Social media in Germany is a crowded and competitive space. We explain which platforms you should be using 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, as the country has much lower social media usage figures than other developed countries. In 2017, 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 because of 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.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. 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 the choice of social networks grows.

So there are still plenty of reasons to maintain a presence on German social media, but with a growing range of platforms, it’s important to know what to use, and when and how to use it. Otherwise, you’ll risk being disconnected from your target market.

FACEBOOK IS KING

Facebook 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 the site, you’ll be seriously limiting your online reach.

The platform is particularly useful for its advertising potential since Germans are generally less fussy about advertising positions than their UK counterparts, which gives you plenty of space to play around with. It’s well worth doing so: according to an eMarketer survey, if people like your content marketing, 80% of them are likely to buy your product, with 63% going on to switch 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 to be the biggest and the 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.

Facebook may be social media royalty in Germany, but there are plenty of pretenders scrapping for second place, and when used right, they can add a unique flavor to your social media strategy.

TWITTER VS GOOGLE+

The German language is well known for its long and convoluted words (if this is news to you, watch this video to witness the full effect). This makes the 140-character limit on Twitter a less-than-ideal platform for expression. Instead, most Germans use it primarily to find out information rather than tweeting themselves, especially journalists. On the whole, though, you’re better off looking to other platforms to reach your target market.

Google+ is a much better idea. The search giant’s platform is popular because it allows you to write longer, more descriptive posts. It’s proven especially attractive to businesses with an international outlook or who are drawn to B2B sales, thanks to its ability to create communities and its easy integration with the other Google tools – anyone with a Gmail account can automatically set themselves up with no extra admin. BMW, for example, has capitalized on the site, establishing a large international following.

LINKEDIN VS XING

German platform Xing is actually four years older than its rival LinkedIn. It’s 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 are likely to sign up and then abandon the site when they no longer need it. This makes it 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 (all resulting from outrageously high auction prices for 3G frequencies and demanding operating costs for 3G networks). This means that it’s generally a good idea to optimize your website and social media content so that they don’t require a lot of data to view content. For example, posting lots of videos and media content is generally not a great strategy.

That being said, competition is fierce among the media-driven social networks. Instagram is the leader of its class, expecting to grow by 26.2% this year to 11.2 million users, or roughly 14% of the population (source: eMarketer). It’s particularly popular among internet users in the 18-24 age bracket, over half of whom visit the site at least once a month, so it’s a good place to engage your audience if you have a young fan base.

Pinterest is also growing, with the company claiming that its number of German users had tripled in 2015. This still only translates to a couple of million people, but they’re primarily female and over 30, so the platform could prove fruitful for brands focused on fashion and design looking to appeal to older women.

And let’s not forget about Snapchat. It may be the baby of the group, but it’s growing up fast, with eMarketer reporting a 207% increase in the number of people using the site daily since 2015. It’s particularly popular among the 14-29 segment, and could be 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. People with a higher income and level of education are more likely to have internet access and a smartphone, but only 40% of this group is active on social media.

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 can play an important role if you’re targeting millennials.