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Driving awareness with CanEUhearme

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7 July 2009

“Looking for a shit hot Ning programmer”

That is how RAAK first came to hear about the MTV project for the European Union: through a Twitter message.

RAAK's CanEUHearme

>> The brief

MTV was tasked by the European Union (EU) to increase awareness about the upcoming EU elections amongst young people. And energise them to take part.
The core idea was built around ‘The Shout’, giving young people the chance to make their voice heard. This would be done through 3 events, a tv campaign and an online presence.
To achieve these objectives online, the EU wanted to build a bespoke social network where young people could interact around a common European-ness.

Importantly we were only six weeks away from the launch date.

>> The RAAK approach
At RAAK we think before doing.
We don’t just want to build or produce interesting media for the sake of it, we want it to work for its intended users and meet objectives.

There are now a number of very cool platforms and tools with which bespoke social networks can be built, like Ning, the open source Elgg and also BuddyPress.

However, building a bespoke social network – that gets user traction – is not desirable or even possible in all circumstances. It takes time.
In this case we felt it was much more effective to create a site that ties in strongly with the use of existing social networks where the users are already active and have strong connections.

>> RAAK’s pitch
Videos are a good way of driving traffic, especially if you have star attractions like Depeche Mode. Same with competitions. So those 2 elements were an obvious part of our proposal.

But once we have the eyeballs we want to draw the users in deeper.

We suggested to build a forum where users could debate issues round the EU. But making forums work is notoriously hard, so we suggested a Twitter Forum using hashtags. This was a much easier way to engage from a user point of view because people take part on their own terms.
We guided MTV on moderation & Twitter policies to maximise constructive participation.

We also allowed blog-style comments on the videos and created a Shout Box where people could leave short messages.
We gave people the option to do this using Facebook Connect, allowing users to send their comments to their Facebook newsfeeds for that extra viral impact.
FB Connect was also integrated in the Polls, where people could voice their opinion about European issues.

MTV also wanted something that reflected the buzz of an event, a virtual party. Because of considerable time and budget restrictions, we suggested covering the Shout-events live using Qik. Live video streaming through mobile phones. We ‘live edited’ what streams were most prominent on the site by switching between videos.

We delivered www.caneuhearme.eu on time, in 23 European languages (yes, in six weeks!) and launched several new sections to the site to encourage repeat visits.

>> Pros
The CanEUhearme site ranked #3 for first week traffic volume (Unique Visitors) behind only two movies’ micro sites, Indiana Jones and Iron Man.

On the Caneuhearme site we had far over 50,000 unique visitors in two months, who viewed on average 2.5 pages and spent nearly 2 minutes on the site.

The site generated hundreds of “Shouts” from users across Europe.

But it was the Twitter discussion page and discussions and hashtags that proved to be the most popular. We believe the site became a hub for people interested in and disaffected with the European Union, with debates and conversations starting on the site and elsewhere.

The CanEUhearme site received hundreds of “picture Shouts”, and user videos like the one left.

>> Cons
Neither ourselves nor MTV could get Flickr to play along. So we had to abandon using their service (the Flickr API) and rebuild the Competition engine and gallery from scratch.

To brag a bit, we also feel that an integrated campaign, where RAAK produced the video, wrote the copy and steered the Twitter accounts, would have made for tighter messaging and even better conversations.

>> Coverage and links
The site was written about and linked to from numerous sites including the BBC, Brand Republic, and dozens of blogs including that of Le Monde, the NRC Handelsblad. And it had its naysayers.

Some other sites and blogs that linked to the project include:
Codice Internet
Democracia Electrónica
Jessica Best – European elections for dummies
Persiguiendo Sueños
The Veronicas
Bloc de Pia Bosch
EU observer

So far Google has counted over 250 backlinks to the site, with a Pagerank of 6.

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