What You Need to Know BEFORE You Do Social Media Marketing in Europe

By Benjamin Kepner

Oct 14



What You Need to Know BEFORE You Do Social Media Marketing in Europe

A primer for U.S. brands on how to approach social media marketing in Europe. A guide to cultural differences, privacy concerns, corporate restrictions and more.

1. Mind the Gap

Europeans have fewer contacts in social networks because they are selective in whom they choose to interact with, and have a higher resistance to sharing, compared to Americans. Therefore, your campaigns must offer a higher incentive to share.  Europeans value their data privacy as a universal and individual right; only 31% of all U/S. companies restrict social networks compared to a whopping 60-80% of European companies.

2. Respect Cultural Values

Do extensive cultural research to determine formal and informal language differences, color sensitivity, and time of day, week and year norms.

  • Language barrier: How you say ‘you’ in languages like German, French, Spanish or Italian is critical. All of the languages mentioned have a formal and informal version of the word ‘you,’ which makes choosing your tone of voice very important. Observe how users are talking to the brand, then mirror their language.
  • Stricter time schedule: Between 2:30 and 5:30pm, Spain typically holds siesta, where businesses shut down.  In the Netherlands, it is rare for people to work after 6pm since family life is highly valued. Summer holidays begin June to August too, with most countries taking extended vacations or not working.
  • Color: Different hues carry cultural messages depending upon the country. For example, using orange in your cover photo could be great for a brand heavily concentrated in the Netherlands since it’s the color for the Dutch Royal Family, but it may not be as well received in other countries due to political reasons.

3.  Understand Platform Perceptions

When it comes to platforms of choice, the social media landscape in Europe is divided:




Eastern Europe still uses VKontakte , similar to Facebook, with a stronghold of users in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus accounting for more than 60 million active accounts.  Facebook is present here too, and its user base continues to grow in these countries, but the world’s favorite social network currently claims 12.4 million monthly active users across these three countries combined.

Facebook dominates in Western Europe, with 37 countries accounting for a total of 232.2 million active users – roughly 19% of the platform’s total global user base.  As with internet penetration, Iceland also leads the way with 70% of the country’s population using Facebook in the past month.  Malta puts in an impressive showing at 58%, with Scandinavian countries rounding out the rest of the top five.  European Facebook users account for the lowest share of fans in the world, following an average of 12 brands.  Europeans usually  interact with a brand only if they have a customer service issue and they see Facebook as a quicker way to be heard and get help.  Europeans also prefer to share a positive brand experience on social media rather than a negative one.


Not every country embraces the use of Twitter. German celebrities do not use the channel as much as American ones, and the character count doesn’t always work with the average length of words in their language. Most Europeans also share only with people they know, so they aren’t as open to proactively engaging with brands on Twitter.  General advertising infrastructure isn’t as sophisticated outside of the U.S., and advertising revenues per user are significantly lower in Europe.



Twitter faces competition from local websites, mobile applications and services that provide real-time communications, like Whatsapp or Line. Spaniards love Whatsapp so much it’s now used as a verb here, “Whatsappeando.” JAJAJA.

Try mobile campaigns on Twitter, as that seems to be where most Europeans spend their time.


Spotify was created in Europe, and according to Kevin Brown (Spotify’s European head of media relations), of the company’s 40 million users, 10 million are paying listeners. The service is also rapidly adding users in England, with over 1 million new active listeners.



Use Spotify to your advantage by running contests or starting a collaborative playlist to give you a chance to interact with your customers and let them show off their musical tastes.

Bands, radio stations or concert venues can hold contests for fans to create a setlist for the tour and give away concert tickets to the winning playlist.  Spotify had a “Selfie” station at the Bilbao BBK Live Music Festival I attended to encourage you to share your concert pictures and have fans vote for the best ones on social media using hashtags.

Your store or restaurant could start a collaborative playlist for people to suggest songs to add to your background music. Feature a few new songs from the playlist every week. Join in with your customers’ music discovery. It’s a fun way to keep your business in the front of their minds.  It gives your brand more exposure by creating a memorable experience for your followers.

4. Study European History

From first-hand experience, I can tell you people are proud of their country’s history.  However, Western Europe is at least two years behind the U.S. in terms of social media adaptation.  Thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss change the status quo with their ideas for social media innovation.  However, since they’re all American, Europeans seem quick to dismiss their ideas, claiming that they’ll work only in America.

Europe lacks role models to inspire among European countries due to cultural and language differences. Connect with them by learning their cultural history instead. Business owners need to immerse themselves in cultural education.

5. Get Mobile

An app or social media campaign tends to spread across its culture only, especially considering language barriers.  Mobile use in Europe is three times higher than America.  Learn to develop mobile apps or location-based social media marketing campaigns.  Try multilingual campaigns  and gauge performance.  Remember, 50% of Europe is bilingual and many regions in European countries speak three languages.

Finally, ensure you include multimedia as part of your strategy by including Pinterest and Instagram.

6. Learn from European Businesses

Alexandria Ekkelenkamp, Press officer of the European Union, says they use the Dandelion model – a hub-and-spoke model that can be particularly relevant to multinational brands “where companies act nearly autonomously from each other under a common brand.”  Brands can improve internal communication and the flow of information to better inform consumers’ interactions with brands.

Jochen van Drimmelen, KLM’s Online Reputation Manager, says KLM used a cancer victim social crisis unavailable upgrade problem and turned in into a positive alternative to satisfy the customer’s question.

Lilach Bullock of UK Sociable says, “When doing business in another European country, it’s important to do a little research beforehand. One of the most important things to remember is that every country is different from the next, and so you need different tactics for each one.”

Summary: Think Global, Act Local.

‘Glocalisation’ is a concept that European marketers, in particular, should understand their target markets (as seen on Hubspot). Being ‘glocal’ means creating a local adaptation of a global strategy by understanding local cultures.  Hiring a local and diverse staff can make your efforts in Europe a successful strategy as well.

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