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ESMH workshop : Virality and influencers in digital communication April 3, 2019

ESMH workshop Virality and influencers in digital communication

EP © European Union 2019

Consult the report of the workshop

In view of the upcoming European elections, we seek to understand how key messages work online to motivate and attract people’s attention. Why do negative messages go viral more easily than positive ones?” asked STOA Chair Eva Kaili (S&D, EL), opening the debate.

The European Science-Media Hub (ESMH) event on 3 April 2019 at the European Parliament in Brussels tried to find some answers.

Besides the technological aspects, the workshop deployed social science to look at the psychological and social aspects of “viral media communication” , with a particular focus on political influence, for example. the “gilets jaunes” movement. The workshop explored the potential of social media listening methodology, going beyond keywords and sentiment, and looking at the full social discourse, which helps to understand the broad themes that attract and motivate people to join the conversation and gives insight into their behaviour.

Science of Virality

During the first part of the event, experts in communication technologies and social sciences gave their insight on virality. Giorgos Markopoulos, Associate Professor at the University of Athens emphasized that affect and emotion are crucial factors for successful viral diffusion. Which linguistic means foster virality? Selection of pronouns creates a sharp distinction between in-groups and out-groups: e.g. “us” vs “they”.

For Michael Bossetta, Political and Data Scientist at the University of Copenhagen the democratic debate is fundamentally affected by social media ecosystem turning ordinary citizens into “micro-influencers”. Virality has the potential to make the democratic process more inclusive, but at the risk of trivilizing politics.

Kristof Varga, former Director, Public Division at Bakamo.Social, gave an insight into people’s sharing behaviour on-line. He explained that in order to better understand and control virality, we need to understand and work with people’s motivations: the psychological gain behind their online behaviour.

Practice of Virality

The second part of the discussion moved from theory to practice with concrete examples from communication practitioners and social media representatives. Diarmaid Mac Mathuna, Communication Expert on Digital campaigns and content strategy, Director at Indiepics showed via concrete examples of successful social media campaigns that to stay relevant we have to create content that matters at scale and at speed.

On a hot topic of our days, Emmanuel Rivière, Chairman, Centre Kantar sur le Futur de l’Europe, looked into the complexity of the “gilets jaunes” movement, starting from social networks and developing in the streets. He explained that a growing proportion of people had no preference for any political party, which represented a favourable context for the emergence of the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement in France.

Meg Chang, Public policy Manager at Facebook presented some best practices of successful story telling online. What works? Content that is interactive, authentic, timely and consistent!

Paul Rübig, STOA first Vice Chair closed the discussion with a passionate appeal to vote at European Elections in May 2019.

The event was moderated by Philippe Felix, Senior Online Communications Expert.

After the workshop, the ESMH will publish an event report including interviews with the speakers and summarising the discussion.

Consult the report of the workshop

Related links

• Consult the interview with Michael Bossetta, Political and Data Scientist at the University of Copenhagen.
• Consult the interview with Kristof Varga, Consultant on policy development and social media
• Full video record of the event

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