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EU leaders’ social media ‘fail’ in first 40 days of pandemic

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European leaders of countries hit worst by the first coronavirus outbreak failed to exploit the potential of social media, and their own millions of followers, to encourage citizens to comply with the rules, a new study has found.

The report estimated that video content and social media usage increased 33 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But online political communication has mostly centred on Twitter.

The analysis, looking at the Twitter usage of French president Emmanuel Macron, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, Italian former head of state Giuseppe Conte, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, concludes that these politicians missed the opportunity to build leadership and use social media effectively as a principal source of communication with citizens when the pandemic broke out.

“During the health crises of the last decade, social media has played a fundamental role in delivering timely key messages and behavioural instructions to a large part of the population,” said Sebastián Sánchez, one of the authors of the study.

“During the dramatic first 40 days [of the pandemic], European communication required clear, compelling and coordinated discourse by political actors. But this did not take place,” he added.

“The population was mired in information overload, and it was the population that demanded specific guidelines, the scientific rigour and tranquillity that the leaders are expected to deliver,” he warned, arguing that the communication on Twitter of European politicians turned out to be “individualistic” and “ineffective”.

The report suggests that leaders also missed an early opportunity to “lead by example” since they did not show themselves wearing masks, washing their hands or practising social distancing in most of their tweets.

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EU leaders opted to maintain a “top-down communication strategy” using the microblogging platform mostly as a news service.

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The authors criticised, for example, that the length of the videos posted by Sanchez was excessive (an average of 49 minutes) – making it difficult for his followers to quickly understand the key issues.

Additionally, European head of state governments failed to demonstrate an empathy for citizens.

Only Johnson’s Twitter use, which combined selfies and other personal pictures, for instance, during his confinement, established direct communication with his followers.

That is important because “the more proximity shown by the leader, the more impact is achieved,” the authors note.

Moreover, the prime ministers and leaders who most presented themselves in “a leadership position”, such as an office, a press room or the street with a crowd around them, were Macron and von der Leyen.

However, social distancing measures were not always observed in the audiovisual content published by leaders during the first days of the pandemic, representing what researchers have called a “counter-intuitive situation”.

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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