Twitter's German adoption case

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Will Twitter succeed in Germany? It depends on how fast they can bring in multipliers and local thought leaders on their network.

Recently Twitter announced to open an office in Berlin. The time is right, as the Germans never really adopted the global service. The challenges are large, though, and only time will tell whether or not Twitter will succeed in Germany. I, for sure, hope to find more Germans on Twitter soon.

Twitter is hard to understand

I admit that I didn’t get Twitter for years. It always seemed like a gimmick. Why should I “Tweet” when I’m already busy updating Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging? It’s very hard to explain when you’re not actively on Twitter. Although Twitter went a long way to explain that you don’t have to Tweet in order to get benefits out of Twitter’s network and made the on-boarding process through the Tutorial quite self-explanatory. I still think that in the first few days when you’re new to the service it’s hard to decide which way to go. Brandperiscope illustrates it with a fine Twitter adoption curve.

Twitter adoption is greatly driven by example

After president Hugo Chavez joined Twitter in April 2010 4.8% of Venezuela’s Internet audience followed (as reported by Comscore). Jack Dorsey even talked to the German chancellor personally to convince her to Tweet. At least the big German parties have an active Twitter following:

Political Party Twitter Followers
@Piratenpartei 94113
@Die_Gruenen 43430
@spdde 24405
@FDP_Fraktion 19655
@cdu_news 19547

Unsurprisingly the pirates are leading in this ranking of Twitter followers. In fact the German Piratenpartei has more Twitter followers than @TheDomecrats (92923) have in the US at this moment. Although, there is both a presidential race going on in the US and the US population is so much larger than in Germany.

More forceful drivers of adoption are starting, though. German celebrities don’t seem to use Twitter. One example is Football player Bastian Schweisteiger who has exactly one Tweet dating back to 2009 and still nearly 4k followers.

Twitter profiles of German Star are nothing compared to the global brands of US stars such as Lady Gaga or Jay-Z.

Star Tweets Followers
Lukas @Podolski10 433 48438
@Oliver_Pocher 260 31955
@dirtydieter Bohlen 152 20172
@Lenas_view 348 26068
@Bschweinsteiger 1 3714

However, German-born Dirkules shows a Lena, who is also popular across the German border, how it’s done.

The value to small businesses

Adoption of social media by Germany’s small businesses (and large businesses) lagged behind the US by a large margin. Twitter would have to address this in a cost-effective way if they want to gain ground in Germany. Obviously, this is a chicken and egg problem as Twitter only is attractive for small businesses if most of their customers use it.

Localization

In a much discussed move, Twitter recently appointed a @rowan_BILDde (1746 followers) as head of Germany. Before running Twitter Rowan Bernett, a Brit, has been exclusively with German’s media house behemoth Axel Springer. Although he speaks German fluently it remains to be seen if he will be able to bring Twitter closer to the, hitherto, hard-to-convince Germans.

Conclusion

Mr. Bernett took on a big challenge if he wants the German adoption reach the levels of Japan or the US. He should probably make try to make on-boarding easier and above all try to piggy back on stars. To do that he has to convince their PR agencies to use Twitter. This will make it attractive for fans to join driving adoption. He should furthermore try to explain the business value to Twitter. This is especially important if Twitter will become relevant as an advertisement channel.

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