Tag Archives: Twitter

Social media in my future

In advance of heading off to Australia, I’ve been rethinking my social media activities a little. Once I leave the Commission, I will use @euonymblog on Twitter for the things I use it for now and write about here – digital and tech, media and communication issues, EU stuff, education, social enterprise. I’ve also set up a Facebook page for those sorts of things, as Facebook is so big in Australia.

I will of course stop contributing to @EUlondonrep, which will be a bit of a wrench, as that was my very first Twitter account :) But it has outgrown me and its original purpose, which is very satisfying to see!

Hopefully whoever replaces me at the Rep will be as enthusiastic about the potential of digital tools to connect with people and understand better their hopes, aspirations and concerns with regards to the EU. And equally hopefully I will meet as many amazing people through using social media there as I have here in the UK!

Is eBay a force for good?

I took part in the @EurVoice Twitter event yesterday, which was a most enjoyable and interesting experience. One question that came up was ‘is eBay a force for good’ and I replied that the answer to that was too complex for 140 characters, but that I would try to blog on it. So here we go.

We’re at a moment of major change at the moment. Our ways of working, communicating, interacting are changing almost on a daily basis. Even in the 6 years since I did the Eisenhower Fellowship, communication technologies have been revolutionised by smartphones and tablets. Traditional media is being disrupted by the ability of people to talk to each other directly. The upshot of this is that there is a lot of focus on tools and platforms, and moral values are ascribed to them.

My position is that these tools and platforms are morally neutral. They are only as good or bad as the people that use them and own them. Twitter may have a lot of people using it to be horrendously sexist and misogynist, but that’s because those people are those things. Twitter is also used by the victims to bring this behaviour into the daylight, rather than hiding in the shadows as it has done for years. This isn’t even about technology. A stick can be used to help an injured person walk, or to bash someone over the head. It’s about the user, not the tool.

This is of course a generalisation – there are some tools that are specifically designed to harm and should be dealt with in that light (guns, say, or spyware). And of course the people that run the tools and platforms have their own obligations – to be open with us about what they do with our information, to make sure that they put rules in place to limit abuses, to respect the laws that apply to normal behaviour on their platforms.

So is eBay a force for good? If used by good people to do good things, of course. Is it inherently a force for good? No. But neither is it inherently a force for bad.

Twitter – solving problems in real time

I’ve blogged in the past on Twitter as customer service, rather than communication/PR, usually when it’s bad practice. So I thought I should highlight where it works well, especially as this story combines well with another of my recent crusades, which is to reduce email overload.

I got back from a long holiday yesterday, jet-lagged, with no fresh food in the house, and too tired to go out shopping. So I did an Ocado order, to be delivered this morning. When I got the confirmation text earlier, it said that the veg box was missing. As this was the main reason for the order, I was a little miffed. So I took to twitter:


I guess I just thought they should know that people use their service for particular reasons and this sort of setback can undermine confidence.

I quickly got a reply.


@euonymblog Gosh! Please contact us on 08456561234 or email ocado@ocado.com and we’ll have this looked into.

— Ocado (@Ocado) August 25, 2013

What was good about this was that the “Gosh!” seemed to acknowledge that I was right to be a bit miffed. And there was a solution proposed.

I was about to send an email when it occurred to me that phoning would get the problem sorted much more quickly, if there was a solution to be had. So I called. After a couple of those irritating phone menus and a bit of muzak, I got through to a person. She immediately arranged for an extra delivery tomorrow morning. Problem solved within an hour of raising it. Job done.

What is interesting about this is that although broadly similar in approach to dealings with Virginmedia, I am left feeling pleased that the problem has been resolved, not irritated that I have been fobbed off, as I usually do with Virginmedia. What lessons are there here, when I compare it to bad experiences I have had?

a) I felt Ocado were trying to help me solve a problem, rather than fobbing me off.

b) It was a problem that could be solved, which is not always the case.

c) This is about food, and however inconvenient, I could easily have found an alternative supply. Problems seems worse when you are locked into dealing with one supplier, eg mobile phone or broadband and they don’t seem to be responding quickly. Especially when it’s a service you rely on for other areas of your life.

d) I phoned, rather than emailing, and the customer service on the phone was much better than Virgin – I got through quickly, there weren’t reams of security checks and the person I spoke to dealt with my problem herself, immediately. Rather than getting frustrated waiting for a reply, the whole issue was dealt with quickly and simply.

e) the user experience of Ocado website and apps is much better than Virginmedia. So I have been able to go onto the website and confirm quickly that a new delivery has been arranged.

f) the communication felt human and authentic. This is a point I make constantly when doing training on social media – be a human. This is where many corporate accounts fall down: if the user feels they are just getting a stock answer or an automated feed, they will be alienated.

