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COMISIA EUROPEANA

Social media and the European elections. Will it change the game?

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Andra AVRAM

 

As the campaign for the European Parliament elections started today, caleaeuropeana.ro analysed the online instruments that the three main candidates to be the next head of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt,  use to promote themselves.

We present how the EPP, ALDE and S&D candidates communicate through their web pages and the use of social media in communication.

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JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER: THE SOBER BANKER OF THE POPULARS

 

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP group option for the Presidency of the European Commission, beneficiates of directly linked personal page with the one of the EPP group, being otherwise the sole one, out of all the three main candidates, whose connection with this last one is so visible. The colors, the structure, the organization and the display of the information, everything leads towards the similitude of the two pages. Predominant, when it comes to the coloristic aspect, are the white and the blue, to which there come photos and statements taken from the electoral campaign. The display of the info is, otherwise, refreshing and casual, without creating in any instant the feeling that there are minuses of it, from the details or the content point of view.

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The sections shown upon the first page are mainly dedicated to the campaign, starting with the banner showing Juncker in a smiling posture, saying `Hi!` to the people, next to the message ”Experience. Solidarity. Future. Juncker for President”. His moments of campaign from Finland, the Netherlands or Germany are present as well, next to the huge photo of the Juncker bus, section in which there are mentioned the next campaign places, during the current week. The end of the page comes with Juncker’s message, in which he invites his supporters, in an original manner, to keep a permanent dialog via the social media, at the same time in which they produce major changes as well, important in the economy of the European life. This can be, otherwise, considered an ante to the political program exposed by Juncker, along the other sections present on the page, all having the posibility of translation, the short bio written on the page, as well as the one of his political priorities and the EPP manifesto, in one of the 22 international languages offered as a translate option. The focus is not basely put on the details of the political program, but they are named and announced, coming up with the feedback option, for the ones that follow him. This represents, as a matter of fact, an extra-proof of the fact that the contact is permanently maintained with the potential electorat, as well as his care for a dialogue as open as possible between the two sides.

The page itself is very much focused on interactivity and on elements meant to facilitate its lecturing. There are videoclips posted from the debates that Juncker has attented, mainly from the presidential ones, the way they are titled, in the „Debates” section. The press releases, shown in the „Press” section, have permanent updates, being written over subjects and positions taken by Juncker during different debates or different conferences. The whole site, in fact, seems to focus on the going of the electoral campaign, the page being used more as a way of keeping the public informed upon the places where Juncker will be, according to the scheduled dates and countries.

A particular characteristic of this page is its strong, major connexion with the EPP group and everything that is related to it. Away from the massive support offered to its candidate, there are also activites corelated in this way, so that the nonconventional elements of Juncker’s campaign come to life through the EPP group. Such an example is given by the „YouthRoadtrip” event, organized by the Youth organization of the EPP group, during which a caravain goes through 40 cities of Europe in order to ask the young EU citizens what their expectations are from the next president of the European Commission. The concept is so thought so that it manages to reach the young side of the Union as well, through a direct involvement of these in Juncker’s campaign activities.

Beyond all these, the emphasize is mainly brought upon the social media and on the constancy of Juncker’s message through it. There are sections dedicated to the tweets, next to links towards his Facebok page and towards the main links of the EPP group – EPP, EPP Group, the Believe in People’s EPP campaign and Youth EPP. Having a look at the likes of Juncker’s Facebook page, of over 10,000, next to the number of followers he has on Twitter, of over 30,000, the online communication is a strong element of Juncker’s campaign, giving him the possibility, the way he himself says, of a constant, productive dialogue between him and his supporters.

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Regarding everything the page has to offer, as a whole, it rightly becomes the main media used in order to keep the public informed with the activities and the events of Juncker’s campaign. The data of his presence in different cities or states are extremely visibile, and so are the contacts of his campaign team, starting with the main director till his press or e-campaign coordinators. The webpage’s minuses are yet notable on the content side, in the way that the political program of Juncker itself is not much developed or presented on his own page. The feedback option exists, and so are the images taken from different voyages of his, all coming with a fresh, friendly air, creating thus the sensation of comfort and relaxation while visiting the page. His ideas are more frequently visible in the press releases, without being exposed though in the sections dedicated to them on Juncker’s page as well, so that their visualisation can become problematic. Beyond the constituence of the webpage as merely an informing element for the wide public, to which there come to be added some Juncker’s activity info, the website does not know too much of its own personalization – but it can be instead seen as a separate section, dedicated particularly to the EPP candidate to the European Commission, incorporated in the epp.eu page, even the debut banner of this last page being the link towards Juncker’s page. As a conclusion, Juncker’s website itself is just an annex to the group’s mother-page, without knowing a proper personalization or without presenting a detailed program of the potential president Juncker. It thus gets confirmed, once again, the strong liaison between the two factions, the one of the candidate, on one hand, and the one of the group, on the other hand, creating thus, at this level, a unique dependency.

