It’s official, the Danes are crazy about Facebook. With roughly two million of the country's 5.5 million inhabitants on Facebook, usage is amongst the highest in the world and nearly 90 percent of Danish social media interactions take place within Facebook’s walled garden. But what do these simple facts tell us about Danes?
Last week, Social Media Week came to Copenhagen. Part of a global event taking place in a total of ten cites from Miami to Milan celebrating the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. The theme of Social Media Week Copenhagen (SMWCPH) was ‘open and connected’ and with 107 events in the city, the programme had a bit of something for everybody.
But just how open and connected are the Danes when it comes to social media? Although many event descriptions were in English, a sneaky language icon at the side confirmed that most were in Danish. Also, there were mutterings that the events attracted the same people having the same discussions – a magic circle of cliques and agencies that can be hard to break in to.
A story from one of the events in English, featuring NBC’s Richard Lui, illustrated a common problem for internationals trying to get a toe hold in Denmark. Participants were asked why they had come to the event. One Italian attendee responded that it was “because I need some friends”. A Danish participant posted on Facebook afterwards that she regretted that neither she or anyone else in attendance approached the guy after the event. But all’s well that ends well – her post got 144 likes and the lonely Italian was tracked down. His follower count has now shot up.
The nub of the issue may be Danes’ reluctance to network with people they don’t already know – which explains why they are so keen on Facebook but less enthusiastic about other social media. A new survey gives an in-depth picture of Danes on Twitter, or at least the 92,549 tweeting in Danish. Whereas in Sweden over 20 Twitter communities have developed, Denmark lags behind with just five including celebrities, sport and teens – yes, Denmark’s most followed tweep is a Justin Bieber fan. Finland is at much the same stage as Denmark, but has some rather different communities, such as librarians and manga. As a whole, Denmark is seen as being three years behind Sweden in terms of Twitter usage.
Looking further afield, Denmark’s social media usage is almost the mirror image of Japan’s – where Danes use Facebook, the Japanese take to Twitter.
Scientific analysis of social networks finds that the tightly-knit communities found on Facebook tend to be closed to new ideas, stifling innovation and creating an echo chamber of ‘people like us’ putting their thumbs up to the same stories.
SMWCPH was a timely reminder that cultural differences – and the language you use – can affect you in the virtual world just as much as in the real one.