With the first semi-final in this year's Eurovision Song Contest due to take place tomorrow, activity on blogs, social media networks and micro-blogging sites in support of entrants from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three countries making up the South Caucasus, is naturally increasing.
However, their use also sometimes reflects the geopolitical and technical realities of the region. The use of Facebook was to be expected, but their also seems to be greater use of Twitter, especially by Azerbaijan's Safura Alizadeh, currently the favorite to win the international music competition. Even so, the number of followers reflects the minor use of the micro-blogging tool in general in the region.
A few days ago, as reported on Global Voices, Safura Alizadeh had 338 followers while Georgia's Sofia Nizharadze had 217, and Armenia's Eva Rivas 110. Since then, the number of followers has hardly gone up with each now having 351, 221, and 117 respectively.
The use of Twitter has also been very different, with Azerbaijan's entry sending out significantly more tweets than her rivals. @SafuraMusic has sent 222 tweets at time of writing and is actively engaging her fans, while @SofiaNizharadze has sent out 164 and used TwitPic and TwitVid extensively.
In contrast, @EvaRivas2010 has sent out only 17 tweets and seems to be targeting supporters and votes from the large Armenia Diaspora through direct mention of estranged neighbors and regional foes, Azerbaijan and Turkey instead of reaching out to fans in general.
The same also appears to be true on Facebook.
Nevertheless, if all countries have been no strangers to controversy in the past, with Georgia pulling out of last year's Eurovision, while Armenia and Azerbaijan raised tensions even higher, there are some signs of hope. Azerbaijan's Safura Alizade is not only communicating with her fans, but that also includes those from Armenia.
Indeed, one Armenian commented on a forum that Azerbaijan's choice of entrant as well as her team's use of new and social media was exemplary.
You know, matter of fact is, Azerbaidjan and Armenia DO have a lot of political issues and the people don't get along so well.
But when it comes to participating at Eurovision we should take a page from their book because they are doing everything PERFECT.
First of all, their selective.. a 17 year old, 5ft 11, pretty, light skinned and brown haired girl, with a quite good voice with the will to be famous.
She does a lot of promotion, like appearing on a lot of international talk shows, like Twittering, Facebook, she posts blogs and Vlogs on Youtube. […] You can do everything to she chats with her fans.
True, comments from some Armenians and Azerbaijanis on the videos of each posted on YouTube can be vitriolic to say the least, but that so far does not seem to have entered onto the Eurovision stage itself. The final will be held on 29 May in Oslo, Norway.
In the meantime, below are the official videos for each of the three acts from the South Caucasus.
And talking about activity online, it’s very interesting about Google’s search data for Eurovision. Not sure how much of an indicator it actually is, but the results are quite different from the betting odds with Germany at the top followed by Georgia’s entry:
Definitely top marks to @SafuraMusic for using Twitter well & responding to tweets. Just had an exchange about the Balkans remix of Drip Drop.
That said, none are using hashtags for user searches. Just sent a tweet out to them to that effect. Will be interesting to see if any adopt them now.
Nice. This post was summarized in Azerbaijani by the BBC’s Azeri service:
Yep, @SafuraMusic has noted the need for using hashtags. So far no sign of @EvaRivas2010 or @sofianizharadze doing so. Really seems like she does indeed have her act together re. best use of new/social media.
And have just heard that Azerbaijani jazz singer @UlviyyaRahimova will be live tweeting as part of the Azerbaijan delegation to Eurovision from Oslo, Norway.