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Social Bots, Community Engagement and Twitter

Wed, 12/20/2017

Learnings from the MSL Digital Public Affairs Conference

By Benedict Deacon, Public Affairs Consultant, MSL Germany

To communicate effectively with stakeholders online is a matter of constant change and challenge for politicians, associations, NGOs and companies alike. Digital transformations continuously present new opportunities of interaction and require public affairs entities to employ more proliferous means, strategies and platforms to represent their interests digitally.

On the 30th November, MSL Germany, alongside selected partners, hosted an event on digital stakeholder communication. Various keynote speeches, presentations on best practice cases and three separate workshops created a diverse and dynamic agenda. More than 60 communication experts came to the MetaHaus to discuss trends and insights on digital public affairs and digital stakeholder communication.

High interest at the event was online as the conference hashtag #DigitalPA trended at the #1 spot throughout the day on Twitter.

MSL Germany Digital Public Affairs Event in Berlin - Nov 2017

Keynotes, Workshops and Case Studies

The event kicked off with a keynote by Dr. Stefan Bergheim, Director at the Center for Societal Progress on the need to shape digitization and communication online to keep up with human needs of reciprocal acknowledgement, solidarity, tolerance and appreciation. His research focuses on how digital transformations can positively impact the quality of life.

Martin Fuchs, blogger and political consultant, assessed how the German parliament is embracing digital: 68.1% of parliamentarians are currently active on Twitter, while the percentage of parliamentarians using any form of social media now stands higher than 95%. However, Fuchs concluded that politicians have yet to fully tap into the potential of social media through more active audience engagement, especially through direct communication in comment sections.

Patrick Kammerer, Director Public Affairs & Communications at Coca Cola GmbH, presented the first best practice case, Coca-Cola’s Communication Success Story: Journey. Coca Cola aimed to bring the company closer to the hearts and minds of consumers and political stakeholders by making the brand more local and linking it with regional stories on Journey and its social media channels.

Jutta Klauer, Senior Manager Corporate Affairs at Pfizer, presented the company’s digital engagement platform, the “Country of Health” (“Land der Gesundheit”). The platform aimed to encourage stakeholders to participate in an ongoing dialogue on the future of the German health care system. She talked about the challenge for a company to engage in transparency with stakeholders when the very nature of the company, especially its products are characterised by non-disclosure and confidentiality.

The presentation by Dr. Mario Voigt, Professor of Digital Transformation and Politics at the Quadriga School, elaborated on the changing face of digital election campaigns and how online communication occurred instantly at a more granular level thanks to video and interactive real-time content. According to the budgets dedicated to digital campaigning, as well as the mobilisation and participation through online platforms, 2017 was the first truly digital election campaign year in Germany.

Finally, Michael Wedell, Head of Communications at METRO AG, underlined the potential of creating visibility through communication, as well as the need for companies to invest in dialogue and commitment.

The event concluded with three workshops on how Twitter and Facebook can be used most effectively as a tools for stakeholder engagement and the risks and opportunities of social bots for corporate communication.

MSL Germany Digital Public Affairs Event in Berlin - Nov 2017

Key Takeaways

  • Communicators have yet to fully tap into the potential of social media in terms of active engagement with their audiences, mainly through direct communication in comment sections. Perception is deceiving as not many people are seen commenting or interacting themselves but they do read other people’s posts and replies and relate to those. Active, regular and opinionated participation is key to successful online stakeholder communication.
  • Being successful on social media requires a diligent and thorough strategy that defines whom to target, how and why. Communicating is hard work with messages requiring creative attention and carrying informative added value. Most followers want to know what they signed up for before they follow. Building and maintaining a community is essential to engage stakeholders regularly.
  • Aim to increase the base of high potential and relevant followers, even if this is a challenge. One prominent example - even though business associations and interest groups often have a sizable follower base, there is huge potential for these accounts to increase the number of followers that have the most strategic relevance. Members of parliament for example are notoriously difficult to persuade to follow (the most successful Twitter account of a business interest group in terms of a parliamentarian follower base has only 45 parliamentarians following – out of an overall 709 in the Bundestag). Politicians with relevant focus areas should be targeted through direct, informative and valuable engagement.


Benedict Deacon

 For more information contact Benedict Deacon, Public Affairs Consultant, MSL Germany

 T: +493082082527 | | @benedict_deacon

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