For online marketers, optimizing for social media has become not just interesting, but a must. All major search engines have embraced social media. And with Google incorporating Facebook content into its real time results the integration of social media and search is a fact.
But social media is not just a “stand alone” feature. Many search marketing agencies already offer social media optimization services and the number of “social media experts” on Twitter is countless. The optimization done by the “experts” typically focuses on sites like Facebook, Twitter and of course YouTube. When it comes to Europe, however, there are many more choices.
Europeans are getting more social minded every day. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, Europe will be spending a lot more time interacting with social media in 2010. European companies are said to be using social media mainly for research purposes and to drive product sales. European users meanwhile are spending more and more time on the web and in particular on social media sites.
Facebook is the leading social network in the US, but it is experiencing rapid growth throughout Europe. According to comScore Facebook is the most popular social network in 11 out of 17 European countries. Other social networks are feeling the pain of the Facebook growth but still play an important role.
In other European countries local social networks are losing ground to Facebook, but are still playing a big part, especially when it comes to branded communities, blogger outreach, UGC, video distribution, reactive customer service and display advertising. They are successfully fighting back against the US giant. So which social media sites should you target? Let’s take a look at a few European countries and the social media sites that can be useful for online marketers.
France. French social network Skyrock lost a lot of visitors to Facebook, but is still a dominant player. It has 22.6m French users. 30% of them also use Facebook, but the majority can be found on this French site.
Spain. As in France, in Spain Facebook has become the biggest social network in the past year. Two years ago Tuenti was the most popular, but is now trailing Facebook. Tuenti has “only” 6.8m users where Facebook has 10.5—but why “leave out” 6.8 m users?
Germany. We have seen many times over the past year that you can’t treat Germans like you do every other country in the world, let alone Europe. In Germany the StudiVZ Group is still market leader. It must be noted however that its 13.8 million users come from three different sites.
The Germans have problems of their own. German law has very strict privacy rules. German sites have to set up a long verification method and are forced to have users opt-in. They also can’t share any information they collect with advertisers. Because of this, German social media sites face a lot of competition from Facebook, which as an American site doesn’t have to follow these rules in Germany.
Holland. One of the smallest countries in Europe has the most loyal fans when it comes to their home based social network. Hyves still has twice as many users as Facebook in the Netherlands. A remarkable number which can be largely explained by the deep roots they have.
In all the above mentioned countries Facebook has won ground over the past year. However Europeans are trying to regain ground by trying to be “different” from Facebook. Offering advertisers a more tailored experience than Facebook should make them more profitable and will help the local social networks gain ground.
The local networks do seem to have found their way back. Financial numbers show a growth. According to the Financial Times Hyves for example has made a profit over the past four years. The bigger local social networks will probably survive where the smaller ones will disappear.
When you are aiming for business in Europe and you want to use social media you would be a fool to ignore the opportunities the local social networks offer you. Again, as with optimizing your websites, it is very important here that you use local knowledge to get the best results.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.