As predicted, more MEPs are on Twitter than ever before (531 compared to 408 in the previous EP), and almost half are tweeting every day.
Our infographic of the new European Parliament on Twitter shows this increase in the number of Twitter users also brings in some significant new faces: Pablo Iglesias, a Spanish Podemos MEP who is the radical left candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament, has more than 400,000 followers – far ahead of leading tweeters from the last parliament (such as Marine Le Pen, Martin Schulz or Nigel Farage). The GUE/NGL Group also has the biggest proportion of daily tweeters.
On the opposite side of the hemicycle, nearly 80% of MEPs from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) Group are on Twitter. The group also features the Parliament’s two most prolific tweeters (both new MEPs from the UK Independence Party – it remains to be seen if they will remain so active when they take up their roles as MEPs).
But it is nearer the middle of the new-look chamber where you will find the group with probably the most connected MEPs. More than four in every five Greens / European Free Alliance Group MEPs are on Twitter, and 58% of them are very active, tweeting at least once a day.
The Group also has the highest median number of followers (a measure we chose given that the mean can be distorted by the presence of one or two MEPs with a very large following). With an a median following of 4,033 followers, the Greens’ figure is more than double that of every other group except the Liberals (a median of 2,531 followers).
However, it is what the Greens/EFA MEPs are tweeting about that stirs most interest.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a key topic, especially for Austrian, Dutch and French MEPs. During the 30 days before the European elections, the five candidates tweeting most about the proposed EU-US trade deal were all from parties affiliated to this group. Among elected MEPs, France’s Yannick Jadot tweeted about it more than 100 times, and Germany’s Jan Philipp Albrecht more than 70 times. In negative terms, unsurprisingly.
As for the country-by-county breakdown of MEPs on Twitter, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom fair particularly well, with more than 80% of new MEPs signed up to the social media network. Only Sweden and Malta have ‘full houses’ of MEPs on Twitter. But perhaps attention should be paid to Germany – and not only because it is has the biggest representation in the Parliament. Fewer than two-thirds of German MEPs are on Twitter, the smallest proportion among any of the six largest member states. Germany is among the bottom ten countries overall in terms of the number of MEPs signed up.
However, a disproportionate number of those German MEPs who are on Twitter are from the Greens/EFA Group, and they are actively tweeting, in German, about TTIP. This helps make the online debate particularly slanted against TTIP. And as we can see from the maps from the University of Vienna, German Twitter accounts are close to the heart of Europe and therefore their messages will be translated and spread further.
The Greens/EFA have shown that they are experienced digital campaigners and we can easily expect to see campaigns not only using Twitter, but also Facebook, online petitions, YouTube and much more besides. They may be only the sixth-largest group in the European Parliament, but if the Greens/EFA run effective digital campaigns we can expect them to punch well above their weight on issues they care most about.
TTIP could well be more significant for the Group’s MEPs than for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) was in the last parliament. The question now is how other MEPs and stakeholders will respond to this. Will pro-TTIP MEPs engage in public debate on Twitter and try to win over their audience – including in German?
One thing for me is certain: TTIP is the most likely policy battleground on Twitter for the forthcoming parliament – so be prepared.Marek Zaremba-Pike