 

MARTIN SCHULZ: FRIENDSHIP AND PROFESSIONALISM IN A SOLE CANDIDATE

 

The S&D candidate to the Presidency of the European Commission, Martin Schulz, beneficiates of a unique webpage, so much as the design, as well as the content. With the image of a Euro-candidate extremely friendly and smiley, his page opens up with a short video of Schulz’s presentation, in which he talks, of a casual, relaxed manner, about the main objective of the following period, which is the winning of the European Commission leadership. Over this content debut, his webpage opens in an original way, next to Martin Schulz’s message towards the European citizens, in which he invites to the support of him during the European elections of May 25th, written in all the seven international languages that his page knows, as translation options of the content, among them Romanian as well, next to English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Polish.

The webpage, otherwise, seems particularly created for the promotion of the candidate Schulz during the electoral campaign period, given that the site is entirely covered by themes dedicated to this. The main sections, in number of five, are suggestively named “My vision”, “Motivation”, “Goals”, “Campaign” and “Support”, through this managing to cover the whole main points of the program. Their view is made in a cascade way, one following the other, each having its own dynamic and knowing its own personalization. When it comes to the coloristic aspect, the main colors used are dark red, orange, yellow and blue – to be remarked being the fact that the opening and closing sections (“My vision” and “Support”) are displayed on a dark red background, color that reminds, unlike all the others, of the S&D symbol, as the unique element whose connection can be made with the group, given that there is no other thing to remind one of the webpage of the group on Schulz’s personal site.

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Even when it comes to the explanations offered to every main section in fact, these know a personalization of the text, as well as one of the message that Schulz wants to forward, with each section in part.  The whole page itself knows the structure of an entire campaign, next to the clear arguments offered by the S&D candidate to every sub-point, as an explanation to his view: “passion”, “conviction”, “team spirit”, “determination” and “openness”, all coming with high-quality photos, meant to visually illustrate, as well, his thoughts and options.

The “Motivation” section is the second category of his website, created under the aspect of a mini-interview, in which Schulz answers to 4 questions: “What does Europe mean to you?”, “What drives you?”, “What do you want to achieve?” and “What makes these European elections special?”. The whole clip lasts 2:17, and thus being long enough to answer briefly to the main themes discussed and to reiterate, once again, Schulz’s vision upon the European Union, yet, at the same time, short enough in order not to bore and to maintain the viewer captivated in the dialogue between the interviewer and the interviewee.  Even the way this one is edited is special, so that the clip manages to create an interactive interface: different frames are taken, all focusing on different angles of Schulz, from the front side, from the profile, portrait etc. The ambient is as well an important factor for the forwarding of the message, one of collaboration, of friendship and of openness of the S&D candidate, through the descent of this one from the imposing offices of the European Parliament on a sofa, from which the candidate tries to explain as clearly and as concretely as possible his intentions and plans as potential president of the European Commission.

The same Schulz objectives are yet even more clearly pointed out and sentenced in the “Goals” section, there where 10 extremely important points of his program are marked, under the name of “How I want to change Europe”. From the perspective of the candidate’s program, these are reiterated under an explicit form, focusing mainly on the great problems that Europe and the European Union are confronted with, for the time being. The economical and financial domain, the human rights one, the social one, but also the foreign affairs one are exposed in Schulz’s brief plan, written in the manner of the short, yet convincing objectives he has, for the next 5 years.

Alas, the final of the sections, following their cascade view of these, is represented by photos, in high-quality format as well, taken from Schulz’s voyages through different EU member-states, from meetings or conferences, meetings with his supporters or with different political personalities. From the way they are made and selected, the image these ones help to create is the one of a candidate extremely friendly and close to those next to him, always liked and surrounded by people. The last section is, finally, the one dedicated to social media, named here “Support”. Schulz invites his supporters to access his campaign e-pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, these constituting viable strong points as well, given that the updates there are daily, and the contact is thus permanently realized between the two sides. Having a look at the number of views his pages have on Facebook and Twitter, with a number of over 72,000 likes on Facebook, respectively of almost 100,000 followers on Twitter, one can easily conclude that Schulz is a political leader extremely liked and followed in the online media.

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The pluses of this page are therefore visible even from its first view, starting with the grand level of originality it knows, from many points of view, from the way it is thought and structured, and ending with the way the political program of the S&D group candidate is illustrated. Without being tiring or uselessly decorated with details and information, the site is so created so that it manages to offer, at the same time, a view as clear and as coherent as possible upon the political program, and so, of what the S&D group offers, through this candidate, to the European Union, as well as a reproduction of the personality and the leader type that Schulz represents. The openness of this page is so pretty large, in the way that it is accessible to the lecture of a public well-informed, well-knowing of the EU problem, but also of one less interested in this domain, coming to visit such a page out of mere curiosity. Schulz so manages to attract towards him a large number of potential supporters, especially through the image he has managed to create, the one of a sympathetic political leader, liked by people, without having any mark of extravagancy or ridiculous in this, to which there comes as an add his knowledge and his firm view upon what is meant to be done, for the rebirth and the prosperity of Europe. Minuses of this page are hard to be found, and not because they would completely lack, but because the page itself manages to create a context, a proper ambient of itself, so that the whole story going on along the page makes sense, without the need of any further details. The Schulz candidate succeeds thus in creating a fine climate for his own campaign, and his personal site proves to be an extremely important point in his fight with his competitors, for the seat of the European Commission Presidency.

