This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for October, called “On Responding.”
By Frederike den Ottelander, Head of Digital & Social, Netherlands, MSLGROUP
Largest fan base among members of the EU Commission
At the beginning of this month, Frans Timmermans nailed his application for First Vice-President at the EU committee by answering questions in five different languages.
Few people know that Timmermans is also a political social media rockstar on Facebook in the Netherlands. With over 200,000 followers, Timmermans, former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, is by far the most followed politician on Facebook in the Netherlands.
Not exactly the 45 million fans that Barack Obama has… but compared to other Dutch politicians such as the Dutch Prime Minister and Timmermans’ new colleagues at the EU, Timmermans is a clear winner.
Response & Reactions: What’s working for Timmermans?
The answer is the combination of the right choice of platform, understanding of the platform and the right mix of content.
- Right choice of platform: most Dutch politicians are on Twitter, where they find political colleagues and ‘enemies,’ journalists and people interested in politics.However, social media usage in the Netherlands show that only 21% of the 18+ Dutch population is on Twitter, whereas 73% of the 18+ population is active on Facebook. Facebook is a better platform for this audience.
- Understanding of the platform: In November 2012, Timmermans took his personal Facebook account offline because he received aggressive comments in response to his political views. Timmermans had already been on Facebook for years. After a month, he decided that it was time to return despite his negative experience – but this time with a fan page instead of a personal account. He had learnt his lesson.He still gets involved in discussions around political issues every now and then, but has clearly stated in his ‘About’ page that he expects people to be respectful to him and others. And when people do not do so, he addresses it head on.For example, on May 16th, he posted an update on his page that he was aware of a small group that was misbehaving in the comments section. He asked them to behave and reminded them about the implications if they refused to do so.More recently, after he and his community got tired of an endless stream of negative comments, he decided to let them know that he had heard them. He picked up a negative comment and responded to it with a snarky comment of his own. This approach attracted 2,000 likes as well as national coverage on social media and marketing/communication blogs.
- Right mix of content: Timmermans understands his audience. His content is a mix of news, insights, ‘what I am doing right now’ updates and last but not least, some personal content. As a multilingual politician, Timmermans understands not only the power of words, but also the power of images.
For tips on maintaining a presence on social media, check out Frederike’s full post: Political Social Rockstars: Why Every Politician Should be on Facebook.