None of this is rocket science. But it does show that used right, in the right circumstances, Twitter can be a powerful customer service tool.

A quick practical guide to Twitter

Most of the presentations and training sessions I do on social media tend to focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’, as I think that you need to get that right first. As I heard at the Westminster eForum event on Wednesday:

But sometimes you do need to look at the ‘how’ and the ‘what’, so I’ve done a quick guide to Getting your head round Twitter. It doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive, but is there to help those that aren’t quite sure where to start. If people find it useful, maybe I’ll do a Next Steps guide!


Due to the tender ministrations of British Gas as they install my new boiler, I’m missing the #ThinkLondon event about thinktanks and their use of social media. A few interesting tools have come up during the morning already, so I thought I’d collate the information so far. I know tools are only a part of the story, but they do help, especially in situations where social media is just one of the 20 million things you have to do, and can help manage the huge amount of information and interaction that is out there. And please let me know your suggestions

Most of us will have heard of Klout, but the CEO of Kred.com was at the event. This distinguishes between how open you are to receiving information and how much you influence people.

The Archivist
If you’re dealing with an event with a hashtag, the Archivist can compile stats for you about its use, which is useful. Set it up before you publicise your hashtag and it will do your monitoring for you.

I think this might be the tool I have been looking for! It shows the reach of your tweets, number of replies and retweets.

Generate infographics. At the moment there aren’t many options, but the ones they have are quite fun. I look forward to the tool developing to the point where you can make your own from scratch (or have I missed something and you already can?)

My take on social media in the Commission

I was asked to write an article for our intranet about the use of social media in London. Thought I would reprint it here, as I would be grateful for comments.

There’s no doubt that social media is the latest thing in communication terms. If I had an extra 10 minutes in the day for every unsolicited email I get marketing new ways to “optimise my social media presence” or “enhance my social media ROI” I’d be able to get a lot more done. But it’s not clear to everyone what social media is and how it can be used effectively. The London rep has built up some experience in the field that Well’Comm has asked me to share with you.

 1. What makes media social?

 The predominant principle of social media is that it’s two way. If you post on your Facebook page, people will comment, and will expect a response. If you have a Twitter account, you will get the most out of it if you follow and interact with other people. If you write a blog, you will need to respond to (sensible…) comments. Your success in these media will depend on how much you do so – broadcast only is not an option. This direct contact is why we in London started working with social media in the first place – it allows people to hear our side of the story, to question us about it and to get replies to their own questions, all of which helps breakdown our remote “ivory tower” image in this country.

 2. Who uses social media?

 Effective communication relies on getting the right medium for a particular message and audience. With social media, this is not only true, it is easy to measure. Platforms such as Hootsuite have integrated analytical tools that let you see how your tweets are being viewed and from where. New Twitter analysis tools such as Tweetreach and Twitalyzer are being developed all the time. Facebook insights give a demographic breakdown and show your most popular posts. Different groups use social media in different ways and on different platforms, so it’s really worth doing your research. Know who your audience are, choose the best tools to reach them and be clear about what you trying to say or do. Calls to action (“register here for…”, “send us your…” “tell us your…”) usually work better than general information messages Check out what your target community is doing and where they are talking to each other. Use the site analytics for your existing digital work to find out where they come from and what information they consume and use this to choose the best social media channel. Find examples in your field that you would like to emulate and work out what makes them successful and how you can translate that to your activity. 31 million people in the UK have internet, 89% have a mobile phone and 42% of those are smartphones. Therefore digital communication has to be a core element of our communication here at the London rep. Our Facebook insights show that our major demographic (65% of our users) is the 18-34 age-group, so we tend to orient what we do to this group. Our most popular items tend to be those focussing on careers and specific issues for students and young people.

