What You Need to Know About German Social Media

Guten Tag! In the next segment of our regional social media snapshot series,  I thought I’d share insight from the Text 100 Munich office into the region’s unique online behaviors and cultural considerations:

  • Social media usage in Germany lacks behind other major European markets and globally compared to the USA or Asia/Pacific. According to the a recent report from Universal McCann, only 57% of the active Internet users in Germany regularly read blogs and 50% have created a social network profile.  A recent ReadWriteWeb story noted that Germany is five years behind the US in terms of social media adoption.


  • While Facebook is seeing tremendous growth, the biggest social network in Germany is SchuelerVZ, a community of 7.4 million students from 12 to 18 years old.  In June, Facebook cracked the top three with more users than competitors StudiVZ and Wer-kennt-wen. Companies planning to launch a consumer social media campaign in Germany should keep in mind that Facebook isn’t the only place to target and SchuelerVZ has a bigger reach.

  • Looking to make business connections in Germany? The most important German business network is Xing, which dominates LinkedIn in the German market. At the end of July Xing boasted more than 8 million users; among them are 635,000 premium users who pay for their accounts. Like LinkedIn, Xing has lots of different groups around targeted business topics like SMB or social media marketing, etc.
  • Interesting cultural tidbit: Germans are very hesitant to change and known for their habitualness. This translates to their lives online:  Each time Facebook introduces new features, Germans express their outrage.  Be sure to spend time listening before you launch your social media program in Germany to make sure you understand their social media preferences and patterns. The use of these norms will increase your project’s chance of success.

A few weeks ago Vodafone launched a marketing campaign in Germany with a large social media component (see Twitter, Blog, Facebook, Youtube, MySpace and Microsite),  one of the first of its kind in this region. Vodafone faced harsh criticism of the campaign for a handful of social media 101 offenses that you should always keep top of mind:

  • Social media is a conversation, not a megaphone: Vodafone was criticized for purely taking its marketing messages and pushing them through this new channel, not tailoring their approach for the community or trying to start a dialogue. In addition, the company received more than 2,000 negative comments within two hours on Facebook, but did not respond or adjust their approach.
  • Don’t fake it. Always be authentic: Vodafone hired a popular Germany blogger to support the campaign. This blogger was well known as an iPhone and T-Mobile customer, so his work for Vodaphone was immediately seen as a shame.  Vodafone should have more closely evaluated their partners and insisted they be transparent about their involvement.
  • Get to know your audiences likes/dislikes before you engage:  The Vodafone campaign used Denglisch (German mixed with English terms, in an attempt to sound cool and interesting), but some didn’t even seem to be sure how to pronounce the buzzwords they were using. This tactic backfired as Germans complained they would have preferred to be reached via German or English language, not a combination.

Want to learn more about social media in Germany? Leave your questions in to comments or get in touch with me on Twitter or Xing.

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