Dutch MEPs set digital example for #ep2014 campaign

The 2014 European Parliament elections will be ground-breaking in many ways – not least for the widespread use of social media and ‘primary’ elections to select candidates.

In the Netherlands, a small yet noteworthy intra-party campaign is currently taking place between two sitting MEPs. Marietje Schaake (@MarietjeSchaake) and Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) are well-known for their prolific use of Twitter. Both are also mounting digital-led campaigns to persude members of their progressive liberal party Democrats 66 (D66) to back them as head of the party’s list (lijsttrekker) for next May’s election.

So how are they getting on? We’ve used several digital analysis tools – including Twitonomy – to crunch the data and find out how successful they have been in reaching supporters on Twitter and Facebook and via their campaign websites.


The candidates

Sophie in ‘t Veld has been an MEP and the delegation leader of D66 (part of the ALDE Group) since 2004. She is positioning herself as the experienced candidate with extensive knowledge of European politics and the connections to get things done in Europe.

In ‘t Veld joined Twitter on 20 January 2009 and has more than 17,000 followers. She has adopted #stemsophie (‘#votesophie’) as her campaign hashtag.

Marietje Schaake, a former consultant with a background in American studies became an MEP in 2009. She positions herself as the innovative candidate, bringing new ideas and new energy for Europe to progress and acquire a strong position on the world stage.

Schaake joined Twitter on 26 January 2009 and has more than 22,000 followers. Once dubbed Europe’s most wired politician”, she uses #schaake2014 for her campaign.

The campaign

Given her burgeoning digital reputation and following, it is not surprising that Schaake’s tweets and hashtag have a higher potential reach and exposure than those of in ‘t Veld (although the two candidates’ following stretches well beyond D66 members).

Twitonomy data for 20 to 28 October shows the ‘reach’ advantage for Schaake:

D66 - graph 1

 

Between 10 October – the approximate date when these hashtags were first used – and 28 October – the date of our analysis – Schaake has been more active and has retweeted more, whereas in ‘t Veld has engaged more with her followers:

D66 - graph 2

 

So although Schaake’s tweets are likely to reach more voters, interaction and communication with voters is an impactful ingredient in campaigns.

On Facebook Schaake is well ahead – she has more than 5,000 likes while in ‘t Veld has just under 2,000. These pages – like their campaign websites – feature prominent declarations of support from colleagues in the European Parliament (from various parties and countries), D66 members and representatives of national and international civil society organisations. These statements are the basis of the most frequently retweeted tweets, too.

In ‘t Veld’s website features 63 such statements while Schaake’s website shows 21 statements as well as tweets showing support for her candidacy. Neelie Kroes, a Vice-President of the European Commission and a well-known figure in the Netherlands and around Europe, seems to have sent a message of support to both candidates.

An additional tool on in ‘t Veld’s website gives her supporters the opportunity to use and share branded Facebook headers and Twitter backgrounds.

Schaake smartly added buttons on her website to allow supporters to easily send out pre-drafted tweets and Facebook posts, or to share Schaake’s campaign video on LinkedIn.

It promises to be close race. In any case, both candidates have made extensive use of digital tools, got people (beyond D66 members) interested and have set an example for other candidates or MEPs (many of whom are yet to open a Twitter account). Their activities show that, by using social media, Europe can be more visible and ‘real’ to citizens.

D66 members have until tomorrow, Friday 1 November, to cast their vote. The winner will be announced at a party conference on Saturday 2 November.

Good luck to both candidates!

Suzanne Schols