Hello SOTGC community,
How do social media styles differ by culture and nation?
This is Part 2 of a blog series in which JC Giraldo and I try to provide answers to this question by surveying our worldwide networks.
Note: We make no claim that the results of our informal survey are statistically relevant, but they represent insights from people who use social media regularly for business.
We asked the following questions:
- In your country (or region or culture, if you prefer), how does the majority of people view social media?
- What would you say is a unique characteristic about social media usage in your culture?
THE RESULTS PART 2
California, USA (raised in Germany)
Natascha Thomson, CEO MarketingXLerator, Silicon Valley, USA
1. Silicon Valley (the home of many hot social media platforms) is not representative of the whole US, but, overall, the sentiment towards social media in the USA is overall positive.
- There are concerns about privacy and online bullying, but most businesses have embraced social media, especially Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to engage with their target audience.
2. Americans tend to feel comfortable talking about themselves in public. Often, they learn in high school and college to stand up and give presentations.
- To get a job, it usually requires “blowing your own horn” in terms of talking yourself up. This is mirrored in social media usage, where a high percentage of people engages actively.
- Of course, there are also many lurkers, but my friends in Germany are a lot more cautious and concerned to seem like braggers than my friends in the US.
Ingeborg van Beusekom, Senior Marketing Communications Manager and PR at SAP Nederland B
- Dutch people are very modest on social media – they rarely give comments – we’d rather “like” or share stuff – much easier. People also have a fear of “what can I say and what can’t I say with regard to my company.” That’s something that is holding them back. Last, but not least, time and knowledge of social media is not really incorporated in business. Mainly large enterprises are using it, but small and medium businesses are not on the social bandwagon (yet).
- Google Plus and Facebook and Instagram are rarely incorporated in the social media strategy, unlike the US.
- 90 percent of the people use LinkedIn and I think a whopping 50 percent are also using Twitter.
- Instagram and Facebook are mainly used for personal purposes. And Facebook is [the] favorite here. Most people who are active on Facebook tend to share everything from morning till noon and apparently are less concerned about privacy than, for instance, people in the US.
- Instagram is also fairly popular. Most people tend to use Instagram to take pictures and repost them onto Facebook. Or, post a picture on Instagram and add text on Facebook.
- Very few people use Twitter for personal use (or any other tool for that matter).
- In the UK, I would suggest adoption is pretty limited in Gen X age group and older.
- Gen Y accept it as the norm and expect to work with social media when they join the workforce.
- Facebook is still considered a private tool, but LinkedIn is very much the business tool of choice.
2. Generally, folks use social media (such as Twitter) to vent frustration, log errors, moan about
something. It’s a way to complain, as us Brits love to complain.
- Similar to Germany, users in the UK tend to be cautious about privacy settings, what they disclose etc. This is often a reason people are reluctant to use social media.
United Kingdom/ East Coast USA
John Appleby, Global Head of SAP HANA at Bluefin Solutions, England/Philadelphia
1. I’m from the UK and living in the East Coast of the USA. Here, social media is something which is acceptable in moderation, in business.
- We don’t tweet getting up on a Monday and going to the bathroom – instead, preferring to use it for more focused business activities.
2. Those people who are primarily focused on social media aren’t taken too seriously.
- To my mind, the defining characteristic of East Coast Social is the desire to carefully balance being taken seriously with the need to promote and communicate with customers, partners, and colleagues.
Austria / Silicon Valley
Mario Herger, CEO and Founder of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy, and CEO of Austrian Innovation Center Silicon Valley
1. Social media use is quite usual for Austria. Although there is always a skeptical tendency towards new technologies, Austrians tend to complain, but then they “buy” it anyways.
- While there are concerns about data privacy and a certain paranoia after the revelations about the activities of the [National Security Agency], social media has become an important tool for political activities, seen in examples such as often satirical Facebook groups like “Can this brick have more fans than (right-wing politician) H.C. Strache?” or online petitions on political scandals.
- Also the top anchor at Austria’s public TV station is an avid Twitter-user with a large following. And he tends to tweet during the news show.
2. From a professional point XING is the dominant professional network, although LinkedIn is also used.
- Austrians tend to use humor in using social media and talking about themselves. That has to do with a a slight feeling of discomfort talking about oneself in a too positive way.
- A few years back, during a social media-user group session, a few young Chinese summed it up very well: “Our culture has been all about networking and word of mouth; social media is just a digitalization of what we do.” Now dig a little deeper, you can see why it’s so true.
- Many mainstream media sources have had a long and questionable history of being manipulated. Many Chinese and across Asia do not take mainstream media at face value. In fact, they place a much higher weight on informal or social channels. This is from products and services, to news and politics.
- The notion of relying on and using one’s network has been embedded into Asian culture for a very long time. Social media is a natural fit.
- The only question was: do they use Western-based social media channels, and how will they deal with censorship, or threats to privacy? Despite blocking most Western social media channels in China (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, YouTube, and many blogs to name a few), and risking privacy/exposure issues, social media is absolutely thriving here. Weibo, Ren Ren, Youku, WeChat, use of QR codes … and many more. With over 500 million Internet users, the potential is huge.
- In fact, I believe China and Asia are leading many of the social media trends … mobile and WeChat to name a few. No wonder Facebook is buying WhatsApp … [and] WeChat is on fire. WeChat, like many other trends, [is] led by equal parts of necessity and preference. Users are using texting or social media apps to keep connected, save money, and enhance their personal lives.
2. The majority of people is a tricky one.
- Remember, vast parts of China and Asia are still very poor, but the rich and the growing middle class are very well off … especially the rich … enormously well. We see penetration numbers are low if you look at the whole population, but for segments, it’s higher than the US for sure. Populations are generally viewed as young and technology crazed in Asia … the adoption will be extremely quick here.
3. Again, in China, social media is very very active.
- There are great examples, like Nike Olympic 2012 campaigns, that spread like wildfire. In general, the Chinese very much want to be part of the dialogue. The dialogue definitely heats up over things like national pride and social issues. I’ve found that national pride can bring on the social contributions, both in an attack mode (if public/international media says something negative), or if they have something to brag/be proud of. Weibo can absolutely light up.
- The darker side is how Asian governments want to be able to shut social media down, or track and expose some users. We are seeing much more censorship, tougher laws, and greater enforcement around political hot buttons. By and large, the Internet can move pretty slow at times with all the monitoring and throttling going on. Interesting stuff.
4. Last, with the stunning growth of online commerce (see Taobao, or even Amazon.cn). I can see heavy use of social media, mobile and commerce.
- It’s definitely a “consumer-culture,” and I believe social media will be used at all parts of the consuming process … [from] reviews/rank, customer satisfaction, look-what-I-got-moments (products, services, trips, and so forth) to the use of incentives and promotions. And, of course, Asians love good gossip … especially celebrity news, and definitely including the sources from the US (“Bieber did what?”).
- Politics, social movements, or other personal comments will remain a touchy subject … perhaps left more to the offline word of mouth.
You can read Part 1 of the blog series on the global usage of social media here.