My friend Shel Israel is conducting a survey for the SAP Social Media Global Research Report and asked me to answer a few questions about social media in Europe. I did my best in a few minutes, so it can’t be all right, feel free to comment if you want to improve/correct my answers as always. Thanks and thanks Shel for your interest.
1. You are the most knowledgeable person I know on the subject of social
media and Europe. When and how did you first get involved? How have things
changed since then?
Thank you Shel, what a compliment ! Well, I have been creating web related businesses since 1996, started my blog in october 2003 and it is now a drug for me. Correction, social software communication is now more important for me than phone, email or any other form of communication. What changed is that it started as an experiment and it just became the easiest way for me to communicate and for my contacts to reach me. I also get more news from Twitter than from mainstream media because I read my friends all day long, more than newspapers or email.
2. What countries are the EU leaders in social media overall? What
businesses would you identify as social media leaders?
Difficult to say, it depends which social media we are talking about. In business social software like Linked In and its european clones, I would say Germany, France and U.K.. In blogs, definitely the latin Countries France, Spain and Italy are ahead, with the Netherlands and the U.K. In online collaboration like Wikipedia, it’s more Germany. Nordic Countries are very hot for online communities of young people, but they don’t use blogs much. Unlike the U.S. Europe is very diverse, difficult to generalize, it’s not new and unlikely to change. Instead of complaining about it we’re used to say that “diversity is what makes us strong”. It’s not always the case, though !
3. How is social media impacting the EU?
I have to be honest and say that social media is not affecting the EU that much actually. It is still something for the youth and the 20 to 35 years old. We all thought it would have more impact. I would say the deepest impact is on the 10 to 35 years old who tend to use MSM less and less, if they watch TV they watch it with their computer on their knees ! So it’s a whole new social software generation, very different to the older one, that is growing. Their social codes and way of thinking are totally different. The impact on society, business and politics is minor up to now, though, it will come.
4. Let’s talk about France. When I interviewed you two years ago, for
Naked Conversations, the subject was just blogging. What other social media
tools are being used? What are the favorite social media tools of business?
A friend of mine, blogger and headhunter, Jacques Froissant, has just organized a survey of the most popular web 2.0 tools used in France amongst the 25-35 bloggers in business: gmail, netvibes, viadeo (LinkedIn clone), LinkedIn itself, Skype, feedburner… Netvibes is big, as well as the local Youtube, Dailymotion, which is huge, but not so much impact on business, as it had on politics during the last presidential campaign. Twitter is growing amongst the early adopters too but remains small.
5. You blog in two languages and this has contributed I think to you being
Europe’s most popular business blogger. Does the French language serve as a
social media barrier for French businesses wishing to reach beyond their own
borders? Do social media social networks, blogs, wikis video and audio
podcasts play a role in extend business beyond national borders?
It’s a very interesting question. Most europeans have english as a second language and many europeans don’t speak good english (or don’t even want to speak english honestly, I remember when I launched the first edition of my conference leweb3.com, it was in english only at the French Senate, created some criticism !). My blog has a bigger audience in french than in english, which says something of course. For most of us blogging in english is an effort, you have to switch your brain to it and when you live in Paris, Rome, Munich or Madrid, your tendency is to think first in your language, to talk to your national friends, to read your media. The challenge is to switch to english first and I believe social media is really helping this. A good proof of this is the recent success of Twitter in europe and most people twitter only in english because they feel the need to talk to friends beyond the national borders and twittering in two languages does not make sense. Regarding business, I would say that social media is a huge progress: it does not matter that much where you are anymore. We used to be really late in Europe compared to the US on web business, that gap is bridging fast because the US as the rest of the World is now a click away. See Joost, Skype, LastMinute, Meetic, Netvibes, all leaders in their space from Europe. Building Worldwide successes from Europe becomes less difficult, I would not say easy though, yet.
6. What trends do you see in France and in the EU that are relevant to
Less email and more instant messaging. Everything must be in the instant these days. Help me now. Talk to me now. Join this team now. Answer now. Not later. This is clearly a trend inherited from video games, see how they do it in World of Warcraft: build a guild now, join it now, find resources and fight, now, in groups, collaborating. Second trend to watch in business is that World of Warcraft generation. These people are amazing leaders, they are leading guilds coordinating people around the World sometimes when they are below 15 years old ! Ask this generation to go in a large corporation and do a “photocopy internship” you will see the result… The risk is for the big corporations and old management style to adapt to them, they will have to, and not the other way around.
7. Beside yourself, who do you consider the most influential social media
thinkers in Europe?
Oh stop it, Shel, there are so many better experts than me in Europe ! Well, Marc Simoncini of Meetic built the #2 dating site in Europe in 22 languages, near the size of #1 Match.com, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis of Joost and Skype, Martin Varsavsky of Fon, Tariq Krim of Netvibes, the Samwer brothers (European Founders Fund), Jyri Engestrom of Jaiku, Brent Hoberman Last Minute founder, Benjamin Bejbaum of Dailymotion, Guido Van Nispen in the Netherlands, Thomas Madsen in Denmark, Yossi Vardi, Netanel Jacobsson, Ouriel Ohayon and Jeremie Berrebi in Israel (if you extend Europe a bit , Marko Ahtisaari in Finland, Heiko Hebig in Germany, Hugh MacLeod of GapingVoid… so many others it would take me too long for me to quote them all here, apologies to them.
8. Let’s take this forward 5 or 10 years. How will social media have
impacted business in the EU in 2012? And in 2017?
I think social media is the chance for Europe to finally compete with Silicon Valley in web business and more: the trend is that we are getting all closer and united, and much more competitive on the global scene. It’s great news. We will keep our local cultures and languages though. It’s a fascinating double trend: more global and stronger local roots at the same time. I think the big trend again is that it matters less and less where you are to build a world class business.
9. What Tech issues do EU bloggers discuss most often?
Clearly the new trends. Right now it is microblogging, new video and new TV models.
10. Additional comments
nope, thanks, Shel.