While the German market is still immature when it comes to social media adoption, a recent report for Dell from Trendstream showed that 70% of German businesses are using social media for business purposes and 40% for customer acquisition. At Dell, we see Germany as a key market to engage via social media. While our presence is not as big as we’d like it to be today, we are excited about the opportunity to empower our team members to listen and interact with our customers directly.
Last week I traveled to Halle, Germany to provide Social Media and Community University (SMaC U) training. We were able to train over 660 team members from across Europe on our core principles, policies and governance around social media as well as how to build long lasting and authentic relationships with our customers.
Below are 10 key learnings and observations from my trip:
- Twitter lags in popularity: While the majority of team members that attended our classes had at least a Facebook, LinkedIn or Xing account, Twitter was not very popular.
- Mixed privacy concerns: Prior to going to Germany, we recognized that online and offline privacy was a key concern to German team members and customers. However, the class was torn when we talked about an example where a team member tells their supervisor that a colleague was posting negatively about the supervisor on Facebook. Several attendees said the boss couldn’t do anything about the post due to privacy laws, while others felt like the supervisor had a right to talk to the employee about it. What do you think about this?
- Frustration with Facebook: Echoing a Time article from April, many team members expressed frustration with the frequent privacy changes on Facebook. As a result said they are very careful about what they post and some team members even closed their accounts.
- Fees can limit participation: While LinkedIn offers the majority of their site functionality for free, team members have to pay a monthly fee in order to leverage the same functionality on Xing.com, a popular professional community in Germany. Many team members said this was a barrier to participation.
- Recommendations are unique: It was also interesting to find out that while Xing’s paid membership has very similar functionality to LinkedIn such as groups and Q&A, the site does not provide the opportunity to provide “recommendations.”
- Language matters: German team members and customers would strongly prefer to communicate in their local language. Social media pages should be in German.
- BASF is best in class for cross-platform: Headquartered in Germany, the chemical company does an excellent job using multiple platforms to reach their B2B audience. Their YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Slideshare presence is proof that businesses can use social media to convey serious information through correctly toned content.
- Ownership of content varies: Germany has very specific rules around content ownership related to social media and contests that differs from the U.S.
- German team members love plants: During our tour of the office, we noticed large (3-4 feet tall) potted plants outside of most of the cubes and in team rooms. I’m told that they even have names for them.
- Hasselhoff: Not only did team members confirm that David Hasselhoff was a country favorite, but they suggested using him to advertise the training program.
It’s interesting to see how social media usage varies across the world. I’ll keep you updated as I continue traveling for Global SMaC U training. Bangalore, India is next on my list for March.
Let me know if you have any recommendations for me while I’m there or additional thoughts on social media in Germany.