 

GUY VERHOFSTADT: THE ATYPICAL LEADER OF THE ALDE GROUP

Guy Verhofstadt, the ALDE candidate to the Presidency of the European Commission, remarks himself through the last appearance in the online media, out of the three main candidates, when it comes to the existence of his personal website. With a launching of his personal web page before less than three weeks away from the moment of the official start of the electoral campaign, the leader of the ALDE group makes himself distinguished instead through the strong propagandistic effect impregnated upon his page, focusing directly on the main objective of the following period, which is the Presidential seat of the European Commission.

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Making its debut in white and blue, the signing colors of the ALDE group, the web page guyverhofstadt.eu opens up with sections directly tied to the campaign: “Why”, “About Guy”, “What I stand for” and “My plan for Europe”. As a matter of fact, the page resembles, when it comes to its structure and style, the ALDE group page, without being directly related to the last one. There are no links or sections to lead towards this one, while the ALDE group does not particularly promote either the Verhofstadt page, on its content. The liaison between Verhofstadt and the ALDE group, concerning strictly the online promotion of the both, comes to an end once with the colors and the structuring style of the page.

Having a look upon the content, though, again the hypothesis gets confirmed, when it comes to the fact that the page has been particularly created for the nearing electoral campaign starting on the April 25th: the content is directly related to the last one, starting from Guy Verhofstadt’s background as the Prime-Minister of Belgium and his accomplishments (the “Why?” and “About Guy” sections), in order for his intentions concerning Europe to be presented in the “What I stand for” and “My plan for Europe” categories. Important to be mentioned is the fact that the last one of them, “My plan for Europe”, will have its content updated on the April 25th, as the webpage states itself, so that the details of his program will be available only then.

When it comes to the innovations that Guy Verhofstadt brings once with this page, in the online media campaigns, the section “Self EU” gets remarked, due to the photo contest standing behind it, dedicated to the visitors of the webpage, through which these are invited to immortalize a daily aspect of their EU life. The great prize, according to the contest rules, will be a day spent in the company of Guy Verhofstadt. Added to that, his visible desire of being as close as possible to his electorate and thus to create a special bound between the leader of the ALDE group and his webpage’s visitors gets distinguished even from the way the page is structured: beyond the sections strictly dedicated to the EU work, his particular care for this feeling of closeness and friendship between the two sides is visible through the style of the photos posted upon his page. These present the ALDE candidate in diverse postures, in different moments of the day, whether dedicated to his work, during the meetings or the conferences, whether during moments of rest, next to his close ones and his collaborates, in moments dedicated to relaxation.

A particular characteristic of the page, which leads once again towards the idea of the campaign and a more and more electoral closeness, represents the message delivered by Guy Verhofstadt towards 25 of the EU member-states whose political affiliation, in the family of the grand European political groups, is for the time being the one of ALDE. The message is written in the national languages of the states, directly related to the political parties affiliated to ALDE, so that the personalization of the written aspect is done at one of the highest levels.

Beyond the standard sections presented upon the page of the ALDE candidate, there are also the sections dedicated to the social media, to which there are added all types of videoclips taken from the session meetings of the European Parliament or from conferences to which Verhofstadt participated. His particular care for the access to a number as high as possible of possible supporters gets thus felt through the presence of the social media dedicated sections for Twitter and Facebook, next to the last posts coming from these pages. According to the Twitter account of Guy Verhofstadt, there are almost 900 tweets, next to more than 20.000 followers, so that on Facebook, there is a number bigger than 16.000 likes per page.

The recently launched webpage of the ALDE candidate to the Presidency of the European Commission has its bonus, thus, in the new, refreshing air it has, in a medium often used in a more sober perspective. Beyond the evident pluses of this page, all of them brought to Verhofstadt’s image, including the one of a relaxed, friendly candidate, open towards the ones around him, there are also minuses easily detectible, and the first one of them is the one strictly related to the content, better said to the ideas, per se, of the potential President of the European Commission. Some days before the campaign, Verhofstadt does not make visible, on his own page, the program he comes up with for the EC Presidency, so that the information related to this are way too limited and restrictive, when it comes to details. The main themes are the same ones, attacked from three different political groups perspective, and yet the solutions to these EU problems are different or, at least, can be different, depending on the case. It is exactly this what lacks on Verhofstadt’s page, in its current version – and this thing can easily become an disadvantage. Beyond his image as a candidate to the EC Presidency, somehow more extravagant, apart, atypical, the origins of his candidature resides in the plans and the ideas he has for the development and the reconfiguration of the EU, still affected by the economic crisis of the last 5 years. And yet, this is exactly the plan where Verhofstadt is somehow weak, and there where the ALDE candidate can lose, in front of his main competitors, Juncker and Schulz. His image as the rebel leader of a European political group, even one of ALDE’s fame, can prove itself sometimes insufficient in front of an electorate composed mainly of European citizens awaiting for solutions meant to prove themselves viable and permanent for the European reconstruction.

 

 

 

 

 

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