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International Social Media insights from Social Bakers Reports #turnofftoturnon

If we look to Social Media country by country, we can find some surprises.

For instance, we could think that in Italy we are all (rightly) obsessed with Nutella, and, maybe, that we enjoy it when reading a good book.

Or that Germans aren’t really interested in German brands, at least on Facebook.

We could think that French are surprisingly similar to their Italian cousins in their love for the most amazing hazelnut chocolate cream, but that they like to spend hours watching videogames videos on YouTube.

Spanish instead, would look as if for them Facebook is just another place where being updated by TV channels.

Or, finally, that Americans are interested in engaging only with huge offline/online retail stores and “ranting” about their phone carriers.

All these information and much deeper analysis are possible thanks to the Regional Reports and Industry Reports Social Bakers cooks and publishes every month.

Why am I talking about the reports Social Bakers offers freely to everybody? Because they are a super valuable source of insights, and because they are documents I very rarely see shared, commented or even known by people in the Search Industry.

This ignorance is quite meaningful, as it reflects – somehow – how part of the SEO world still has a long road to walk in order to evolve from a still siloed state of mind to a more holistic comprehension of how real people relate with brands and vice versa.

Or, said in a more polemic tone, that much of the SEO chit chatting about the importance of Social also for SEOs seems more, sorry for the redundancy, a chit chat and not really an active assumption of how Social Media really is their best ally for understanding audiences and planning an effective marketing strategy.

But ranting about these kind of contradictions (which could be also attributed to Social Media marketers with respect to SEO) is not the reason of this post.

My interest was seeing what kind of insights we can obtain from analyzing the information Social Bakers collects and how it may help us especially in defining International Social Media strategies thanks to the discovery of the differences in how Social Media is used country by country.

Before I start, let me say a couple of things:

  1. Social Bakers: my life would have been easier if all the data was available also for downloading, so to not being obliged scraping your site for collecting and merge them;
  2. Even if the Social Bakers reports offer information about all the most important social networks (but I blame the absence of the Chinese/Russian ones), I decided to concentrate my attention only on Facebook for several reasons:
    1. Facebook is the most used social network in the world;
    2. Facebook, thanks to its mainstream usage and industry transversal nature, can really offer a vision of how people interact with brands;
    3. Considering how the audience of State of Digital is mostly European and, secondly, from the USA, for this post I considered only the five major European countries (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain) and the USA;
    4. Social Bakers offers much more data related to Facebook than others social networks, so – albeit Twitter or YouTube or Google+ data are interesting and needed for a better audience analysis – I considered that the Facebook data was rich and diverse enough for extracting a raw image of how people relate with brands on social media.

 An overview

Even if we can find that people living in different countries have common interests, we see also how the different industry areas don’t have same grade of interest in every country:

Top Industries for amount of fans in Facebook April 2014

Click to enlarge

This chart is telling us quite many interesting things:

  1. Quite surprisingly, the amount of fans for the top 5 industries in Germany is not as big as we may expect from the most populated European nation and the second one for Internet users (just after Russia);
  2. Great Britain, France and Italy seems mature markets, with numbers that reflect their very similar population;
  3. Even if point 2. is valid, it’s important to underline the performances Facebook offers to brands in Italy. Its Internet users base, in fact, in much lower than the ones in the UK and France (data from InternetWorld Stats);
  4. The only industry areas that are common to all the six countries analyzed are FMCG Food and Fashion.
  5. The gap existing between FMCG Food brands and all the others is quite big in every country, but Spain. This data, even if it could make us worry about the health nutrition in the six analyzed countries, in reality should not surprise us, because brands with a huge Facebook fans base like Nutella are listed in that category;
  6. The strength of Fashion brands on Facebook and in all countries is not surprising too;
  7. What is surprising – somehow – is seeing electronics being in the Top 5 only in France and Italy. But this surprise is probably biased by my “geek” nature;
  8. Italy and Spain come out as hedonistic societies, at least looking at Facebook data. In fact, they are the only ones where the Beauty industry (as Fashion) is in the Top 5. Somehow, this is confirming the mainstream popularity also the fashion bloggers and “make-up artists” Youtubbers have;
  9. It’s quite impressive not seeing Retail and Retail Food in the Italian Top 5. Impressive but not surprising, if you think to Retail Food: Italians may go to McDonald, but prefer to be fans of a local restaurant instead.
  10. Beverages brands surely are loved in the States, but suffer in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. It is a surprise for me, though, that in Germany they aren’t in the Top 5, also considering how Heineken is one of brands with the biggest fanbase in the world.

The FR-IT-UK case

Before we have seen how Great Britain, France and Italy looks very similar. But is this statement telling all the truth? If we look how the Facebook fans evolution of the Top 20 Brands evolved in these countries during the past 6 months, we will see how data is telling us a different story:

Top 20 Brands - Facebook Fans Evolution

Click to enlarge

  1. The gap between the Top 20 Brands in France and Italyand the British ones has dropped so much that now their fanbase is substantially equivalent;
  2. The the Top 20 British brands seems suffering on Facebook. Certainly, their numbers are still important, but the fact they even lost fans in February seems telling us that something is not working in their strategy, but also that they may have reached that grade of growth that right now impedes spectactular rises in the number of their fans;
  3. Italy and France Top 20 Brands have an almost identical evolution during the last 6 months. French brands, though, seems the ones being able to surpass soon the British brands;
  4. The quite abrupt increase in fans’ numbers both in France and Italy would be worth a much deeper analysis, in order to see if we can find similarities or not.

What I could analyze, though, is the average number of posts the Top 20 brands in the 6 analyzed countries published during the last months, so to see if we can associate this data to the fans growth:

Facebook Posts per Country

Click to enlarge

After seeing this chart my reaction was: “No, the number of posts doesn’t guarantee the success in Facebook”.

