You seemingly can’t live without social media these days, or at least, that is what many in our industry believe. Why? Because “everybody” is using it. Everybody is communicating, “everybody is a publisher.” But does that mean that every European is publishing through social media? Well, not exactly. Yes, Europeans are online en masse and are using social media in big numbers. But how are they using social media?
I’ve stated before that every European country should be looked at separately when it comes to search engine optimization. Its the same with social media: Europeans cannot be “handled” equally. Let’s take a closer look.
How do Europeans use social media?
Europeans are consumers of social media. Research from both Forester and Global Web Index shows that Europeans are mostly active on social media as a spectator. They participate, but are mostly not amongst the “creators.” Europeans are using social media in very practical way, they are looking for news updates, to do research before shopping or for their jobs, and to find “how-tos.” The actual “social element”—staying in touch with friends online—is only the third most popular activity (behind search and email) when looking at what Europeans are doing online.
Actual sharing is much less frequent. Only a small percentage of Europeans blog, upload videos or actively use a micro blogging site. Twitter may seem big, it really isn’t outside of the online related industries. When sharing, Europeans are usually uploading photos and videos. Perhaps surprisingly, Russians are most active social file sharers, but in general less than 40% of Europeans spent their time uploading photos, with even fewer uploading videos.
Differences in countries
Europeans differ very much from one another. That also means they use social media in different ways. The UK and Russia are the most active European countries when it comes to social media use. In these countries almost half of the internet population manages a social network profile, which is about ten percent more than users in countries like the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Germany. Germany and France are amongst the least active countries. Like in the US most social network profiles are managed by the younger generations. The older Europeans get, the less likely they are to be on social media.
What strikes the most in Europe is that every country has a different take on social media. Where in Italy for example social media plays a big role in education, in the UK and Germany social media is mostly used for research, either for work or before a purchase. More than half of Russian social media users use it to keep in touch with friends, while they also are most active in using the social media to keep their friends informed about their lives and in finding new friends. After Russia, Spain is the most active. The countries you would expect to be most active—the UK and the Netherlands—are actually comparatively moderate users of social media.
When it comes to sharing content, Europeans are a lot less active. The southern European countries Spain and Italy are the most active “sharers” online, but it still is fewer than 20% of social media users who actively share content.
Europeans are very practical in using social media. This is the case for every European country. In every country the users want to stay up to date and use social media to do research for either new products they want to buy or research how-tos.
Social media can’t live without search
Germans, Russians and the British are using the social media the most to research before purchasing. In that area its very important to know that social media is hardly ever used without search. When looking for recommendations on social media almost half of the Europeans look for these recommendations using search.
Europeans like local initiatives
There is one thing in which Europeans are all the same: local initiatives are very much supported. If somebody sets up a “European” or even better, a local initiative it usually is supported by many. This most probably has to do with the fact that it is not American. When setting up Searchcowboys and later State of Search I really noticed the “goodwill” a European project can have. When it comes from Europe it must be good.
As stated in an earlier post, Europeans are not “just” active on Facebook or Twitter. Though Facebook is the biggest social network in Europe, there are many other areas on which Europeans “socially communicate.” MySpace, LinkedIn (very big in the Netherlands!) and even Friendster are still used by many in Europe. But the biggest numbers are found in the local social networks which I discussed before.
So what can we learn from all this information when it comes to targeting Europeans through social media? A few things:
- Europeans like to research, so make sure they can find that information they are looking for.
- Use search to funnel traffic to your social media efforts.
- It might initially be difficult to get Europeans to share, but if you get them involved they will.
- Create social applications that provide a benefit and be there with a purpose; Europeans want to see a reason for committing their time.
- Give Europeans relevant news and information.
- Europeans like to see European initiatives, so try sponsoring local efforts.
- And finally, as I reiterate nearly every post, don’t think every European is the same—we’re all different and you need to satisfy our different needs to be successful.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.