Worlds Apart No More: German Business Catches up on Social Media

From the perspective of the German business world, social media is still something fairly new – no matter that many German blogs have been around for more than 15 years, that Deutsche Welle started awarding the Best of the Blogs (BoBs) as early as in 2004 (the award only recently evolved into an award for online activism) and that the German business networking platform openBC, the predecessor of XING, already came into existence in 2003.

Today, at last, it looks as if no German company still assumes social media will just go away, or still considers social media to be a silly thing where people with too much time on their hands talk about what they had for breakfast. Not only has a whole industry of social media consultants, social media rankings and social media analytics sprung up, but also most companies are taking social media seriously and are looking for means to use it for real and personal communication with real people – be it on their intranet for internal communications, on 3rd party platforms like Twitter or Facebook, or even accepting that social media conditions in Germany might be different from those in the U.S.

The established media also seem to have caught up with the development: Leading newspapers like Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Focus, Wirtschaftswoche, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel and Die Zeit have converted their online newsrooms into modern and really interactive media sites, with many of their editors (some hired straight from the blogosphere) actually interacting with their readers on Twitter and Facebook.

Some examples:

Axel Springer AG, the publisher of Germany’s biggest tabloid Bild, even aims at becoming “the leading digital media group”: In July it announced plans to sell most of its print publications.

At the same time, usage patterns of German users generating content on the web have changed. A new generation of bloggers and YouTube producers have emerged who are much more relaxed about commercializing their online activities. At the internet conference re:publica 2013, three German YouTube stars discussed their perspectives, all agreeing that it was perfectly OK to be paid for their efforts, all being very open for sponsoring.

Watch the re:publica discussion here:

A growing number of internet publishers welcome companies getting in touch with them to offer products for testing (provided, of course, that the offers are relevant), to invite them to PR events or even offer payment for including PR articles on their own platforms. This development first became visible about three years ago among German fashion and beauty bloggers, who were very keen on receiving the latest news or even products from brands they coveted. Over the last two years, more and more food bloggers, some just starting up but also some established ones, have gladly been writing about food-related PR events or test products. There are similar signs in sports and automotive blogs.

Digital social media tree

The formerly so-distant circles of corporate communication, established media and social media have grown closer, and have even started to overlap – creating exciting opportunities for new forms of interaction.

Inés Gutiérrez

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