Two recent events brought me new insights into European (German especially) and US differences when it comes to social media. A SKYPE phonecall with a German psychologist-turned-market researcher (now residing in San Francisco/ USA and married to a former Capgemini colleague of mine) as well as a private trip to the capital of Europe, Berlin.  Let me briefly share these with you.

Almost two weeks ago I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview of the Twitter qualitative Survey carried out by Rheingold. In a pleasant evening SKYPE call Rheingold’s research director Patricia Sauerbrey Colton introduced me to the Study background and detailed findings. The Study was carried out in both the USA and Patricia’s homeland Germany thru some 132 individual explorations.  Its main objective; to assess the cultural differences in the attitude towards and usage of Twitter as one example of social media.

To the Americans “Twitter’s promise provides a perfect fit to American culture. A nation of immigrants, Americans are constantly on the go and always setting the stage for themselves in front of new people. The quick chat here and there reassures them and provides confirmation [or conformation?, PHM] of social acceptance.” Twitter provides the virtual equivalent of realizing one’s American dream: “from dishwasher to follower millionaire [followed by 1 million+ people].” And indeed almost on a daily basis I do keep getting follower notifications of Cross Atlantic tweeps who are well underway to following 50,000+ people. One million, here I come 😉

According to Rheingold’s Study, Germans on the other hand are apprehensive of Twitter representing merely ‘hot air’ [heisse Luft?, PHM]. “Something this easy can’t be anything”.

Marketing is tempted to leverage Twitter’s benefits. Yet whilst American marketers see Twitter as a valuable instrument to help build reputation, awareness and pipeline – their German counterparts do not ‘unbedingt’ jump the Twitter bandwagon. “Twittering is seen critically in Germany” (…) and twittering brands run the risk of being seen as ‘unreal, undecided and unsustainable’. More to come on this Rheingold Study – detailed findings are confidential and allegedly will be disclosed this Spring.

Whilst in Berlin last week, I came across another 2.0 Survey by the Stiftung Warentest. Entitled ‘Caught in the Net’[Gefangen im Netz]. Broad coverage on both German television and the Frankfurter Rundschau highlighted a number of major security flaws and anomalies in most social media networks (Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace coming out worst). Bottomline finding: social networks should improve security, users should be careful in sharing information on the net.

Only last December, Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed that in his opinion ‘there is no such thing as the private domain’. In other words, all data and information shared are up for grabs. Ironically, Zuckerberg does care about his own privacy. A key cultural difference between Europeans and Americans in this regard concerns data privacy. The Europeans regard this as a universal and individual right. US social media networks like the aforementioned consider it good practice to share user data and information with other 3rd parties ‘inasmuch as new services to our customers and community can be offered’.

I’m wondering what cultural differences across various market segments or verticals as well as between B2B and B2C will appear from the imminent Social Media Marketing ROI Benchmark Study in the Dutch market – and to what extent companies with an Anglosaxon vs Rheinland or continental European background will mirror the findings shown above.

5 replies
  1. Ewald Jozefzoon
    Ewald Jozefzoon says:

    Paul this is a great blog. You raise a very interesting point with regard to social media. The cross-cultural aspect of social media has been a neglected topic. One that is very relevant for marketers that apply (or consider to apply) social media across borders.

    Reply
  2. Ewald Jozefzoon
    Ewald Jozefzoon says:

    Paul this is a great blog. You raise a very interesting point with regard to social media. The cross-cultural aspect of social media has been a neglected topic. One that is very relevant for marketers that apply (or consider to apply) social media across borders.

    Reply
    • Paul Hassels Monning
      Paul Hassels Monning says:

      Thank you Ewald, looking forward to the launch of the Rheingold survey and being able to share some more insights.

      Reply
  3. Rick Mans
    Rick Mans says:

    Cultural differences are most often easily overlooked. Often I see a generic approach to social media, without taken into account any cultural different, which is understandable behavior, since Facebook has no borders 😉 .

    A few weeks ago I talked with somebody who is responsible for a global outroll of an internal social network. At first he also was planning to go ahead with a one size fits all approach. However, at the end of our conversation, he realized that UK, NL, DE and IN are very different countries. Leading by example is far more important in DE and IN than in NL for example. So now he is adjusting the implementation strategies to make them more country and culture specific.

    Reply

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