40 tweets per week, meaning approximately 13 weekly tweets published by each user.

The results are in line with Waters and Williams’ recommendations[1] (2011, pp.360-361) on posting content with moderation and not engaging in over-tweeting. The 5.6 tweets per day means an average of about 2 daily tweets per user. The statistics also show a constant daily and weekly activity which is important when maintaining and expanding a network of followers and feeding them with relevant and timely content.

Aggregate hourly tweets

The busiest hour of the day (Figure 2) was between 12:00 and 13:00 for Social Europe, between 09:00 and 10:00 for EURes and between 14:00 and 15:00 for Commissioner Andor. On average the busiest hour of the three account holders was between 12:00 and 13:00. They started their daily Twitter activity in the morning, even between 06:00 and 07:00. Social Europe and EURes closed their activity after the working office hours (18:00) while Commissioner Andor later, around 21:00.

Figure2: Aggregate hourly tweets

Figure2: Aggregate hourly tweets

The Twitter hourly behaviour of the three account holders could be categorised as normal. The statistics shows which hour of the day they were the most and the least active. Occasionally Commissioner Andor had some activity during the night, but that occurred when he visited the USA and Mexico to attend two events. The account administrators stated that the statistics show a regular activity performed during the typical office hours. The lunch breaks are visible, although some intense activity was recorded during the breaks when running certain campaigns and events.

Annual tweet timeline

The total number of tweets published in each month of 2012 is presented in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Annual tweet timeline

Figure 3: Annual tweet timeline

The annual Twitter timeline configuration indicates that individual peaks were recorded for both Social Europe (221 tweets) and Commissioner Andor (113 tweets) in September while the peak of EURes (112 tweets) occurred in October. The peak activity of all three account holders together occurred in September (407 tweets). The least active period was in July for both Social Europe (5 tweets) and Commissioner Andor (24 tweets) and May (3 tweets) for EURes. The least activity of all account holders was recorded in July with a total of 40 tweets.

From the statistics it appears that after the summer break the autumn was the most intense period of the year when major events and activities took place. In September, Social Europe and Commissioner Andor focused on policies and a high level event, the Jobs4Europe conference, while EURes focused on European (Online) Job Days in October. The account administrators confirmed the results.

Related article: Case study: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

References

[1] Waters, D., R. and Williams, M., J. (2011), “Squawking, tweeting, cooing, and hooting: analyzing the communication patterns of government agencies on Twitter” in Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 353-363