Social media: targeting the German market


Sabrina Russnak



While the popularity of social media varies by country, companies should always consider how they can utilize this channel when expanding into new territories. Having a presence on social media not only creates brand trust in new markets, it also allows you to increase brand awareness and reach your target audience with relevant content and products. 


The Global Digital Report 2018 shows that social media penetration in Germany is lower than many other countries. Only 46% of Germans visit social networking channels on a monthly basis – much lower than the UK, where 66% of the population use social media every month. 


Culturally, Germans can be very cautious when sharing personal information be it online or at work, which could explain why they tend to use social media less often than others. According to Karin von Abrams, Senior Analyst at eMarketer, “Privacy concerns – and mistrust of global online players such as Facebook and Google – are more widespread in Germany than in Italy, Spain and the UK, for example. In addition, German cultural norms are fairly conservative in terms of interpersonal relations and revealing personal information; that tendency is reinforced by a population that skews older than much of Western Europe. Language barrier issues and a lack of personalities embracing social media are also contributing factors on platforms such as Twitter.” 


However, there are still millions of German users on these platforms for companies to target, and most German businesses have realized that having a social media presence is key to engaging existing and potential customers. The latest report carried out on behalf of the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (Federal Association of Digital Business) shows 58% of businesses are planning to invest more in social media marketing this year to raise brand awareness, better reach their target audience and improve their brand image. 


The good news for companies looking to utilize advertising on social media in Germany, is that German users tend to be more receptive to promoted content than UK users. According to a 2016 study by YouGov, 25% of internet users in the UK said they ignored sponsored content completely, compared to only 13% in Germany. The study also showed German users had a higher level of engagement, with 24% actively looking for more information after they had seen an advertised product compared with only 11% in the UK. 


We take a look at which social media channels are popular in the German market to help you determine which ones to target for your business.


The biggest social network in the world counts over 2.2 billion users in total. Latest official figures, from an independent, qualitative study carried out by Germany’s two public broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, show that 31 million Germans have a Facebook account. A closer look into the statistics shows that only 20.5 million people use the social network on a weekly basis, with 13 million Germans using it every day. However, it is one of the biggest social media channels in Germany and well worth considering if you want to reach a large audience. The advertising options in Facebook enable you to do highly targeted advertisements and boosted posts, which makes it a useful channel for many businesses. 



The instant messaging service has no serious competitors in Germany. Official figures report that in 2016 WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, had 40 million German users. A survey in 2017 showed Germany as the second biggest country for Whatsapp, with 55% of the population using the app. For many it has replaced text messaging. Currently, WhatsApp doesn’t sell advertising space, which makes it harder for many businesses to incorporate it as part of their marketing strategy. However, some German companies have been able to use the platform successfully, such as Ran, a German sports broadcaster sending sport updates to its audience. WhatsApp can also be used as a customer service channel as it allows companies to keep any negative issues away from more public social channels, such as Facebook. 



17 million Germans share their photographs on Instagram on a monthly basis, and more than two million businesses use the platform for product placement according to the ARD/ZDF online study, carried out in October 2017. If you are looking to target the younger demographic in Germany, Instagram could be a good option. The platform is largely used by 14-29 year olds, with 35% of them active on Instagram. Instagram Shopping is now also available in several countries, including Germany. 



The latest figures from 2017 show that the video publishing platform has around 6 million monthly active users in Germany. Data from 2015 shows 18-29 year olds as the biggest demographic for YouTube in Germany. 28% of internet users in this age bracket used YouTube several times a day and a further 12% used it once a day. In comparison only 10% of 30-49 year olds visited YouTube daily and only 5% of 50+ year olds. 



XING is the German equivalent of business network LinkedIn and has been around a few years longer. It covers the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Official figures released by the website show 13 million registered users, of which 11 million are based in Germany. XING is well-known in the DACH region as a local platform, allowing international B2B businesses to target German companies. However, when it comes to paid advertising, its ad platform’s targeting options are not as advanced as LinkedIn. 



Closely following its rival XING, LinkedIn has more than 9 million registered users in the DACH region. LinkedIn is still very much seen as an international platform in comparison to XING. More companies are expanding internationally, leading to a rise in German employees embracing LinkedIn. Sales teams targeting German businesses will also find LinkedIn useful for its Sales Navigator, which launched in Germany in 2015. The tool helps B2B companies to generate business leads. 



Despite its huge popularity worldwide, Snapchat is not as popular in Germany as it is in other countries. The social media channel has an estimated 3.7 million weekly active users. It’s also not great for businesses as a 2017 study showed 81.8% of users do not follow companies on Snapchat. 



Last year, official statistics released by Pinterest showed 200 million active users worldwide. As there are no figures available for Germany, social media experts estimate the country has about 4 million active users. This year, Pinterest has launched ‘Shop the Look’ in several countries, including Germany. It is an easy way for users to buy products, in particular fashion and home interiors. If your business sells these products, the channel is worth exploring. 



Whilst Twitter does not release active user figures beyond the US, social media experts estimate there are around 3 million German Twitter accounts, of which only a third are used actively. This makes it one of the least popular social media channels in Germany. It is seen as a useful tool for news, but it is not widely used by brands. 



Google+ was launched as a competitor to Facebook. There are no reliable figures available on the usage of Google+ in Germany, but social media experts estimate that there could be anywhere between 600,000 and 6 million active German users. A key thing to consider with Google+ is that many profiles were created by users to use other Google services, which is why over 91% of Google+ accounts have never posted an update. Internet users in India, Thailand and other Asian countries are much more active on the platform than western countries. 



Whilst Germany is behind other countries such as the UK when it comes to regularly using social media, there are still some key social channels you can use to reach your audience in this market. With many companies upping their social media budgets for German users, the key is to determine which are most relevant for your target audience. Once you have decided on which channels you should approach, remember to localize your content and your tone of voice to resonate and engage with German users. 


If you need help with social media support or content localisation for Germany, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

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