 3. There’s more to social media than Twitter and Facebook

 All the talk at the moment is of Twitter and Facebook, but there’s more to social media than those two platforms, important though they are. Social media is at its heart about connecting people and this can be done in many ways. Having a Flickr account for your photos (preferably with a Creative Commons license so people can actually use them!) and YouTube/DailyMotion for your videos is one thing. You can make collaborative maps using Google Maps. You can highlight your expertise on a particular issue in Quora. You can make your presentations public and invite people to comment on them. You can use LinkedIn to find professionals interested in your issue. Of course all of these feed into and off each other – you can tweet your answers to Quora questions, repost your blog entry on Facebook and so on.

 So, if you want to stick your toe in the social media pond, you could do worse than consider Jim Benson’s 10 principles of social media. I’m off to tweet the link to his blogpost…!

European Commission early adopters on Twitter

Someone – who shall remain nameless – claimed last week to be among the first in the European Commission to use Twitter. That got me thinking about those of us who were there early on (pre-2010) and who and what we are. This is a list I have drawn-up using the fabulous howlonghaveyoubeentweeting.com website (thanks to @simonblackley). I’d love to have updates about errors, omissions etc. Please comment, or email me.

@euonymblog (started as @EUlondonrep) 14 January 2009

@dicknieuwenhuis 16 March 2009

@ecfin 1 April 2009

@EUinNL 25 May 2009

@Eurireland 5 June 2009

@ECSpokesKoen 5 July 2009

@TonyLBxl 11 July 2009

@EC_AVservice 13 July 2009

@EU_EEAS (started as @EU_Relex) 8 October 2009

@EU_careers 9 October 2009

@ECDevelopment 13 October 2009

Update 2 February 4.30

@KevinCoates 26 March 2007

@sandracavallo 26 August 2008

@sclopit 30 November 2008

@joehennon 26 January 2009

@piotr_ec 8 April 2009

@EU_Consumer 12 May 2009

Onward and upward in 2011

First off, a Happy New Year to all my readers (both of you…)

I was looking back through the blog today looking for a specific post, and it’s obvious that I write much less than I did when I first arrived. Some of that might be personal – less enthusiasm, more of other stuff that gets in the way. But I think to some extent it’s because we’ve developed other digital media channels which do (much better) what this blog was trying to do. The “in the press” section of our Rep website addresses the Euromyths that were a lot of what I did at the beginning. The Facebook page does the more fun stories. The EU and me site has the info about what’s going on, and links to practical sources of information. And I can interact with people via Twitter. So that doesn’t leave me a lot to talk about  here :) I will of course keep writing, and certainly will try to keep up with the Coming Week information about events of specific UK interest. And I will take a particular interest in the European Year of Volunteering and hope to write quite a bit about that.

Have a great 2011!

Update, 17.15 Nice irony that today’s WordPress announcement was about their challenge to blog more often in 2011

Digital manners

I found the following tweet on my timeline this morning:

@euonymblog can you twitt a bit less on ordinary things ? – we’re following you bc of the eu-part, txs

I have to admit, I was (and remain) quite annoyed about it, and I’ve been trying to work out why. I think it comes down to a point I make quite often when talking about social media and made when writing about this for the Waltzing Matilda blog:

One should think of social media as a reception rather than a meeting. It’s worth going to, you make some good contacts, you often get a lot done, but sometimes you talk about tennis or where you are going for your holidays.

And so for me, someone saying what I saw this morning was like talking to a group of people at a reception and one of them saying “Actually, I’m not interested in what you’re saying, could you please say something more related to my particular interests”. In the reception scenario, if you weren’t interested, wouldn’t you just drift away and talk to someone else?

I have a lot of EU-related followers, and that of course is a major element. But I also interact with UK political commentators, a lot of science writers, people from local government, knitting bloggers and many other random, weird and totally wonderful people. This is my personal tweeting account, and my personal blog and I am someone who has interests wider than my work. If you’re only interested in my work, you can go elsewhere (including our office’s official Twitter account @eulondonrep).

So I was annoyed, and I feel I have a right to be so. Just because we’re in a digital medium, we don’t have to forget our manners.