Social media guide

Private individuals

German flag

In this article we introduce a social media guide on Germany and we will observe and also discuss how social media is being used in Germany. Starting by observing German individuals and then looking at how SME’s use it or could use it to their advantage.

More than 75% of all Germans (over 14 years of age) use the internet in some way.  As a rule, more than 75% of these are registered on at least one social media network and spend around a quarter of all their online-time on these networks. Besides for most people, especially the younger generation, the internet today is synonymous with social networks with over 90% of 14 to 29 year olds registered on them. Furthermore, the most popular networks listed according to their number of users are:

  • Facebook (more than 20 million German users in July 2012)
  • Google+
  • Xing
  • Wer-kennt-wen
  • MeinVZ/StudyVZ
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Lokalisten

People use social networks for different reasons. Some use them to communicate with friends and to possibly contact old and potential new friends. In contrast, others use them to observe what others are doing and to be reminded  about birthdays.

In brief, other social media used by Germans include Twitter, YouTube, Wikis and Blogs. Following picture shows the social media prism 4.0 for Germany and gives an idea of how broad the field of social media is.

SM Germany
Social media prism 4.0 Germany


The use of social media in German businesses is rising. Therefore, most companies are beginning to understand its relevance. In particular, the awareness that negative customer feedback on the Internet can harm a business is a driver shaping the use of social media. Trip Advisor is an example of a ratings website that you may come across when looking for a hotel or restaurant. Hence, if negative feedback is left about your business on a site such as this and then not monitored and/or commented upon, the consequences for your business’s reputation can be severe.

A recent study undertaken by BITKOM in 2012 indicates that nearly half of all businesses in Germany use some kind of social media and another 15% are planning to use it. In particular, a difference in uptake between small and medium sized businesses and large enterprises is not detectable. However, there are differences in the distribution between sectors. While more than half of businesses operating in the retail sector use social media, only 1/3 use it in manufacturing and construction. Generally the closeness of the service sector to the consumer/customer may explain this.

SME usage of social media

One of the most influential driver for the use of social media can be seen in areas where external business communication is important, such as marketing, public relations or advertising. Consequently, the goals of SM usage can be very different:

  • Increased awareness of the company/trade mark
  • Acquisition of new customers
  • Building relationships with customers
  • Search engine optimization
  • Control of company image
  • Market research and monitoring
  • Acquisition  of new employees
  • Cooperation with customers in order to expand the product portfolio

These different goals are achieved through the use of a broad range of diverse forms of social media for different purposes. For example, 86% of all companies who use social media, (social networks such as Facebook and Xing are used the most), do so mainly as a means of representing the business. Otherwise, video platforms such as YouTube are used by fewer than 30% and Wikis by fewer than 15% of companies. Other applications that are used include corporate blogs and micro-Blogs such as Twitter. In Germany, Facebook, Xing, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, LinkedIn and Google + (listed according to frequency used) are the social media tools most commonly used by businesses.

SME now and future decisions on social media

The budget that will be invested in social media campaigns in the future is estimated to rise. Even though most companies are not planning to invest in employee training on how to use SM, more and more have specialized staff working solely on the social media profile of the company. However, this greatly differs depending on the number of employees.  While most large enterprises have assigned employees who look after SM, fewer than 50% of SMEs have such employees. If they have them, the number is often limited to one or two people. Shortage of resources such as staff and time are the challenges most mentioned when using social media. In addition, the following issues can be identified as the problem issues that arise through SM use:

  • Difficulties in measuring  objectives
  • Identifying effective monitoring tools
  • Identification of where to be active and with whom to connect
  • Coordination of SM activities
  • Limited understanding of how SM can support the business

However, these are not the arguments companies use when explaining why they don’t use social media at all. Most importantly, there are two most frequently cited issues. First of all, that they will not reach their target customers and the second one being the legal uncertainties that people associate with SM use.

Useful links

Because SMEs in particular are frequently found to have no social media guidelines. A useful list of general social media staff guidelines can be found at:

Likewise a guide for German businesses can be found at and–10-tipps-fuer-unternehmen-und-ihre-mitarbeiter-?media=1770.

 Further interesting links:

Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business

Learn how to use social media for business from one of Salford Business School’s latest business management courses. This course was jointly researched by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project team and prepared in collaboration with some of the leading digital marketing agencies in the UK.

This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) can help businesses and also individuals to make the best use of search and social media platforms. The course called Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business and is applicable to students looking for placements abroad as well as businesses thinking about new trade links. It comprises the following twelve topics:

However, before you start the course please complete this short MOOC entrance survey.

How to develop a personal brand online (1/12)

  • Whether you are a student beginning a job search or a business person planning a new business venture, personal branding can make a difference.
  • Learn about personal branding and consequently find out why it is important for you.

Twitter (2/12)

  • Learn the basics of using Twitter to develop an individual or business profile.
  • Remember to use hash tag #SSMMUoS to share your learning journey on this course so far!

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) (3/12)

  • Learn the principles of SEO to ensure that your website and any social media profiles are found by individuals searching for your name, products and services.
  • These basic principles of SEO include keyword research, on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation.

Social media for international business development (4/12)

  • Social media networks break down the traditional country barriers. The question is do you know which networks are relevant for the country you are interested in trading with?
  • Find out in this video how to identify the relevant networks and above all what social media strategies you might be able to use on these networks.

Facebook (5/12)

  • Facebook is currently the largest social media network in the world. Therefore, it can benefit you as a business as well as an individual.
  • In first place learn how to develop a Facebook business page. Subsequently see how other businesses use it and what strategies work for them.

YouTube (6/12)

  • YouTube identified as the second largest social network amongst younger internet users as part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project.
  • Learn how to optimise your video content in order to reach wider audiences for your profile.

LinkedIn (7/12)

  • LinkedIn is one of the three main professional social networks – the others being Xing and Viadeo which are also popular in several European countries.
  • Therefore, learn how to make the most of LinkedIn for your profile.

Google+ (8/12)

  • Google+ is the second largest social network as of January 2013.
  • It is one of the fastest growing social networks and probably one that also has the biggest impact when it comes to search engine results integration for anyone who uses Google as their main search engine.
  • Learn how to make the most of Google+ for you and your digital profiles.

Copywriting online (9/12)

  • Copywriting is a process of translating technical specifications and product descriptions into engaging and understandable customer focused text.
  • Learn about the basic techniques in structuring your online content here.

Stay legal on social media (10/12)

  • For instance, everything and anything you do and say online can be potentially viewed by anyone who has internet access.
  • Therefore, you should always respect the law and familiarise yourself with new options offered to you through a creative commons licence which is popular online.

Monitoring and reporting (11/12)

  • Whether you are an individual or a business spending time on social media – generally there has to be a return on your engagement online.
  • How do you justify your engagement on social media to your boss? For that reason you should listen to the industry experts in this area. Furthermore, see what you might be able to measure in respect of your on-line engagements.

Blogging (12/12)

  • Blogging is a process of writing text and sharing content with others. Hence, it can help your customers or friends to keep in-touch regardless of social media platforms.
  • Think about the voice you might want to adopt and who your audience might be. For that reason, share your thoughts with us by writing a blog post about this MOOC.
  • Furthermore, tweet us the link to your post on the #SSMMUoS Twitter hash tag.

Please complete the MOOC exit survey.

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