Facebook active users vs. EP voter turnout

I started writing this post just after reading the Facebook message from Marc Zuckerberg (the founder). Then I had to save it in draft and return to it today… It may be slightly passe` but I still wanted to share this thought!

Facebook runs into its fifth year of existence with a network of 350 million users. That is almost as big as the voting population for elections of the European Parliament in 2009. The biggest difference however, is that this collection of people has a voice that can speak up without needing a middleman. Facebook was 300 million users just two and a half months earlier. Even if its growth rate seems to have slighlty slowed down, it will be as big as the voting population for the European Parliament in a matter of months.

And yet, the June 2009 elections are probably the largest trans-national democratic vote ever made possible in recorded history — at least according to the BBC’s Q&As. The most important statistic however is the new record low turnout for these elections: one which brought less than half of the eligible 375 million persons to the polls. This can and should be compared by those at the helms of politics worldwide with the active participation in the Facebook network. As I write this post, and according to the official Facebook statistics:

  • 50% of the 350 million users log on every day;
  • 20% of them update their status (55 million updates for each of the 35 million who choose to do so);
  • on average a user spends more than 55 minutes on Facebook every day; and
  • clicks on the “Like” button on 9 pieces of content each month!

The European Parliament Digital Trends report drawn by Fleishman Hillard shows a staggering reality of 62% of MEPs who had never heard about Twitter, even if 75% of them have a website! Only 24% use a blog, and only a quarter (26%) of these blogging MEPs, actually comment on blogs other than their own! This reminded me of one of the quotes that were running on a big screen at the eGovernment Conference in Sweden… A website is so dot-com, get a platform! (author cannot be credited because I can’t remember who it was!) This is so true and, yet so unappreciated.

The most active online users have gotten away from websites and are participating in the creation of rich content. The significance of social media is not in being online but in having an active participatory role. Fleishman Hillard’s report concludes that “Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) recognize that EU citizens go online and that they therefore need a web presence. However, the majority of MEPs do not currently take full advantage of social media tools as a means to engage with voters and drive them to their websites.”

I checked the realtime stats on Europatweets whilst writing this post and just over 60 hashed tweets had been recorded in the last 24 hours.

The convergence of media on to the Internet is changing the social landscape by the minute and it is good to note that there is awareness of this amongst politicians. But what has been achieved in Europe to date has not even scraped the surface!

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