By Mary B. Adams & Bob Willems Ever wondered what’s going on with social media in the rest of the world, say in Germany? Social media usage in Germany lags behind other major European markets and globally compared to the USA or Asia/Pacific.
This country of 81 million people in Western Europe is very “wired," with broadband internet penetration rates ranking high when compared with other parts of Europe and the world. Yet only about 50% of the population in Germany is active on 1 or more social media sites. A 2009 ReadWriteWeb article puts Germany about 5 years behind the US in terms of social media adoption, particularly for blogging. Blogs are not yet part of mainstream media and have “no significant influence” on public opinion. (Lardinois, 2009).
Germans who are on social media use a variety of platforms. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, there are several popular "local” platforms like SchuelerVZ, Wer-Kennt-wen, and Xing. SchuelerVZ is the most successful German social media start-up with a community of 7.4 million students from 12 to 18 years old. It was the top site until late 2009 when Facebook overtook both it and Wer-kennt-wen. Facebook continues to grow rapidly today, with a 10% jump in April 2010 alone, according to InsideFacebook.
The most important German business network is Xing, which dominates LinkedIn in the German market. At the end of July 2009, Xing boasted more than 8 million users, of which 635,000 are premium users who pay for their accounts.
Another popular site, Qype (“quality” + “hype”), is similar to Yelp. Users rate everything from restaurants to doctors. Qype started in Germany in 2005 and now has offices all across Europe. Germans are also active on SoundCloud, which lets music professionals and amateurs move music files fast & easy.
Culturally speaking, Germans tend to be private and do not freely share personal information. Many generally feel that their data is not safe online. Also, they tend to be resistant to change. Each time Facebook introduces new features, Germans express their discontent. An April 2010 Time magazine article told how Facebook was under attack in Germany over privacy issues.
Mobile and broadband giant Vodafone recently launched a German social media marketing campaign, a first of its kind in this region. It faced harsh criticism for violating a handful of social media 101 offenses including using social media sites to blast out promotional info and not listening or interacting, faking it, and not understanding its target audience. The Vodafone campaign used Denglisch (German mixed with English terms) in an attempt to sound cool. But this tactic backfired. Germans complained they would have preferred to be reached via German or English language, not a combination (http://ow.ly/20ew9).
If considering social media to enter the German market -- or any market -- get to know your audiences’ likes and dislikes before you engage.