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Social Networks Make Strides in Germany

Even older internet users are joining online communities in large numbers

One traditional caricature of Germany features a nation of rather stiff individuals, keen on observing rigid protocols and maintaining their personal reserve. That was always a simplistic view. But in some respects such supposed conservatism was apparently borne out in aspects of online behavior. In 2012, for example, barely half (51.1%) of the country’s online population used social networks monthly, eMarketer estimates—compared to nearly 65% in the UK.

Now such differences are eroding, according to data from BITKOM. The BITKOM survey found that 78% of all web users in Germany ages 14 and older had a profile on at least one social network in 2013, and 67% were active users—equivalent to 37 million people.

Increased take-up was especially marked in older age brackets, BITKOM noted. More than two-thirds (68%) of all web users surveyed between 50 and 64 years old were members of at least one social service this year; in 2011, the proportion was 60%. The shift in attitude was even more dramatic among web users ages 65 and older. Two years ago, just 40% of them were social network users; in 2013, penetration reached 66%.

While most of Germany’s internet users are finally climbing aboard the social network bandwagon, the country does maintain a stubborn independence in some respects. Notably, Facebook does not dominate this market as it does so many others.

While the Facebook population is large—estimated at 22.4 million in 2013, according to eMarketer—only 68.3% of social network users in Germany have signed on with the global giant. Moreover, there are few signs that Facebook will have greater appeal for most social networkers in the country in the future. eMarketer projects that between now and 2017, Facebook user numbers will rise to nearly 27 million. But that increase will not come from a larger proportion of social networkers joining Facebook, eMarketer believes. It will stem directly from greater numbers of web users overall.

BITKOM reported that the average web user in Germany had accounts on 2.5 social networks in July 2013. But for many internet users, Facebook is apparently a social experience they can do without.


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