Social media usage continues to grow worldwide and marketers are making the best of it. In Germany, however, use of social media sites differs greatly from other developed countries.
Here are three social media facts for Germany and what they mean for your German marketing.
1. Only 50% of German onliners use social media
When it comes to using social networking sites, Germany is lagging behind other developed countries, says a recent study published by US research firm Pew Research Center.
In Germany, about 50% “onliners” – adults using the internet or owning a smartphone – say they use social media, according to the Pew study. Compare this to 76% of online Israelis, 71% of online Americans and 66% of online UK citizens who say they do.
Social media use in Germany significant lower.
Marketing research firm eMarketer casts the net a little wider and finds that 57% of onliners in Germany used social networking sites at least monthly in 2016.
When compared to its European neighbors, Germany, together with France, ranks toward the bottom for social media usage in the region, according to this study.
When looking at social network penetration as a percentage of the population – not just onliners – the picture changes a bit: Here, Germany is ahead of Spain, France and Italy, with some 45% of adult Germans using social media in 2016, according to the eMarketer study.
This difference is most likely due to the difference in online access and usage in these countries.
2. Mind the age gap: 60% of onliners age 35+ are not on German social media
One of the reasons for this lower social media penetration in Germany, suggests eMarketer senior analyst Karin von Abrams, is a population that is older than much of the rest of Western Europe. In 2015, over one fourth all Germans, 27.5 per cent, were over the age of 60. A more reserved stance toward sharing personal information may be reinforced by this older generation.
According to the Pew study, age indeed is a significant indicator for social media usage in Germany, much more so than in other countries.
81% of millenials are on social media in Germany
While 81% of onliners between the ages of 18 and 34 in Germany are on social networks, only 39% of people over 35 report the same – a difference of 42 percentage points.
This is the biggest age gap in all countries that were examined by Pew Research Center.
3. Only 40% of the better educated are on social media in Germany
The digital divide is real, this is also true for Germany. As in most countries around the world, access to the internet and smartphone ownership is correlated with education and income. People with higher education and higher income are more likely to have internet access and/or own a smartphone.
However, when it comes to social networks, Germans are swimming against the global trend: Germany is the only country in a recent OECD survey where a higher education is associated with significantly lower use of social networking sites. Only Denmark and Switzerland see a similar trend.
The negative social media usage gap between onliners with less formal education (ca. 50%) and higher formal education (ca. 40%) is comparatively small in Germany. In the UK, in contrast, there’s a huge positive gap between social network users of lower formal education (ca. 30%) and higher formal education (ca. 68%).
4. Social media in Germany: Putting the data into perspective
While shares in social media usage are lower than may be expected when compared to other countries, in terms of absolute numbers, there is still a large number of Germans who can be reached via the internet and social media channels, and the numbers are growing.
More Germans are online than ever
Some 84% of adult German use the internet at least occasionally, reports the ARD/ZDF Onlinestudie 2016, published by German public newscasting agencies.
45 million Germans, some 65% of people over the age of 14, use the internet daily, according to the same study. Overall, use of the internet has risen by 2 million in the past year, a steeper incline than in a long time.
This increase, says this study, is driven by mobile usage and an increase in older age groups – even in the age group 60+, more than half of the population, 56%, use the internet at least occasionally.
Explaining the German social media abstinence
The German reluctance to participating in social networks is likely based on a number of factors:
- Privacy concerns, suggests eMarketer, and a deep distrust of data collection by American global players such as Google and Facebook, are more widespread in Germany than in Italy, Spain or the UK, for example.
One reason for this may well be historical: Both Nazi and communist rule in recent history relied heavily on spying on the population. For many older Germans, the idea that sharing too much personal information can put yourself and loved ones in danger, is deeply ingrained.
- Cultural norms that are conservative in terms of interpersonal relations, as suggested by eMarketer.
- A lack of national personalities embracing social media on platforms such as Twitter, suggests eMarketer. German chancellor Angela Merkel still has no Twitter account in 2016, for example.
- Strong traditional media. German news outlet Deutsche Welle suggests that traditional media such as newspapers and state-owned newscasters may still be the most trusted source of information for many Germans, reducing the need to look for news on social.
Social media Germany: Marketing takeaways
Whatever the reasons for the lower German participation in social networking sites, there are some key takeaways to consider when marketing to a German audience:
- Social media usage is far lower in Germany.
Don’t expect the same kind of reach you would get with a social media marketing campaign in other countries. Consider using additional channels.
- Social media marketing in Germany is great, if you go for the young and the less educated.
If your target audience is 35+ or educated, other channels apart from social media might make more sense.
- Germans are very sensitive to privacy issues.
Ask the minimum amount of information from potential customers. Bear in mind that German privacy laws are strict. A Facebook like button on your site can get you into trouble. Being absolutely transparent about use of collected personal data is mandatory.
Irene Waltz-Oppertshäuser is a partner in Berlin-based digital marketing agency bei Marketinghelfer Digital Marketing Agency Berlin. Providing a comprehensive range of German marketing services, she helps companies reach and convert their audience in the German market, online and offline.
Irene lives and works in Berlin.
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