This month, we were looking what members of the European Parliament and their followers on Twitter had to say about Turkey. In March, Turkey was the second most commented topic with 8.957 tweets, second only after Brexit, which was the favourite topic of UK MEPs with 9.491 tweets.
Turkey’s instrumental role in the refugee crisis is the main reason for the high number of tweets. The country was driving the agenda during the crisis in high level talks, and consequently many MEPs quoted statements about and by the Turkish Government. In March, MEPs mentioned Turkey in 980 tweets that generated 31,035 retweets with an estimated reach of 134,431,000 impressions. The number of retweets clearly shows the importance of the topic among Twitter users. The topic “Turkey” generated an average 31 retweets in March, almost twice as many as retweets on other topics, which have only been retweeted 17 times on average.
Interestingly, the debate that inspired the most passionate conversations was not directly related to the migrant/refugee crisis, but to the story about the Zaman newspaper. The list of most used hashtags below captures the role Zaman has played on social media:
- #turkey (6,051)
- #zaman (4,282)
- #pressfreedom (3,923)
- #turquie (2,339)
- #plenpe (1,576)
- #migrants (1,237)
A message by the European Parliament’s president Martin Schulz announcing his intention to raise the Zaman issue with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was retweeted most often.
The second most retweeted message was written by Manfred Weber, who expressed himself on behalf of the EPP Group. Compared to Martin Schultz, the tweet caused much less activity, demonstrating how the large followership of Martin Schulz translates into a multiplication of his impact.
Regardless of the widespread use of the #Zaman hashtag by MEPs and their followers from March 4th, the relatively low numbers of retweets show that the message did not reach a broader audience. In fact, the topic gained far less attention after the first couple of days.
If we look at the geography and try to see where the conversations on Turkey are spreading after the tweets of MEPs, the UK was the country with most twitter reach/activity? . As in February, MEP tweets also raised a lot of interest in Spain. In Germany by contrast, despite the high stakes of the Turkey debate, the debate did not play out as much on Twitter.Twitter.
- United Kingdom (3,423)
- Spain (2,976)
- France (1,645)
- Belgium (799)
- Italy (667)
- Turkey (662)
- United States (631)
- Netherlands (599)
- Germany (521)
- Austria (143)
UKIP leader Nigel Farage, with 270K+ followers, dominated the online conversations on Turkey with his attempts to make Turkey one of the main reasons for why Brits should vote in favour of Brexit.
In March, the MEPs tweeting most actively on Turkey were the following:
- David Coburn MEP @DavidCoburnUKip – UKIP – 122 tweets
- Marietje Schaake @MarietjeSchaake – ALDE – 101 tweets
- Marie-Christine Vergiat @MCVergiat – GUE/NGL – 78 tweets
- Michel Reimon @michelreimon – Green – 68 tweets
- Ana Gomes, MEP @AnaGomesMEP – S&D Group – 62 tweets
- Ska Keller @SkaKeller – Green – 62 tweets
- Margot Parker MEP @MargotLJParker – UKIP – 58 tweets
- Marina Albiol Guzmán @MarinaAlbiol – GUE/NGL – 51 tweets
- Kati Piri @KatiPiri – S&D Group – 39 tweets
- Judith Sargentini @judithineuropa – Green – 39 tweets
It is striking that members of the EPP group, despite being the largest group in the EP, were hardly visible in the Twittersphere on the issue. The most active MEP from the EPP is Elisabetta Gardini @EGardini with only 17 tweets on the Turkish topic during the whole month of March.
As it often happens on social networks, our monthly monitoring on MEPs and their immediate followers shows that generally MEPs being “against” something are way more active and determined than the ones supporting it. This should inspire all MEPs and motivate them to promote the causes they care about and not leave the floor to opponents who often contribute to spread the bad reputation of the European Parliament.
Christophe Ginisty is Head of Digital at FTI Consulting in Brussels