Obviously the real conclusion we must take from a chart like the one here above is that posting many posts does not guarantee the success in Facebook.

What we see, in fact, is how the Top 20 brands in almost every country tend to publish less than 2 posts per day on average, being the highest frequency a consequence of the Christmas season (see November and December), being American brands the ones that try to engage more their fans.

If, then, we look at the number of posts top brands publish in France, and if we remember how they improved they fanbase after January 2014, we can have a confirmation that for having success you maybe just need one but a very good post per day.

So, what are the posts that really capture the Facebook audience country by country? The Social Baker Regional Reports help us knowing also this kind of insight, which is surely helpful for better design our own Content Strategy on Facebook and, as everything is connected, also in Search.

Let’s see, then, what kind of posts had more success in these past 6 month.

Great Britain

Looking at the posts that obtained the best engagement on Facebook in UK, we can see all version of visual posts (memes, videos, photos) and intentions (pure entertainment, contests, inspiration and strongly branded photos).

What is common in all posts, independently of their nature, is that the message is playing directly with emotions.

It can be irony, like in this meme shared by Blinkbox and that was the post with the highest number of interactions (likes + share + comments) last April:

UK - When you see your ex - Blinkbox

UK – When you see your ex – Blinkbox

Tenderness, like in this tricky post by Mark & Spencer, which asks a question that really has a very weak connection with the promotional video it shared last November, but that thanks to that emotion was able getting viral and obtaining a 11.1% of engagement, when a Facebook post in the UK on average has a 0.23% of engagement.

UK - This little chap needs a name - Marks and Spencer

UK – This little chap needs a name – Marks and Spencer

Urgency, which the main emotion of every kind of contest. Because contests seems that kind of content that UK Facebook users seem to especially like, especially if there’s a nudging call to action present. This is something a brand like Home Bargains has understood and applies very well, so much that at least one of its-always-identical contests is between the most engaging posts:

UK - 100 Pounds contest - Home Bargains

UK – 100 Pounds contest – Home Bargains


If you want to have success on Facebook in France:

  1. You must use photos, because 16 of 18 most popular post are photos (the other 2 videos);
  2. You must be funny;
  3. Or inspirational;
  4. But you can try to entice open discussions amongst your fans.

As you can, this is a quite different panorama than the UK one, which seems more conventional.

Particularly interesting is how Infobébés was able to successfully manage a potentially risky topic, making of its question a post with an outstanding 63% of engagement:

FR - Sans mes enfants - Infobe?be?s

FR – Sans mes enfants – Infobe?be?s


Each country is a different world… also on Facebook, and how Italians engage with brands confirms it.

Video is the most engaging kind of content on Facebook in Italy, and all successful videos – also the epic Nike video about Brazil 2014 if you think – are always related to strong positive sentiments like passion, love (as in this video posted by Durex) and tenderness (as it is in this post by Lindt).

Apart that, and a sort of obsession Italians have with chocolate, it’s interesting to notice also how Italians like classic branded photos more than funny ones, and that fashion (clothes and accessories) are two topics Italian Facebook users are interested about, confirming that hedonistic nature we could guess from the data previously analyzed.

Finally, it’s interesting to notice how in Italy brands tend to make a larger use of hashtags also on Facebook.


If you have to think a social media strategy for a brand in Spain, then you must really know the social, political and economical Spanish context (El Jueves – a satirical magazine – if one of the Media with more fans on Facebook), or just thinking in making contests (something that Lidl does very well).

Spanish people, in fact, tend to prize videos and photos posts where brands empathize with the sentiments of the Spanish middle-class, which is the one who more suffered the economical crisis. But they want that brands offer them a positive and filled with hope message, as in these two videos, one from Campofrio (an FMCG Food company) and the other by Danone about the Bancos de Alimentos (Food Banks).

ES- Bancos de Alimentos - Danone

ES- Bancos de Alimentos – Danone


I must admit that I am not really able to understand how Germans relates to brands on Facebook.

First of all, they tend to not like brands so massively as people in any other country, but also the most engaging posts are of a very different kind respect the ones we have seen until now.

In fact it seems that for having success on Facebook, you must use it as it was a sort Pinterest, as it is evident by the posts that were more popular during these past 6 months.


If an European thinks about Americans, probably he will think that people in the States usually likes brand and love to interact with them. That’s partly true. In fact, between the most popular posts we can brands like Nike or Bud Light.

But the presence of those kind of brands as author of the most popular Facebook posts is seldom.

No – and this quite a surprise at first – what really is winning in the States on Facebook is nostalgia.

The success of a company like Deal Dash has on Facebook is all due to that sentiment, which is possibly one of the most powerful from a social media point of view because every body is keen to share publicly what memories he remembers when seeing a forgotten object.

And nostalgia tend to be associated only to positive memories, and even something that we didn’t lived as a nice event tend to become a loved, even if sad, memory.

Because of all this a simple old chair photo can generate 37,000+ comments:

USA - Who Remembers This Chair - Deal Dash

USA – Who Remembers This Chair – Deal Dash



Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
  • Very interesting insights Gianluca! Europeans are very different and I would expect to act different on social networks, but your study surprised me, I didn’t expect them to be so different.
    It is obvious that in order to be successful on social media you must know your audience (sounds cliche, right?), that something that works in a country may not work in another.

    Most people in the Search Industry don’t care about such observation because they don’t have the opportunity/challenge to work with audiences based in more then one country.

  • Eli Schwartz

    Gianluca, this is fascinating! Thanks for pulling this post together. It’s really amazing to me how many brands try to use the same strategy across the globe without a real understanding of what will actually work for each culture.