As reported in the latest study by Outreachr, Twitter plug-in penetration in France is surprisingly low. We analysed 350,000 domains in the travel and finance sectors to find that only 0.5% of French websites had any kind of Twitter button or plugin on their pages. By comparison 7.2% of English websites had the Twitter plugin installed. Our findings are backed up by social media survey giants Sysmos, who also report a 7.2% Twitter penetration rate for Twitter in the UK. Let’s explore some ideas that might explain why the French aren’t as Twitter-obsessed as the Brits.
It’s likely that Twitter hasn’t reached brand ubiquity in France due to competition laws. France has had strict laws against the promotion of corporate enterprise on television since 1992. This is a killer for brands – you simply can’t mention Twitter (or Facebook) on French TV unless the social network has key relevance to a news item. Neither can a company spokesperson ask an audience to ‘Follow us on Twitter’. In Britain we’ve become accustomed to journalists treating Twitter and other branded social media as credible news sources in their own right. The French government is also much more controlling when it comes to free speech on Twitter, demanding that parody accounts mocking President Nicolas Sarkozy be suspended. On the other hand, French Twitter signups increased when people rushed to join the conversation about disgraced ex-IMF Managing Director Dominic Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault scandal. Politics seem to change the course of the French Twittersphere, either by censoring or igniting it.
Competition laws also prop up the historic French discomfort with Anglo-Saxon cultural influence. France has its own French-language social networks like Copains D’avant (which you can log into via Facebook) which it understandably might want to protect, despite the fact that Facebook has already surpassed it in French users.
Perhaps the French language itself doesn’t take to Twitter’s 140-character limit. The average French word is 5.13 letters long, longer than the average English word at 5.10 letters. To back this up, the French blogosphere is a far more active place. To make another international comparison, bloggers have speculated that Germany’s culture of exclusive, region-centric online social groups means that Twitter just doesn’t reflect how Germans prefer to communicate. It’s also worth debating whether the French still prefer to speak over the telephone and face-to-face in their business dealings.
Twitter traffic by country:
Perhaps Twitter can gain a stronger foothold in France if Twitter worldwide remains at centre stage for a long time. As Twitter continues to power global news trends and internet marketing becomes ever more social and viral, it may become more appealing to French users who want to connect to the rest of the world. Do you think France will eventually come around and embrace Twitter?