Social Media In Europe [What’s your opinion?]

Filed in Conferences & Events by on September 20, 2010 4 Comments

I just returned from a wonderful week-long European trip to Amsterdam and Spain where I ran several workshops on social media and Internet marketing for the Computer Brokers Exchange conference. I loved it. I love Europe. I love the people – the culture – and the exciting business opportunities.

But to me Europeans seem very different in their view of social media. Many issues were raised concerning privacy and personal information being so public. Which baffles me on a continent that (at least according to US standards) is very open and progressive with regard to alcohol, smoking, sexual expression, nudity and other typically American social taboos.

Using a “personal” platform like Facebook for professional use is inconceivable for many of the Europeans I spoke with. Many in my audience simply could not imagine being so personal in business that you would interact on Facebook with other business people.

LinkedIn is a completely different story. No one seemed to have an issue with connecting there. In fact my workshop about LinkedIn was received enthusiastically.

I’m trying to isolate the issue. Are Europeans more sensitive with personal information, or are they six months to a year behind the US in embracing the social media work/personal life blend? Or are Americans too open and prone to over sharing?

Can’t say for sure. I’m guessing that it’s a little of all of these. What do you think?

While waiting for my plane at Schipol Airport, I bought a copy of Richard Branson’s book Business Stripped Bare. He spends a lot of time talking about personalizing business and really connecting with people as humans first, business partners second. It reminds me of another book, Trust Agents by my friend Chris Brogan.

Here’s what I do know.

The days of the corporate faceless interaction with customers is dead and gone. Yes – there are remnants of this old model of business – but good luck sustaining that.

Instead I would encourage you to focus on the human aspect of business. Technology allows us to be both professional AND personal. So why not do this in your business? What’s the downside?

What do you think? Are Europeans simply “catching up” or do you think we will see a consistent backlash and hesitancy to use “personal” social media tools like Twitter and Facebook for business?

And what do you think about humanizing and personalizing business using Facebook and other social media tools? Do you think that it’s okay to use personal tools and methods to really connect with those that you interact with professionally?

Leave a comment below and let me know.


Joel Mark Witt is the Publisher of Folk Media. He is a producer, author, speaker and social media marketing coach who consults with businesses and nonprofits on how to use social media in marketing and communications. Get more from Joel on Twitter or Google Buzz.

*Photo by Samantha Decker

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  1. Hi Joel,

    as a guy from Germany I am wrapping my head around the very question you pose.

    I have the impression that the prophet in his own country is worth nothing. I'm far away from being a social media expert, only one year ago I didn't even have a Facebook account.

    My wife and I are building our network marketing business through the use of social media and we avoided the German market on purpose because of the issues you mentioned.

    They're either doing nothing or spamming people, nearly nothing in between. Community building for the sake of community building ? Syndication platforms for sharing stuff ? How many people from Europe are in the Unified Tribe ? Leaving comments on blogs ? Giving without want ? Dropping the agenda ? Google is public enemy nr. 1 because of Google Streetview.

    You ask why that is. As far as I am concerned, I don't know. I sense that the privacy stuff is an excuse because everybody is in control of the data they provide. Of course, I can't expect people being open to me if I am not, can I ? Archaic fears are at work here sometimes, even on boring platforms like XING.

    On the other hand, online networking and social media marketing is a no-go area for many many offline networkers who have been doing well, so far at least. That's called arrogance, I think.

    I can become passionate about this subject, even emotional. But it's positive: There's a lot of work to do…

    Eventually they're going to catch up, there's no alternative.

    Thanks for bringing that up.

    Take care


    • joelmarkwitt says:

      Hi Oliver,

      Thanks for a very well thought out comment and response. I'm eager to see Europe come into using social media because I think they can learn from some of the US mistakes.

      I'd be curious to know how Europe/Germany responded to the first internet 1.0 back in 1995 when the US was just getting online. Was it just a matter of time and they caught up?

      ~ Joel Mark Witt

      • Hi Joel,

        thanks for your reply. I think we were pretty fast with the former web where people did simple transactions online and instead of offline, online banking for example, email, later amazon, ebay and all that stuff. Today, there are still people who would never touch online banking.

        In Germany, there was the big bang with German Telekom going public in fall 1996. Until then, it was pretty expensive to be online, even after that. Only by 1998 to 2000 competing telecom companies came to the marketplace, prices plummeted, but flat rates were still unknown, even for landline connections.

        Today, plenty of them are on Facebook, XING etc. It's oftentimes the question how they use it. Do the use it properly ? Do they misuse it or do they even abuse it ?

        Have a great rest of your day

        Take care


  2. joelmarkwitt says:


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