How to Use Social Media for Business: Germany

July 25, 2018

According to a recent study conducted by ARD and ZDF, two major German public television companies, more than 85% of Germans are online, but only about half of them are on social media platforms. This is much less than their European counterparts. The reasons for this discrepancy can be traced back to Germany's general mistrust and suspicion around data privacy, perhaps further fueled by Staci-era surveillance tactics used in former East Germany.


However, things are changing, and the millennial generation is leading the way in fully embracing social media networks. German companies trying to reach their audiences are also taking notice.


Let's take a quick look at the leading social networks in Germany.

gpi-german social-facebook



Facebook remains the clear leader of the pack with more that 28 million registered users, of which, 21 million log into their Facebook account daily. Overall 41% of all users use this social networking platform weekly and this number increases to 70% for the 14-29 age bracket.



Facebook-owned Instagram is quickly becoming an agency-darling and is predominantly used by 14-29-year-olds where user numbers jumped dramatically by more than 50% between 2015 and 2016 and continued to climb through 2017. Now with more than nine million registered users and the deployment of Instagram business tools in 2016, this social media platform has become an attractive choice for marketers trying to raise brand awareness, especially among millennials.



Twitter has typically trailed behind other social media platforms and continues to struggle to gain traction in Germany. The initial 140 character limit and lack of good data on German users may have contributed to its challenges as it never really performed well for brand accounts. According to Max Embert who serves as social media specialist at Publicis Pixelpark, "as Instagram rose, the focus shifted from the low engagement on Twitter to the highly engaging visual photo community. Twitter didn't understand the German market and was then overtaken by Instagram."


The percentage of German users who use Twitter weekly:


  • Total: 5%
  • Women: 2%
  • Men: 7%
  • 14-29 yrs.: 8%
  • 30-49 yrs.: 5%
  • 50-69 yrs.: 3%
  • 70+ yrs.: 0%


One interesting fact is that unlike the U.S. where Twitter use by government officials is now commonplace, the German Cabinet has been very reluctant to embrace Twitter, and until not too long ago, only very few German politicians even had a Twitter account.

gpi-german social-snapchatSnapchat


Although it is somewhat early for Snapchat in Germany, this platform has had a strong start, especially among the younger demographic (66% of users fall within the 14-19-year-old age group). According to 2016 eMarketer data, women made up around 70% of total users and lenses, geo-filters and stories appear to be the most popular features as they are considered non-intrusive by users. However, in a more recent study, 81% of users admitted to not following any particular company or brand on Snapchat so it remains to be seen how much value can be derived from brand marketing on this fairly new, but increasingly popular social networking platform.

XING vs. LinkedIn


XING, which has been referred to as the German LinkedIn, was founded four years before LinkedIn. Although the company touted record growth as late as Q3 of 2016 claiming over 11 million users in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), other outlets reported a decline in users between 2015 and 2016.


Regardless, that number pales in comparison to the more than 29% of online adults that are using LinkedIn in the U.S. Although LinkedIn states that they now have over eight million users in the DACH region, in 2016 there were still only a few German-language groups on LinkedIn and only 1% of Germans were using the network on a weekly basis. This number may very well change in the future, but don't expect drastic jumps as German business leaders and professionals are more reluctant to engage with strangers via social media channels than their U.S. counterparts.



As companies are looking to decipher the social media patterns in Germany and how to use various platforms to market and promote their brands, they need to keep in mind that Germans will be more reluctant in their use of social media. Although younger generations are catching on quickly and are using favorites like Instagram and Snapchat in ever-growing numbers, marketers will have to consider that one size does not fit all and marketing campaigns on certain platforms may not render the same results as they do in the U.S. Facebook remains the clear frontrunner for marketing to a large cross section of the German population across all age groups. If you are targeting German millennials, try Instagram. Twitter may not be the most ideal platform to try to promote your brand. Using XING (the only remaining German social network) for in-country recruiting makes sense, but LinkedIn is where you may find the more internationally-minded German professionals.

Further Resources on Global Business


Globalization Partners International (GPI) has extensive experience localizing marketing materials, technical documents, and large, scalable websites. We have previously posted a number of useful guides for best practices in this area. Feel free to review our blogs that are particularly relevant:



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Global SEO
German social media, doing business in German, social media marketing

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