Who owns a Commissioner’s Twitter account, and its followers?

2014 is the big change-over year in the EU institutions. A new European Parliament was elected in May 2014, and a new European Commission will take office in late autumn 2014. Some Commissioners will stay on, but probably with new portfolios, and others will not return after 2014. Some of the new Commissioners may come into the job already with social media presences of their own.

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The problem for the Commission is that no-one really yet knows what to do with the Twitter followings of current Commissioners once their term ends. As the table below shows, only one Commissioner – Michel Barnier – had a Twitter account prior to the 2009 elections, and this was just ‘officialised’ at some stage. All other Commissioners have built up their presences while in office. In 2014 it will be much more complicated.

The question then comes: how have these audiences of Commissioners been built? Have they been built with administrative resources (i.e. Commission staff have been doing the work), or through the engagement of the Commissioners themselves? And does that even matter? Does Malmström have more right to keep her followers as she tweets herself, while Reding has less right because she lets her staff do all of it? This takes us very close to the William Hague case – the British Foreign Minister’s account is a horrible mess of party political and governmental communications, and the decision has essentially been taken to live with that mess.

Further, do people follow a Commissioner because they want to follow that person? Or want to follow that person only because of their role? How many of the 85000 following Kroes would do so if she were the Commissioner for Agriculture rather than for the Digital Agenda? And if a Commissioner changes portfolio in 2014, what should happen to the followers? Should they be left to the next Commissioner with the same portfolio, or taken with the Commissioner when he or she moves? We do not have answers to these questions.

Further, with some Commissioners trying to jostle for top political positions in the future (rumours circulate about Barnier and Reding at the very least), will we suddenly be seeing a lot more party political communication on these accounts? If so, the Boris Johnson case would be worth bearing in mind, where the mis-appropriation of an administrative account for political purposes prompted quite a backlash.

Other examples include:

So what do you think should happen? Do comment below!

(note: some of the suggestions for this piece come from a conversation I had with Matthias Lüfkenson 24th October in Geneva, and Matthias has a related post about Barack Obama)

Data used for this piece
All Twitter data was accumulated on 25th October. Days on Twitter is calculated from the middle of the month a user joined, to today, so may be up to 15 days incorrect.

User Tweets Following Followers Joined Days on Twitter Tweets per day New followers per day
@borgton 65 86 575 July 2013 102 .64 5.64
@MimicaEU 216 295 1617 June 2013 132 1.64 12.25
@JHahnEU 373 699 2225 December 2012 314 1.19 7.09
@GOettingerEU 140 107 6535 October 2012 375 .37 17.43
@AlmuniaJoaquin 57 24 2232 September 2012 405 .14 5.51
@AntonioTajaniEU 2396 304 9639 March 2012 589 4.07 16.37
@StefanFuleEU 910 30 20064 February 2012 618 1.47 32.47
@VassiliouEU 2516 252 8276 February 2012 618 4.07 13.39
@MalmstromEU 2264 281 15864 January 2012 649 3.49 24.44
@ASemetaEU 349 492 3693 September 2011 771 .45 4.79
@MarosSefcovic 3118 352 5047 September 2011 771 4.04 6.55
@BarrosoEU 1081 1212 56972 September 2011 771 1.40 73.89
@SiimKallasEU 1580 352 9342 May 2011 894 1.77 10.45
@CHedegaardEU 833 257 24810 March 2011 955 .87 25.98
@MariaDamanakiEU 1379 589 8563 March 2011 955 1.44 8.97
@LaszloAndorEU 2313 116 10656 November 2010 1106 2.09 9.63
@VivianeRedingEU 850 371 29776 August 2010 1167 .73 25.51
@NeelieKroesEU 5915 1205 85433 June 2010 1288 4.59 66.33
@KGeorgievaEU 3086 839 15066 March 2010 1320 2.34 11.41
@JanezPotocnikEU 3059 289 16471 February 2010 1348 2.27 12.22
@APiebalgsEU 1035 290 12421 October 2009 1471 .70 8.44
@MBarnierEU 1442 1332 25308 November 2008 1805 .80 14.02
 Totals 34977 370585 40.58

Thanks to Jon Worth the legend of the eu Bubble for this great article.

Who owns a Commissioner’s Twitter account, and its followers? Comments

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