German social media is a crowded and competitive space. We explain which platforms you should use for your business and how to make the most of them.

“Are you on Facebook?” Nowadays, the answer is almost always yes. But in Germany, this isn’t the case since the country has much lower social media usage figures than other developed countries. In 2017, only 46% of the German population was active on social networks, compared to 64% in the UK and 81% in the US (source: Statista).

This is partially due to Germany’s older population; 35% of Germans are over 55, an age group generally less likely to use social media. But it’s also because of Germany’s complicated history, which has produced a concern for personal data and privacy. There’s a general reluctance to share personal information, which has inevitably affected the number of active Germans on social media.

Despite these factors, social media use is growing rapidly among German speakers, particularly among young people. Over 80% of German millennials now use social media, and this number will keep growing as social networks continue to grow in popularity.

Besides all the above reasons to maintain a presence on German social media, it’s also important to know what to use and when and how to use the growing range of platforms to best connect with your target market.

FACEBOOK IS KING

German social media in actionFacebook is the undisputed leader of German social media, with a market share of over 90% and more than 27 million users, 41% of whom use the site weekly (source: ARD/ZDF). Without an active presence on Facebook, you’ll limit your online reach from the start.

This platform is particularly useful for its advertising potential. It’s well worth leveraging this opportunity: according to an eMarketer survey, if people like your content marketing, 80% of them are likely to buy your product, with 63% then switching to your brand long term.

For maximum impact, it’s important to localize your content for the German market. This means not only writing in German, but also getting your tone right. Avoid dramatic claims as the biggest and best; Germans will see this as overcompensation and may not trust your brand. Instead, go for a more modest approach, and don’t be afraid to tell a few jokes – humorous marketing is a big plus for Germans.

While Facebook dominates social media in Germany, there are several other platforms competing for Germany’s first choice. Understanding how to effectively use these other options can add a unique twist to your social media strategy.

TWITTER VS GOOGLE+

The German language is well known for its long and convoluted words. This makes Twitter’s 140-character limit a less-than-ideal platform for communication. Instead, most Germans use it primarily to find information than tweet themselves, especially journalists. Overall, you’re better off using other platforms to reach your target market.

Google+ is a better choice. This platform is popular because it allows you to write longer, more descriptive posts. It has proven especially attractive to internationally affiliated businesses drawn to B2B sales, thanks to its ability to create communities and easily integrate with other Google tools – anyone with a Gmail account can automatically set themselves up with no extra admin. BMW, for example, has capitalized on the Google+ site, establishing a large international following.

LINKEDIN VS XING

Germany’s Xing platform is actually four years older than its rival, LinkedIn. Xing has been growing steadily, with a reported 10.6 million members in the DACH region in 2016 – significantly more than LinkedIn’s 9 million users in the same area (source: Digiday)

However, that doesn’t mean you should abandon LinkedIn. Xing is primarily used for recruitment purposes – job seekers normally sign up and then abandon the site when they no longer need it. This makes Xing useful if you’re looking to hire new people, but for B2B potential, LinkedIn is the clear winner, with more than enough users for you to make an impression in the German business world.

TRIPLE THREAT: PINTEREST VS SNAPCHAT VS INSTAGRAM

Mobile broadband plans are expensive in Germany, which means Germans are very choosy about what they use their mobile data on. That’s why we recommend optimizing your website and social media content so that they don’t require a lot of data to view content. Posting lots of videos and media content, for instance, is generally not a great strategy.

lady taking picture on iphone outside on the grassThat being said, competition is fierce among media-driven social networks. Instagram takes the lead, with an expected 26.2% growth to 11.2 million users, or roughly 14% of the population (source: eMarketer). It’s particularly popular among the 18-24 age bracket, over half of whom visit the site at least once a month, making Instagram a great platform for engaging a young audience.

Pinterest is also growing, having supposedly tripled its German users in 2015. While this only translates to a couple of million people, it primarily targets female users over 30, which could prove useful for fashion and design brands focused on appealing to older women.

And let’s not forget about Snapchat, which has shown a 207% increase in the number of daily users since 2015, according to eMarketer reporting. This platform is growing rapidly and is particular popular among the 14-29 age group, which makes it a good vehicle for on-trend brands with a younger target market. Combine it with the better-established Instagram for maximum exposure.

FINAL THOUGHT

Germany is a highly, digitally divided country. Although Germans generally have a higher income and level of education, and are thus more likely to have internet access and a smartphone, only 40% of this group is active on social media.

That’s why if you’re selling high-end luxury products or targeting more exclusive clientele, we recommend you focus on optimizing your website, CRM and PPC campaigns, as well as reaching out via more traditional channels.

However, social media is starting to rival search among a younger audience, so it plays an important role if you’re targeting millennials.